AMBERLEY CASTLE WEST SUSSEX
Several hundred years ago within the bastion of Amberley a young servant girl fell in love with a resident bishop. When she revealed she was pregnant he rejected her and she fled through the green baize door to the rooftop barricades, where she jumped to her death. It is said her presence can still be felt today in the Herstmonceux room, which has access to those very parapets. It’s just a tiny part of the history you experience as you as you step through the 60ft high medieval walls that frame this luxury retreat in the rolling countryside of West Sussex’s South Downs.
The original building dates from 1103, when it took the form of a hunting lodge. Since then it’s been razed to the ground, rebuilt and changed hands more times than Liz Taylor donned a wedding dress. Previous owners include fiery Elizabeth I, the bishopric, a cloth merchant and the Duke of Norfolk, who in 1893, commenced repairs to the stonework over the now-working 2.5-tonne portcullis – the only one in the country.
Its modern story begins in 1987, when the Brownsword family set about converting the castle into the unique hotel it is today. The foreboding Curtain Wall entrance gives way to picturesque gardens, an 18-hole putting course, contemporary British dining and a sense of grandeur. Design is a seamless marriage of ancient architecture and contemporary luxury. There are 19 suites, each with their own character, but our favourite is Pevensey, which has private access to the portcullis and its machinery.
During your stay, make like a Victorian and opt for a game of croquet in front of the battlements or cosy up in front of an open fire in one of the lounges. For those who prefer holidays with a side of education, time your visit with the popular castle tours which run throughout the year. They’re led by historian Keith McKenna and include a three-course lunch in the Queen’s Room, where the barrel-vaulted ceiling dates back to the 12th century. Doubles from £200.