Corfe Castle Things to Do

  • Wild flowers on Corfe Common
    Wild flowers on Corfe Common
    by toonsarah
  • Corfe Castle - the keep
    Corfe Castle - the keep
    by toonsarah
  • Corfe Castle Museum
    Corfe Castle Museum
    by toonsarah

Most Recent Things to Do in Corfe Castle

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    Corfe Common

    by toonsarah Updated Apr 4, 2011

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    View from Corfe Common
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    A short stroll along West Street will bring you to the open area of land known as Corfe Common, Dorset´s largest working common. This is a haven for botanists and historians. Evidence exists here of a civilisation dating back to 6000 BC. Several barrows (burial mounds) can be seen soon after leaving West Street onto the common. It’s also considered to be an excellent example of a Celtic field system, though I don’t know enough about these things to recognise one of those when I see one!

    Much of the land has not been ploughed for centuries and as such is rich in wild flowers, which even the least expert among us can enjoy. It’s also a great place to walk off some of the calories from all those cream teas, or simply enjoy some wide down-land vistas and views of the castle itself. In the early morning deer can sometimes be seen here, although by the time of our walk, after breakfast, there were only horses and cattle in sight.

    By the way, for non-English readers, the word “Common” here relates to an area of land known as “common land”, which is owned by one person (or in modern times perhaps an organisation), but over which other people can exercise certain traditional rights, such as allowing their livestock to graze upon it. Those who have a right of common are known as “commoners”. Many of these English commons have long ago disappeared, but others remain, though relatively few are as large as Corfe’s especially in southern England.

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    Corfe Common

    by Gwenvar Updated Apr 4, 2011

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    Corfe Common

    This is a system in the UK, which I greatly admire. To be able to walk on other people's land as long as you respect the rules, which let's everyone enjoy the great variety in landscapes. Open all year, Corfe Common is Dorset's largest working Common and from which you can get great views of Corfe Castle. Since it is run by the National Trust, there is a leaflet called 'Exploring Corfe Common' that is available from the National Trust shop in the village. The Common is crossed by footpaths and bridleways, there is disabled access and dogs are allowed.

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    Explore the village

    by toonsarah Written Jul 6, 2008

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    View from West Street towards the castle
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    I suspect many visitors come here just to see the castle, but Corfe Castle village is very small and is well worth the half an hour or so needed to explore it on foot. The heart of the village is the Square, with its old pump and war memorial, overlooked by the castle. From here, West Street and East Street lead (confusingly given their names!) in parallel southwards, with the former being the quieter of the two and eventually dead-ending at the Common.

    Many of the cottages are really pretty, with old stone walls and thick tiled roofs, and a few colourful flowers at the front in most cases too. Some have dates on them (the one in photo 2 dates from 1741). Add a few nice shops, a number of pubs and tea-rooms for refreshment breaks, the church and old Town Hall (see separate tips), and you could find that half hour turning into half a day :)

    The website below is a useful sketch map of the village, showing the street names, main sights, pubs etc.

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    Corfe Museum

    by toonsarah Written Jul 6, 2008

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    Corfe Castle Museum
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    This claims to be the smallest town hall building in England, although it is no longer used as such and instead serves as the town’s museum. I think it could also stake a claim as one of the smallest museums, consisting as it does of basically one large display case! This contains a hotch-potch of items, including dinosaur footprints, relics of the clay and Purbeck marble industries, household objects, old photos, etc.

    The town hall building itself dates from the early 18th century. Its claim to be the smallest in England is based on the fact that the floor area of the Council Chamber is only 350 square feet. Admission is free, but both the museum and the on-going restoration of the Town Hall rely on donations. These can be made through a slot in the wall near the door, but it’s more fun to use the one in the display case as your coin will roll down a tube and strike an old bell strategically placed beneath it!

