A visit to Corfe Castle, Dorset

by Jan

Corfe Castle is one of the best places to visit on the Jurassic Coast in Dorset.  Whether you’re keen on history, architecture, or just want a fun day out, a visit to Corfe Castle is one of Dorset’s top attractions.

Built by William Conqueror a thousand years ago, this majestic castle sits atop a hill looking down on the village of the same name.  Although the castle is now in ruins, it remains an impressive historical site and you can still climb the hill to imagine how it would have looked like in its heyday.

A visit to Corfe Castle was high on our list of things to do on our recent visit to the Jurassic Coast.  We’d visited the village many years before, but regrettably not climbed up to the castle, so wanted to put that right.

Read on for details of our visit to Corfe Castle, one of the best days out on the Jurassic Coast.

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A short walk to Corfe Castle

Sign post to Corfe Castle, Dorset, UK

From the National Trust Visitor Centre it is a 1-mile walk to the village of Corfe Castle.  Cross the road from the car park and follow the signpost.

It’s a scenic route, which leads round the perimeter of the castle.  It has signposts all the way, so is easy to find.

The ticket office is at the base of the castle, by the main gates.

A brief history of Corfe Castle

Path to Corfe Castle, Dorset, UK

Corfe Castle was built for King Henry I, William the Conqueror’s son,  shortly after the Norman Conquest of 1066.  It took a team of skilled craftsmen over 8 years to complete.

Its position on the hill was perfect for spotting the enemy and keeping the king safe.  They built the castle using local Purbeck limestone, rather than in the usual style of timber.  This made it was even more formidable as a fortress and adds to its historic significance.

Standing at 23 metres (80 ft) tall on top of a 55 metre (180 ft) hill, Corfe Castle was an imposing sight.  And, with walls up to 3 metres thick, we can see King Henry was taking no chances with his safety!

In 1572, Corfe Castle became privately owned when Queen Elizabeth I gave the castle to Sir Christopher Hatton, who later become Lord Chief Justice.  In 1635, the Bankes family bought the castle as a country mansion and the name has lived at the castle ever since.

Unfortunately, Corfe Castle was destroyed in English Civil War (1646), when an Act of Parliament demanded that it was blown up.  However, even today, as it stands in ruins, you can see how impressive the castle used to be.

Things to see at Corfe Castle

Corfe Castle Tower, Dorset, UK

As you enter the castle’s gatehouse, you’ll find a timeline for key historic events.  As with most English castles, Corfe Castle has had a turbulent past, with stories of murder, torture, and other treacherous goings-on.

After a quick read, you can venture to the top of the hill to explore the ruins, a testament to the castle’s former glory.

Archway at Corfe Castle, Dorset

As Corfe Castle changed hands throughout history,  each new owner added their own distinctive touch and you can see this today.  Look out for the remains of Tudor fireplaces, “murder holes”, arrow loops, and an “appearance door”.

During his reign, King Henry VIII insisted that the castle was rendered and whitewashed.  However, King John (1199-1216) later insisted on a more luxurious interior décor.  He even added his own personal inside toilet.  If you look above the old door frames, you can see evidence of the ornate carvings he introduced.

To get more facts about the history of the castle, you can use the listening posts dotted around the grounds.

Whilst you are up the top you will also have amazing views over the Purbeck countryside.  You might even spot the heritage steam train.

Activities at Corfe Castle

Young boy tries Archery at Corfe Castle, Dorset, UK

Once you’ve explored the castle, you can retrace your steps down the hill to the base.

If it’s the school holidays, you may find some special family events hosted by the National Trust.  We were there at Easter, so had the chance to join in with tug-o-war, archery, dressing up and some puzzles.

Corfe Castle village

Corfe Castle Village, People sitting on stone cross memorial in front of stone homes overlooked by Corfe Castle.

After your visit to the castle you can spend some time exploring the village.  Corfe Castle is a delightful place, with narrow streets and cute cottages made from Purbeck stone.

It comprises two main streets, East Street and West Street, which connect at The Square.  The village convenes around the Village Cross, introduced to commemorate Queen Victoria’s Diamond Jubilee.

Things to do in Corfe Castle village

As well as the castle, there are several things to do in Corfe Castle.  One of the most popular attractions is the Corfe Castle Model Village.  This 1/20th replica shows how the village and castle looked in 1646.

