A grand tour of Chichester

From the cathedral to Goodwood, the West Sussex city of Chichester has much to offer, says Matthew Partridge

The 18th-century novelist Daniel Defoe once declared that “if six or seven families were removed” from Chichester, “there would be not much conversation”. Still, if you spend any time in this elegant West Sussex city, you will soon realise that what some might see as reticence is the self-confidence of an area that has no need to brag about its attractions.

Chief among these is Chichester’s cathedral. Established nine years after the Battle of Hastings, it has survived Henry VIII, who destroyed its shrine to St Richard of Chichester, as well as Cromwell’s troops who shelled, and then sacked it during the Civil War. It contains several outstanding examples of modern sculpture, and is famous for being the subject of Philip Larkin’s poem An Arundel Tomb. The neighbouring Bishop’s Palace Gardens are worth visiting too.

Other attractions include Pallant House Gallery, which has one of the most outstanding collections of modern art in Britain. History buffs will appreciate Fishbourne Roman Palace, a museum enclosing an excavated Roman villa that is only three miles away from the city centre. Chichester Festival Theatre also has a reputation for being one of the best theatres outside London, and it is the first stage on the road for many productions that end up in the West End.

Goodwood Festival of Speed: the Glastonbury of cars

Porsche racing car

© Matthew Partridge

Chichester wouldn’t be complete without a visit to Goodwood, especially during the Festival of Speed. Running during four days in late June, it’s effectively the Glastonbury of motor sport. The main event involves timed runs along a specially designed hill-climb course in a wide range of vehicles, from vintage cars to F1 and supercars, culminating in the Sunday Shootout, won this year by a McMurtry Speirling driven by Max Chilton, which overturned the 23-year-old official record.

While it is possible to view the hill-climb from the trackside, this is extremely popular, so you might want to invest in a grandstand pass, which also shields you from the elements. In any case, there’s a wide range of other events taking place during the festival, from air displays by the legendary Red Arrows, to rallying at a specially designed forest stage (reachable via a free shuttle) and even off-road vehicles and BMX bikes.

However, what really sets Goodwood apart from other motor events, apart from the location and atmosphere, are the hundreds of stalls. These range from individual distributors showcasing the latest supercar, such as the $2m Czinger 21C, to an entire area dedicated to future technology. Indeed, perhaps the only downside is that even the regulars still had so many things to see, no matter how many visits they made.

Stay like a country squire

Lordington House

© Matthew Partridge

There are plenty of fine hotels in and around Chichester. But if you want something a bit different and are happy to travel a little further afield, try Lordington House, a luxury B&B run by John and Audrey Hamilton. A 15-minute taxi ride from Chichester station, it has four rooms (three double, one single), located in a country pile that dates from 1623 and has an expansive garden that has been included in the National Garden Scheme.

The house has spacious dining and sitting rooms and retains plenty of period detail, from the 17th-century staircase to the comfortable Edwardian beds. The sense of history is also enhanced by the large number of historical paintings and artefacts, including Japanese calligraphy collected by John Hamilton during his career as an academic in Japan. The ship’s bell taken from SY Morning, which played a vital role in Scott’s 1901-1904 Antarctic expedition.

In addition to offering you the chance to imagine yourself as a country squire, Lordington House is made truly exceptional by the hosts. It’s not just the friendly welcome and excellent breakfasts, but the willingness to go above and beyond. They not only arranged a table for me at the Horse and Groom pub in nearby East Ashling after I arrived late, but also gave me a lift there, as well as a further lift to Chichester in the morning. This is truly an undiscovered gem.

Matthew was a guest at Lordington House. Singles start from £70 a night, and doubles £140. Phone 01243-375862 or email hamiltonjanda@btinternet.com.

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