Corfe Castle is an impressive sight. Situated at the top of a hill on the Isle of Purbeck in Dorset, it towers over the surrounding landscape. It’s witnessed a thousand years of history and today living history events are popular and bring the past back to life for adults and children alike. Our visit was during a medieval living history event by the Feudals and we certainly had an interesting day.
Corfe Castle keep was built in the 12th century for William the Conqueror’s son, King Henry I. In 1572, Queen Elizabeth I sold it to Sir Christopher Hatton and in 1635, Sir John Bankes bought the castle. With the exception of a brief confiscation at the end of the English Civil – during which it was demolished by an Act of Parliament – it remained in the Bankes family until Ralph Bankes gave it to the National Trust in 1982.
Properties owned by the National Trust are usually exceptional. Well tended, loved and cherished, managed ethically to not only keep its history alive, but also conservation of the surrounding environment. Corfe Castle is no exception and from the moment we arrived, we felt at home. Staff were helpful, knowledgeable and friendly. The Castle grounds were immaculately kept and facilities were excellent.
The Feudals were the best reenactment group I’ve come across and upheld an exceptionally high standard with their eye for detail and in-depth knowledge of the time period. History truly came alive and for Cass, the medieval era is no longer just dates she desperately struggles to remember, but a period of history she’s fallen in love with. Since our visit, she’s been experimenting with egg tempera painting, bought a bow with her pocket money, made a medieval shield and educated a host of other six years on how gruelling it was to become a knight, how medieval shields look nothing like toy shields and the differences between long bows and cross bows (‘Although long bows weren’t called long bows, just bows, because everyone had one except if you were a girl’).
Corfe Castle is a phenomenal place, particularly during one of their events. Highly recommended.
National Trust Property: no advanced booking +
Price: ± £9.90 – £10.50 per person
Tiered pricing for peak/off-peak, adults, children, family and group rates. Free entry for National Trust members.
Visitors arriving by public transport are offered a discount voucher redeemable at the shop or tea-rooms.
Corefe Castle is set in a beautiful location surrounded by countryside with many walking opportunities, including the 9.5 mile Purbeck Ridgeway to the coast. Events are frequent and of a high calibre, with family-focused trails and living history displays. It’s easy to spend a whole day in the castle, Corfe Village and walking in the surrounding area.
Season: Open year-round
Access: Good. Mobility parking in the main car park and in the village. Adapted toilets at the visitor centre and castle entrance (radar key enabled). Grounds – partly accessible, steep slopes, some steps, uneven paths, undulating terrain. Some visitors may require assistance from their companion. Full access statement here.
Location: The Square, Corfe Castle, Wareham, Dorset, BH20 5EZ
On-line booking: No
Opening: 10 am
Summer Closing: 6pm (Castle), 17:30 (Shop and Tea rooms), 17:00 (Visitor centre)
Winter closing: 4pm (castle) 15:30 (Shop and Tea rooms), 15:00 (Visitor centre)
Timed restrictions: None
Dogs welcome on a short lead.
Toilets (including adapted toilets) at the castle and visitor centre.
Food and drink
In the village there is a cosy National Trust tea-room with a log burning fire during the winter, as well as a pub and other tea rooms. Picnics are welcome in the grounds.
Public transport access: Yes
Parking: Small NT Car Park (pay & display) at Castle View, off A351 (beautiful 800 yards walk uphill to castle). Members free, but need to display a (free) ticket. It fills up quickly.
Alternative all-day parking at Norden park and ride for around £3.20 with a 0.7 mile (15 minutes) walk to the castle or take the Swanage Steam railway that stops at Corfe Castle Station. Return tickets are £2.70 Adult and £1.60 Child. Nordon station nearby. Third parking option is on West Street in Corfe village (pay and display, not National Trust).
Nearby: Hardy’s Cottage, Swanage railway, Durdle door, Lulworth Cove
“We’re a charity founded in 1895 by three people who saw the importance of our nation’s heritage and open spaces and wanted to preserve them for everyone to enjoy. More than 120 years later, these values are still at the heart of everything we do. We look after special places throughout England, Wales and Northern Ireland for ever, for everyone.
As a charity, we rely for income on membership fees, donations and legacies, and revenue raised from our commercial operations. We have over 4.5 million members and 62,000 volunteers. More than 20 million people visit our pay for entry properties, while an estimated 100 million visit our open-air properties. We protect and open to the public over 350 historic houses, gardens and ancient monuments. But it doesn’t stop there. We also look after forests, woods, fens, beaches, farmland, downs, moorland, islands, archaeological remains, castles, nature reserves, villages – for ever, for everyone.”*
We based our Ergohacks Verdict on day trips to Corfe in April and December 2017. This article was first published on 28 May 2017 and last updated on 15 January 2018.