Corfe Castle is the name of both a castle and a village in the Purbecks, just across Poole Harbour from Bournemouth. The village/castle are either 15 miles away (if you cross the harbour by ferry) or 20 miles away (if you drive round the harbour). The thousand year old castle is open daily. It is owned by the National Trust, so entry is free to NT members. Non members must pay £10.
By public transport, Corfe Castle can be reached by bus or train. The most fun option is to take the Breezer 50 open top bus to Swanage. Then continue on the Breezer 40, which stops just before the village or just after it. If you get off just after (we did, as we missed our stop), it’s a pleasant ten minute walk around the base of the hill upon which the castle is built, with lovely views upwards to the castle itself. If you choose to drive the Corfe Castle, the NT Car Park is also on the north of the village, reached by the same path.
Alternatively, you can take a Steam Train from Swanage to Corfe Castle Station – the original 19th Century station is just a few minutes walk from the castle.
Corfe Castle – Castle
Corfe Castle is located on a steep hill in a gap in the Purbecks. It was built in the 11th Century, during the reign of William the Conqueror, and remained a royal castle until Elizabeth I sold it in 1572. In 1635, it was acquired by the Bankes family, who supported the Royalists in the English Civil War. During the war, the Bankes family successfully defended their castle. However, afterwards, in 1646, its destruction was ordered by the Parliamentarians and it was blown up by packing holes with gunpowder.
From the Village Square, the castle is accessed by a bridge which brings you to the Outer Gatehouse. This is flanked by two towers; Horseshoe Tower and First Tower. From here, you can follow the path past the remains of the second, third and fourth towers, through a second gatehouse to the Keep.
Corfe Castle – Village
It is worth leaving some time to further explore the picturesque village of Corfe Castle. The village is, not surprisingly, geared to tourists, with a splattering of gift shops, pubs and cafes. Central in the Village Square is a cross erected to celebrate Queen Victoria’s Diamond Jubilee in 1897 – a popular spot to sit a while for a rest and to consume drinks and snacks purchased in the village shop.
Corfe Castle Model Village
There is also model village where you can see a 1/20 scale replica of what the castle and village would have looked like in 1646. Opening hours for the model village mirror those of the castle and entry costs £4.50.
Wander further out of the village, and it’s like you accidentally fell into a chocolate box lid with stone cottages and thatched roofs. The bus stop to return to Swanage is located in front of Wissett Cottage – I can think of worse places to sit and wait a while…