Step back in time and immerse yourself in the rich history of Corfe Castle, one of the most iconic remnants of the English Civil War. Dating back more than 1,000 years, the Norman castle has had its fair share of tragedies and triumphs. It’s been a treasury, a military garrison, a royal residence, and a family home, and it survived two sieges in the Civil War before being destroyed by a traitor after six centuries of keeping enemies at bay.
The castle ruins are located in Dorset, in the village of Corfe Castle, and they guard the main route through the Purbeck Hills to the rest of England. Corfe Castle receives 250,000 visitors a year, and these days it’s managed by the National Trust. Adults and children alike will enjoy exploring the ancient history of the castle ruins, admiring the breath-taking views across Purbeck, and discovering the surrounding landscape and its Bronze Age burial sites.
Whether you’re planning a fun activity with the kids, a couple's day out or a sightseeing trip with friends, read on to find out more about Corfe Castle, including how to get there, things to do nearby and places to stay.
Corfe Castle is located in Dorset, on the main route between Wareham and Swanage. The address is: The Square, Corfe Castle, Wareham, Dorset, BH20 5EZ.
The roads between Wareham and Swanage get busy, especially in summer, so it’s a great idea to take public transport instead.
Things to do in Corfe Castle
With history and nature galore, Corfe Castle is a fascinating day out for people of all ages. There’s loads to see and do in and around Corfe Castle, and here are some of the highlights.
Originally built by William the Conqueror in the 11th Century for defensive purposes on what is believed to be a Roman site, Corfe Castle was one of England’s first stone castles. While only ruins remain, there’s still plenty of history to discover here.
Explore the castle’s turbulent and treacherous past as a royal palace and a fortress and check out the arrow slits and murder holes that can still be seen in the ruins today. The National Trust also regularly hosts living history days for you and your family to get a real taste of life in the Norman and Medieval times.
Book tickets to Corfe Castle in advance to avoid disappointment, especially at busier times like weekends and school holidays.
Corfe Castle village
Corfe Castle village is far older than the castle itself, with evidence of civilisation dating back to 6000 BCE. Over the years, the Celtics, Romans, Vikings, Saxons and Normans have all left evidence of habitation there, too. Continue your historic day trip with a visit to the Parish Church, check out the village’s little boutiques, cafes and pubs, and take a ride on the Swanage Railway steam train to the coast – a journey that little ones especially will love. You could also visit the Margaret Green Animal Rescue. Admission is free, and you’ll have the chance to meet horses, farm animals, rabbits, guinea pigs and more.
Corfe Castle is positioned on the Purbeck Hills, and the surrounding scenery is stunning and ideal for a ramble all year round. There are two main walks to choose from: the Corfe Common History Walk and the Purbeck Ridgeway Walk. The former is a 2.5-mile walk that explores Corfe Common, a sandstone ridge to the south of the village, where you’ll find Bronze Age burial sites, a 19th Century bridge, and jaw-dropping views across to the castle. The latter is a 9-mile walk that will take you from Corfe Castle to the Jurassic Coast, with views across Poole Harbour, Swanage and towards the Isle of Wight.
If you’ve still got room for more history and knowledge after your trip to the castle and stroll around the village, there are also two museums where you can learn even more about the area. The Corfe Castle Town Trust Museum explores the history of the village, while the award-winning Purbeck Mine Museum is just outside the village and focusses on the local ball clay mining industry which has been prominent in the area since the 18th Century.
Corfe Castle hosts a range of events throughout the year, from civil war re-enactments and archery displays to open air cinemas and family storytelling events. Take a look at upcoming events and consider planning your trip to coincide with any that jump out at you.
Food and drink
Corfe Castle is a wonderful spot for a picnic on fair-weather days, but there are also plenty of cafés, tea rooms, pubs, and restaurants to try out on your visit to the area.
Enjoy a light bite at the Model Village Courtyard Café, Olivers or the National Trust Tea Rooms, or refuel after a long countryside walk with a well-deserved pub lunch at The Greyhound Inn, The Castle Inn, The Fox Inn, or The Bankes Arms Hotel. Or if you’re looking for fine dining as part of a romantic getaway, book a table at Morton’s House or Nordon House Restaurant.
Places to stay
There are plenty of accommodation options in and around Corfe Castle, so consider extending your trip and making a full weekend of it. There’s something for every budget and holiday type, no matter whether you’re travelling alone, with a partner, as a group or with your family.
Book a self-catering stay at Dorset Holiday Cottages for ultimate flexibility or try one of the village’s Bed & Breakfast offerings, including Alford House, Ammonite, Challow Farmhouse and Heather Cottage. For a luxurious night away, the historic Mortons Manor and The Bankes Arms are fantastic options.
Corfe Castle accessibility
The castle is built on a high limestone mound, with steep slopes and drops, so access to some areas in and around the castle can be restrictive for the less able or for wheelchair users.