You could look at the pretty church named after Edward the Martyr, who was murdered by his stepmother in 978.

Another of the best places to visit is the train station.  Local enthusiasts have restored this heritage station and visitors can take a ride on the steam train to Swanage.

The village is small but charming.  It doesn’t really take long to explore, so you stop for food and a drink.

Places to eat on a visit to Corfe Castle

Although the village is little, there’s no shortage of places to eat.  You’ll find several quaint tea rooms and three pubs, all in the centre.  You can also eat in the café at the Model Village.

If you are looking for something quick, the village bakery is amazing.  They have a choice of pasties and sandwiches and some mouth-watering cakes.  Plus, it is incredibly cheap.  They don’t have a seating area, but the steps up to the cross make particularly good seats!

How to get to Corfe Castle

Getting to Corfe Castle by car

Corfe Castle is between Wareham and Swanage in Dorset in southern England.  It is easy to get to from London on M25/M3/M27.  The last stretch of the journey gives you a scenic drive through the New Forest National Park.  Corfe Castle is on the A351 Swanage to Wareham Road.

The address for Corfe Castle is The Square, Corfe Castle, nr Wareham, Dorset, BH20 5EZ.

Getting to Corfe Castle by train

The nearest train station to Corfe Castle is Wareham.

Regular trains run to Wareham from several large cities, including London (Waterloo), Southampton, and Bournemouth.  From Wareham you can take the Purbeck Breezer 40 bus, which will take you to the castle in 15 minutes.

Another fun option is the heritage steam train, which runs a regular service from Swanage.

Parking at Corfe Castle

One of the best places to park for Corfe Castle is at the National Trust Welcome Centre.  The castle is managed by the National Trust, so parking at the Visitor Centre is free for members.  However, there are only 90 places, so it can get busy at peak times.

Non-members can also use the NT car park, using the pay-and-display machine.  Alternative parking can be found at West Street and is also walking distance from the castle.

Corfe Castle tickets and admission

Opening times

Corfe Castle is open every day of the year except 25th and 26th December.

The opening hours are 10am to 5pm.

Admission prices

For non-members, prices vary according to the season (peak and off-peak).

It is currently £12 for an adult and £30 for a family at peak time.

Under 5s are free.

Can I take my dog?

Yes, dogs on a short lead can go to Corfe Castle .

Things to do near Corfe Castle

Group of White rocks in sea, Old Harry Rocks, Dorset, UK

You’ll find plenty of things to do near Corfe Castle.  It’s close to Dorset’s amazing Jurassic Coast, so we drove to Studland Bay for a walk to Old Harry Rocks.  Other attractions include Monkey World or Lulworth Cove and Durdle Door.

Here’s our round up of the best things to do on the Jurassic Coast.

Hotels and B&Bs near Corfe Castle

For our visit to Dorset we stayed in the historic town of Dorchester, as it has a fantastic central location for exploring the Jurassic Coast.  However, this is about 20 miles away from Corfe Castle (about 30 minutes by car)

Here are some accommodation options which are closer to Corfe Castle:

Mortons Manor

Mortons Manor is a beautiful, 16th century manor house in the centre of Corfe Castle village.

Click here for prices and availability at Mortons Manor.

Jonti Bed & Breakfast

This friendly B&B is within a short walk of Corfe Castle and has extremely positive reviews from guests.  It offers a comfortable room and a hearty cooked breakfast.

Click here for prices and availability at Jonti Bed and Breakfast.

Kingston Country Courtyard

Although it’s not in the village, Kingston Country Courtyard is just a short drive from Corfe Castle.  It offers beautiful rooms around a courtyard.  It has its own restaurant and there’s is a bus stop in front of the hotel.

Click here for prices and availability at Kingston Country Courtyard

Camping near Corfe Castle

Norden Farm Campsite

The nearest campsite to Corfe Castle is Norden Farm Campsite.  This is a family-run touring caravan and camping site on a working farm.  It also has a self-catering cottage and guest house on site.

Click here for prices and availability at Norden Farm Campsite.

We'd love to hear from you!

Have you been on a visit to Corfe Castle in Dorset?  We’d love to hear your comments below.

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