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Thursday 6 September 2012

Sluttery Travels: Amberley Castle, Sussex

After spending the night in East Sussex at The George in Rye, our Mr and Mrs Smith road trip took us west to the incredibly luxurious Amberley Castle.

Unless you're Kate Middleton, it's not very often that you get to stay in a castle (she's probably bored of them by now). Amberley is a very special place indeed. It's not easy to find (this appears to be a theme on our road trip) and even with SatNav and excellent map reading it all got a little bit 'was it that little road that we just passed?' You see, we were looking out for a castle in the distance. There are a few in Sussex (around 70, apparently) but you won't spot this one. It's so well-hidden behind tree and twisty roads that you won't see it until you're heading up the driveway squealing at the gorgeousness of the building in front of you and the cooing over hoppy little bunnies on the lawn. Oh goodness, the hoppy little bunnies. We tried (and failed) to steal a couple. They're speedy little things.

As well as never having stayed in a castle, I've also never been lucky enough to sleep in a four-poster bed. I've wanted to, so badly. They're the most luxurious things, and since flicking through the Kays catalogue when I was a kid, I've dreamt of sleeping in one (shush now, Kays catalogue was basically imaginary shopping heaven to a six-year-old). I was thrilled that our room had one, and a very comfy one at that.

All 19 of the hotel rooms are names after castles in Sussex, each one beautifully furnished in a style that makes you think Jonathan Rhys Meyers might stride in any second and have his way with you (he didn't, which was a bit of a disappointment, but I did learn that Henry VIII did actually stay here). We had a complimentary bottle of local apple wine in our room when we arrived which didn't last very long at all. Before we ran off exploring, we did some squealing over our bathroom. (Castles make for very excited members of Team Sluttery.)


You could have the best game of hide and seek here. There's so much to explore and if you're lucky, you'll get to meet Bob, the friendly albino peacock. Actually, if you don't shut doors behind you then you'll find him wandering about the castle. And there are a couple of alpacas by the tennis courts (who are a little grumbly and don't like it when you wake them up, just FYI.)

We didn't stay for dinner. Mainly because we couldn't afford to if we were going to have the whole experience and share a bottle of wine or two with our meal - dinner and drinks aren't cheap here (nor should they be, it's fine dining in a castle for cryin' out loud). But we did get to have a little glass of red when the sun was setting and mighty fine it was as well. Breakfast was tasty (if not overly special) and it gave us the chance to check out the glorious dining room and explore a little more. Yep, we went through every nook and cranny in this castle.

Amberley Castle isn't perfect, but the niggles certainly wouldn't stop me from coming back in a flash. Their wifi is (somewhat understandably) non-existent. To the point that I think either a cable should be provided or they should stop saying they have it at all. I'd have been happy either way but half an hour of trying to get online to share peacock photos was more frustrating than not having a connection. Service was professional to the extreme but it could have been a little warmer - one smartly-dressed chap didn't smile once throughout our stay. But really, they're little niggles when you realise just how spectacular Amberley is.

Prices for Amberley Castle start at an impressively cheap £162 including breakfast (careful when booking though, there are a couple of rooms outside the castle ground and while I'm sure they're just as lovely, if I'm staying in a castle, I want to stay in a castle). The rooms are such good value for money and a walk 'round the postcard perfect village of Amberley before you go home is a must. After ten minutes in the castle you'll be itching to run around and see everything and put a nice frock on and really make the most of your experience. Or, you could drink wine and fall asleep watching Sharpe DVDs like we did. That's really fun as well.

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