Amberley at the foot of the South Downs in the Arun Valley is, without doubt, one of the prettiest little villages in Sussex. However, don’t let its diminutive size and sleepy atmosphere fool you, there are a great many things to do in Amberley. The village is perfect for a day out in West Sussex for all the family, and any lovers of history and the great outdoors will no doubt want to stay a little longer.
Amberley near Arundel, West Sussex
Nowhere in Sussex will you find more picturesque thatched cottages than in Amberley. If it weren’t for the tarmac on the roads and parked cars, you could easily think you’ve slipped back in time a hundred years or more. This is quintessential England.
The village of Amberley in West Sussex
Tucked between the imposing walls of Amberley Castle and the hills of the South Downs, the village of Amberley has been beautifully preserved with some 70 listed buildings (a building of special architectural and historic interest) including many 17th-century timber-framed thatched cottages.
At the end of Church Street, you’ll find a duck pond and the village church which is over 900-years old. Beyond the church lies Amberley Castle, parts of which date back to the 12th century. While some of the walls are now in ruins, the central manor house is now a luxury hotel with a superb restaurant.
St Michael’s Church, Amberley
Things to do in and around Amberley
Walking and cycling
Lying in the South Downs National Park, walkers will love the many trails that lead from the village including a stretch of the long-distance walking route, the Monarch’s Way, which runs alongside the River Arun.
The South Downs Way, a recognised National Trail, also passes very close to the heart of the village. It’s a popular route for walkers and cyclists alike. To the south of the village, the trail climbs steeply up into the hills for some spectacular views over the village and the Arun Valley. To the north, the route crosses the River Arun, passing through farmland before heading up to Bignor Hill for more spectacular views.
Footpaths along the River Arun
Amberley Castle is now a luxury hotel but it is open to visitors for afternoon tea, lunch or dinner. It’s a stunning setting perfect for a special occasion. You can also pop in for a tea or coffee as long as there are no functions that day. You’ll need to ring in advance to check.
While there, be sure to have a walk around the grounds within the now ruined castle walls. Look out for The Garderobe Tower, 14th-century toilets built into the wall and the Oubliette (which translates as the forgotten place), a pit in the ground where prisoners were kept. If you’re lucky you may even spot the resident white peacock.
Amberley Chalkpit Museum
Next to the railway station, in a former chalk query, about a mile from the village centre, Amberley Museum makes a fabulous day out for all the family. When you’re tired of exploring on foot, hop on the steam train or one of the vintage buses and discover a fascinating range of interactive exhibits, from industrial and agricultural machinery to rural arts and crafts.
A great variety of events are held here including an annual beer festival, a classic cars weekend and a steampunk festival and a lot more besides. Notably, Amberley Chalk Pits were used in the filming of the James Bond film, A View to a Kill.
The steam train at Amberley Museum
Bikes, kayaks, sup boards to rent
Just across the road, overlooking the River Arun, Riverside South Downs has a well-reputed tea room and also offers bicycles, boats, SUP boards and kayaks for hire.
Bird watching at Amberley Wildbrooks
North of the village lies the 82-hectare nature reserve, Amberley Wildbrooks, with its fantastic array of wildfowl, wetland plants and insects. A public footpath starting in Hog Lane takes you into the reserve. Regularly flooded throughout the winter months, even in the middle of summer it can be very boggy. Bird lovers should also check out Arundel’s Wildfowl and Wetlands Trust, less than a 15-minute drive from Amberley.
Amberley Village Pottery
In the centre of the village on Church Street, a wonderful pottery workshop displays the work of local artist, Caroline Seaton. The showroom is open on Thursdays, Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays from 11.00 a.m. to 3.00 p.m.
Nearby villages and pubs
The hamlet of Houghton is just a mile along the B2139. Here you’ll find some lovely thatched cottages and one of the oldest pubs in Sussex, The George and Dragon, serving excellent food and drinks. If walking there from the village, a public footpath leads behind the castle down to the river.
Follow it south until it meets the South Downs Way. Here you’ll find a footbridge across the river. Follow the South Downs Way heading west, until you meet Houghton Lane. Turn left and follow the lane to Houghton. Although there is no pavement this is a fairly quiet road but do keep an eye out for traffic. When you meet the much busier B2139, turn right and you’ll see the George and Dragon just a few minutes walk ahead of you.
The George and Dragon, Houghton
The village of Bury lies just the other side of the River Arun from Amberley and can be reached via a footpath from Houghton Bridge (near Amberley Railway Station) along the west bank of the river. A walk through the village will bring you to The Squire and Horse.
The villages of North and South Stoke lie south of Amberley, linked together by a lovely public footpath starting on the east bank on Houghton Bridge. Both villages have interesting little churches that are well worth a look inside. From South Stoke follow the riverbank path on the west bank to an excellent riverside pub, The Black Rabbit, and the town of Arundel beyond.
Alternatively, follow the east bank from South Stoke to the village of Burpham and another historic pub, The George.
Read more about local pubs in our post The best beer gardens in West Sussex.
Where to eat in Amberley
How to get to Amberley
Where to stay in Amberley
The Black Horse has several lovely rooms in the heart of the village. If you prefer self-catering, Spring Cottage sleeps five people in three bedrooms and boasts fabulous views and a hot tub. For a family of four, on a budget, the Riverside Holiday Park is a great option. However, if you’ve always dreamed of being a princess (or prince) a stay in Amberley Castle is a must.
Inside Amberley Castle
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Travel Blogger ‘Travel With Kat’ and Co-founder of Sussex Bloggers