There’s nothing like the English countryside in Spring! The arrival of snowdrops and daffodils lining the banks of winding country lanes are always a breath of fresh air after the cold and dark Winter season, and once the Spring sunshine arrives we’re always eager to get outside and see all the beautiful colours the season has to offer. From gorgeous bluebells carpeting every woodland to wildflower meadows bursting with a rainbow of colour, as we travel the country as full time pet sitters we get to see it all. During our time at a cat sit in Petworth last year, we headed to the quaint town of Arundel to visit Arundel Castle’s annual tulip festival. We’re not exaggerating when we say it’s one of the most spectacular events we’ve visited on our travels – the thousands of tulips against the backdrop of the historic castle is a stunning sight. With the festival just around the corner, here’s everything you need to know about visiting the Arundel tulip festival this year:

About the festival

Arundel’s famous tulip festival takes place throughout April-May at the restored medieval Arundel Castle. Exact dates of the festival depend on how weather has affected the tulips blooming from year to year, but once open, visitors are treated to 70,000 tulips in over 130 different varieties!

You can buy a ticket for entry solely to the gardens for the festival, or a combined castle and gardens ticket to visit the festival and take a wander around the castle too. Check the Arundel Castle website for up-to-date information regarding festival dates and ticket prices for this year.

How to get there

The festival takes place at Arundel Castle, which is easily reachable by public transport – Arundel train station is a short 11 minute walk from the castle gates.

The castle doesn’t have any car parking facilities. However, if you choose to arrive by car, as we did, the closest public car park is Mill Road car park which is just opposite the castle gates. It’s pay and display here, and with only 124 car spaces our advice for using this car park is to arrive as early as possible as the spaces fill up fast! If you do miss out on one of the prime-position spaces here, you can also try Fitzalan Pool car park (151 spaces, 4 minutes walk to the castle), Crown Yard car park (64 spaces, 2 minutes walk) or Arundel station car park (154 spaces, 12 minutes walk). Check out Arundel’s parking website for up-to-date information about the charges for each car park.

What to see

A winding path takes visitors from the castle gates to the main tulip area, but even before you reach the tulips the festival offers an immersive experience to complement the castle’s medieval history. When we visited the festival in 2022, there was a Spring plant fair with stalls bursting with colourful plants, bulbs and shrubs, while medieval flags lined the path ascending to a small clearing. We followed the sound of traditional medieval music, which we assumed was a recording, only to turn the corner and discover it was being played live by professional musicians dressed in historically-accurate costume. In addition to the music and decorations, there was a corner to meet birds of prey, and have-a-go archery – both completely free. There were also a few small stalls with vendors in medieval dress, selling traditional jewellery and replica armoury.

While this area added a historical touch to the festival, and provided a few family-friendly activities, the main attraction is of course the tulips! A smattering of the flowers lined the path as we headed to the main festival area. We were delighted at our first sighting of these tulips, but we weren’t prepared for the visual feast that awaited us! Heading through gates into the main area, our eyes were flooded with colour. 130 tulip varieties make up carefully-curated displays, and we were in awe of the inventive ways in which the flower beds had been arranged. Each intricately-planted display complemented the landscape around it – from neat rows lining edges of fountains to large tubs book-ending benches in the courtyard where visitors are invited to sit and take it all in. ‘Wedding cake’ style arrangements, with multiple layers displaying different coloured tulips, were absolutely show-stopping. The organisers create the festival around vistas for viewers to be able to stand back and truly appreciate the tens of thousands of flowers here. We especially enjoyed seeing the circular display of the ‘Labyrinth’ from above as we climbed steps to a balcony overlooking the festival below. Back at ground level, every corner we turned held a new surprise for us, and while the festival became progressively busier, we still managed to find tucked-away mini paradises to appreciate the spectacle around us. On our way out we visited the small on-site chapel to end our visit, hidden behind an old door with neat rows of tulips outside. To get a feel of the festival before you book tickets, check out our Instagram video from our visit!

Our highlights

For us, the sheer variety and creativity of the displays made this one of our favourite events of the year. The towering ‘wedding cakes’, the secret-garden-style hideaways with ornate furniture welcoming guests, the long glasshouses and ivy-covered trellises creating beautifully-shaped viewpoints all for the pleasure of visitors – it felt like walking through a fairytale as we made our way around the festival in the warmth of the April sunshine.

The fountain in the Collector Earl’s garden with its floating crown, while not tulip-related, is a must-see while you’re there. Situated in Oberon’s Palace, a shell-covered alcove,the powerful jet of water supporting the crown is a marvel and we spent some time admiring it along with its intricately-decorated surroundings.

Once you’ve admired the tulips in all their glory (and filled up your phone with thousands of photos, like us!) be sure to take the weight off your feet and enjoy a treat at the cafe. There’s limited seating, but if you can grab a chair here it’s a lovely place to sit amongst the flowers. With Arundel Cathedral serving as a dramatic backdrop to all the colour in the gardens, there’s no better place to sit and admire your surroundings.

The medieval element of the festival was a lovely surprise for us – we met the birds of prey, sat to listen to the traditional music, and enjoyed having a go at archery, courtesy of the friendly and helpful professionals – we both even managed to hit the bullseye!

Our top tips for visiting

Some tips from our visit to the festival to help you have the best experience!

  • Arrive early. This is our absolute number one top tip! We arrived for opening time on the morning of our visit and still had to queue for half an hour to buy tickets, as the queue snaked from the ticket office out of the castle gates. It was even longer when we left in the afternoon! If you visit on a sunny day or during the first few days of the festival, as we did, you can expect the festival to be very busy. Plan ahead and get there as soon as you can on the day of your visit to avoid the crowds!
  • Head to the tulips first. While the medieval area was an unexpected highlight of our visit, we’d recommend skipping this part until after you’ve seen the tulips. The festival draws thousands of visitors each year, and while we ambled through the peaceful gardens at a leisurely pace for the first couple of hours, by midday the tulip area was crammed full of visitors and the ambience had completely changed. Earlier in the morning we managed to avoid having other visitors in our photos, whereas later on this was impossible as children ran along the paths and selfie sticks were in abundance. For a tranquil visit to accompany the scenery, make the tulips your priority on the day!
  • Check the weather! This one should go without saying for a trip to anywhere in England, but it’s one that’s worth mentioning on this occasion. The vibrant colours of the tulips really shine on a sunny day, so it’s worth timing your visit to enjoy the colours in all their glory.
  • Bring a friend, and a camera! There are some times when a phone selfie just doesn’t cut it, and the Arundel tulip festival is one of them. While you can capture some stunning photos with just an iPhone, it’s also definitely worth bringing a good camera if you have one. Bringing a friend with you not only means you have someone to enjoy the festival with, but you’ll have a pal to snap some gorgeous Spring portraits for you with the most stunning backdrop too.

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