Amberley, UK

   We had no idea what to expect when we booked our stay at this hotel. Honestly, all I knew was that I really wanted to venture outside of London and see a bit of English countryside and we had a few days to spare. I will let you in a little secret. I found this place the way I find most of our magical and unique boutique hotels: via Relais & Châteaux. If you don't know what that is, let me be the first to tell you. It is a global fellowship of individually owned and operated luxury hotels and restaurants all over the world. We had our first "Relais & Châteaux" experience in Positano, Italy (sort of by chance), and our lives were forever changed. Seriously, it was the most incredible experience we've ever had at a hotel (and we've stayed in a lot of hotels). This is way more than just a hotel or restaurant club. It's a stamp of approval that means that particular hotel or restaurant has met the Relais & Châteaux requirements, and let me tell you...the bar has been set pretty high. We have come to trust this little logo quite a bit these days, and it rarely lets us down. The food, the service, and the quality of the hotel are (9 times out of 10) impeccable. You can simply go to the Relais & Chateaux website and search by destination to view all the affiliated properties and restaurants. Prices vary according to hotel and whether it's peak season, etc. We have fallen so madly in love with most of the properties we have visited through Relais & Châteaux that it has become our "go to" booking source, and we tend to plan a lot of our trips around these hotel and restaurant gems.

   Now for the fun part. Where is Amberley and how the heck do you get there? Well, it's actually quite easy. From London, it's only a little over an hour away (south of London, in the West Sussex area). All you have to do is take the train from London Victoria station to Amberley (I used the Southeastern Railway website and it was pretty simple to navigate. You can also purchase them at the station). I'm sure you could also hire a car and drive, but for us this was the easiest route. Very important tip regarding the train and underground stations: BRING CASH. For some odd reason, our cards worked everywhere in London except the ticket machines at the transport stations. Bring cash just in case. Amberley is a tiny little country town and therefore has a tiny little train station, so it's best that you organize a cab ahead of time to pick you up when you arrive. Amberley Castle will do this for you or you can call "Castle Cars directly". Once you arrive, it's just a 5 minute ride to the castle. When you pull up, be prepared to be swept away into a fairytale. Let's just say the pictures online don't really do it justice. The property is absolutely STUNNING. I have never seen anything quite like it. We were like little kids when we drove up, wide-eyed and squealing with excitement (I guarantee your reaction will be the same).

   We had a little time before our room was ready, so we opted for lunch in the courtyard, which is was no less beautiful than the outside of the castle (it's no wonder Queen Elizabeth stayed here too). We had the most amazing lemon risotto with peas and herbs to share, and all was well and serene until we heard a very loud squawk from above that quite honestly scared the living daylights out of us. "Oh that's just Bob", the server tells us as she points to a VERY large white peacock perched above our heads. "Bob", the castle mascot. Naturally. 

  Our room was very cozy, and even though there was no air conditioning, we were very comfortable throughout our stay. We stayed 2 nights, which I think is really the perfect amount of time here. The first day you can explore the castle grounds as well as Amberley Village, which is within walking distance. Strolling through this village is a MUST. It's incredibly charming with narrow winding streets lined with old English cottages, most of which still have their original thatched roofs. You'll most likely stumble upon the only tea room in town, and you should definitely pop in since all the scones and cakes are made daily from scratch. Have a fancy dinner at the Castle that night and dine where Queen Elizabeth's guest room used to be. The food is delicious, and it's a very "royal" experience. 

   On day 2, I would HIGHLY recommend visiting Arundel Castle (yes, another castle...because who doesn't want to castle hop?). It's only about a 15 minute cab ride away and a perfect way to spend the day. You can buy tickets online or when you get there, and I suggest the Gold Plus tickets that will get you full access (Worth it, trust me). This castle is gorgeous and grand and all things magnificent. It dates back to medieval times and holds a lot of history within its walls. The gardens are definitely worth strolling through as well. After touring the castle, you can walk through the town of Arundel and have lunch (or dinner) at the Parsons Table and pop in some local shops . Then head back to the lovely Amberley castle to relax and have afternoon tea. 

Amberley Castle
Amberley, Arundel BN18 9LT, United Kingdom

Amberley Castle (address above)
The Parsons Table: 2 & 8 Castle Mews, Tarrant Street, Arundel BN18 9DG, Reino Unido
Amberley Village Tea Room: The Square, Amberley, Arundel BN18 9SR, United Kingdom

Explore Amberley Village (Located behind the castle)
Visit the Castle of Arundel: Arundel BN18 9AB, United Kingdom
Explore the town of Arundel (located nest to Arundel Castle)
Have High Tea at Amberley Castle (address above)                                                            

Maggie Eckford