Glide up the gravel drive to Amberley Castle, and you'll feel suitably period-drama as you arrive at the main gates and portcullis. Even if when it comes to hotel interiors, you can't help but line up on the side of modernist edict 'less is more', you will be appeased by the historical Sussex setting, good taste of the furnishings and incredible South Downs grounds.
Unique luxury castle hotel with excellent facilities
Spectacular grounds, plus 18-hole putting course
Two excellent restaurants, including fine dining
A bottle of house wine on arrival
In the know
Also need to know:
No pets, but assistance dogs are welcome.
Camera, book of ghost stories, tennis racket.
No denim, even at lunchtime; smart casual in the lounge and jacket or tie for dinner. Leave mobiles in your room.
Mr and Mrs Smith reviews
As we drove up the gravel drive, with the sun sinking to the left in a cloudless sky, a flock of what looked like doves soared across the meadows in front and swooped up over the ramparts. It was so filmic we looked around for someone with a remote control orchestrating it all. We felt suitably period-drama as we arrived at the main gates and swept under the portcullis, ending the scene perfectly.
One of the super-friendly but not in-your-face staff greeted us and pointed us to the reception. We were then politely shown to our room and left to get on with it. It was extremely cosy, with a comfortable sofa, inglenook and voluminous drape above the bed, and once we had consigned a gaggle of cuddly toys to the wardrobe, we were able to spread out and unwind. The Jacuzzi was particularly instrumental in the relaxation scenario, helped along by a selection of delicious-smelling Floris products.
I will confess that I usually have a niggling prejudice against this kind of establishment. When it comes to fitting out English castles as hotels, I can’t help but line up on the side of Mies van der Rohe and his modernist edict, ‘less is more’. The consensus usually appears to be that the more chintzy decoration and furniture you can stuff in, the more authentic and comfortable it will seem. (And if you need a crowbar to get a bit more in, then use it.) However, as we settled into our room, Camber (all are named after Sussex castles), I softened. Even those with a taste for Hempel-like restraint will be appeased by the historical setting, good taste of the furnishings and Amberley’s incredible grounds.
Windy weather put paid to the game of tennis we’d hoped for, but we were actually starting to feel too relaxed to exert ourselves, and happily settled for a leisurely stroll around the ramparts. The signs warning us to proceed at our own risk were not enough to dissuade us from climbing the rickety stairs, and we made it to the top of the tower just in time to watch the sun sink below the South Downs. Here, we discovered the bird coops that seemed to explain the multitude of swans, peacocks, pigeons (and the obligatory rooks) that, though not remote controlled, seemed to know when they were needed for a spot of scene-setting.
There is no bar as such in Amberley Castle; drinks are brought to you in one of three adjacent sitting rooms. As our wanderings had made us late, we skipped a pre-prandial tipple and went straight in for supper. The whole feel of the Queen’s Room is that of a well-appointed rural French restaurant (it helps that the entire waiting staff are from over the Channel). The only clue that we were in Blighty was the inclusion of an English bottle in an extensive wine bible that arrived as we sat down. The menu was extremely tempting, and we both chose well – I had a main course of deliciously tender venison, which I would rate as probably the best I’ve ever eaten.
Each of the lounges has a particular atmosphere, and we thought we’d take our coffee in one of the quieter rooms. But everyone else had crowded into the library with its deep sofas and blazing fire, and it looked so convivial that we ended up squeezing in with the other guests. When we got the chance, we pounced on the opportunity to take up pole position in front of the fire. Here we stayed, chatting, for a couple of hours longer. If we were keeping the staff up later than usual, they were so polite and discreet they never let on. Our evening could only have been bettered if it had been occupied with plans for exploring the area the next day. Alas, try as we might to figure out a way to stay longer, a phone call from work put an end to our hopes. Still, at least we knew that 900-year-old Amberley would, very likely, still be there next time we passed this way.
Amberley Castle, West Sussex, BN18 9LT, United Kingdom
- Tennis court
- On-Site parking
- Room service
The restaurant is spread across two main dining halls – the Great Room and the Queen’s Room. This antique eatery, decked out with lancet windows and suits of armour, has a tantalising menu of traditional British fare devised by the award-winning Robby Jenks – the sirloin pomme anna with shallot puree is not to be missed. The Great Room and two additional, more intimate dining rooms, can be exclusively hired for a private fit-for-a-king feast.
In the window alcove surrounded by fine tapestry and stoic suits of armour.
You can dine in until 10pm and drinks are served until 11pm. The price for a lunch menu starts at £27.50 and is served between 12pm and 2pm, and a two-course a la carte dinner is £55, severed between 7pm and 10pm.
Simple meals and snacks are available from 11am to 10pm.