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    Church of St Edward the Martyr

    by toonsarah Updated Jul 6, 2008

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    View of the church from the castle grounds
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    The church in Corfe Castle is dedicated, unusually, to a former King of England, Edward the Martyr, who is said to have been murdered here in the village in 978 by his stepmother Elfryda because she wanted to put her own son, Ethelred “the Unready”, on the throne. The story goes that while stag hunting in the Purbeck Forest, Edward paid a visit to Corfe Castle to visit his step-brother, then only ten years old. While he was there Elfryda offered him a goblet of wine, then treacherously had him stabbed in the back while he drank it.

    The legend then tells how the queen ordered that the body be quickly hidden in a hut nearby, the home of a woman blind from birth. During the night, a light appeared and filled the whole hut. Struck with awe, the woman cried out: "Lord, have mercy!" and suddenly received her sight, only to discover the dead body of the king lying in her hut. The church was supposedly built on the site of this miracle.

    There’s not a lot to see inside, but it’s worth a quick look. The tower is the oldest part, dating from Norman times, while the remainder is mainly early English in style. There are a few old monuments and several altar-tombs made in the local Purbeck marble. I also liked the cast iron chandeliers. Outside in the village square, a sign commemorates the martyrdom of Edward (photo 2).

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    Corfe Castle

    by toonsarah Written Jul 6, 2008

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    Corfe Castle - the keep
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    I would be surprised if many people can visit Corfe without being tempted into visiting the castle, even if they’re not particularly interested in history; it so dominates the village that it seems impossible to resist its lure. It may be in a state of ruin, but to me, and to many other visitors, that is part of its charm.

    Corfe Castle was begun by William the Conqueror soon after his arrival in Britain in 1066. It was served by the surrounding community in return for the use of homes and land, as well as shelter in the Castle in times of trouble. For the whole of the medieval period, it was a Royal Castle, used as one of the five royal castles. King John kept his crown jewels here, Edward II was imprisoned here.

    In fact it was one of King John’s favourite castles, and he extended it with extra defences and also turned it into a comfortable royal residence, remains of which can still be seen. During his reign the castle was often used as a prison, where many prisoners met their deaths.

    From the 14th to the 16th centuries, Corfe Castle was less important as a royal stronghold and it fell into disrepair. In 1572 Queen Elizabeth I sold it to her Lord Chancellor, Sir Christopher Hatton, who converted it into a comfortable home, which in 1635 was bought by Sir John Bankes, starting a long association between this family and the village (where there is still a Bankes Inn pub).

    During a siege in 1643 Lady Mary Bankes bravely and successfully defended the castle, after her husband had himself been killed in the Civil War. However, during a second siege in 1646 an act of betrayal by a member of her garrison led to the castle’s capture by the Parliamentarians. They allowed her to go free out of respect for her bravery, but deliberately demolished the castle resulting in the dramatic ruin we can see today.

    This ruin is however in a precarious state, and there was a lot of much-needed reconstruction work going on when we visited. This is due to finish soon, but if you visit in the near future you need to be aware that some areas may be out of bounds to visitors, and parts of the structure scaffolded. We found this only a minor irritation, as more than enough could still be seen to satisfy our curiosity. We had a great time wandering around the different ruins, and took loads of photos of this atmospheric relic.

    I have a particular, though loose, connection to Corfe Castle, so was especially thrilled to see it for myself. I grew up in the London suburb of Ruislip, as did Lady Mary Bankes many centuries before me. She was a daughter of the local Hawtrey family before marrying Sir John Bankes and moving to Dorset where she faced and withstood the siege of the castle. From 5 to 11 years I attended the school in Ruislip that commemorates her act of bravery, Lady Bankes Primary School. As children we were taught all about her bravery and encouraged to emulate it!

    I also saw leaflets advertising open-air theatre productions here. There were none during our visit but I imagine that must be another great way in which to enjoy this special place.

    And finally, for anyone like me who grew up on a diet of Enid Blyton, Corfe Castle is generally acknowledged as the inspiration for Kirren Castle in her Famous Five books.

    Admission costs £5.60 for adults, £2.80 for children. There are various family tickets available, depending on the number of adults. We were given a voucher entitling us to 2 for 1 entry to a number of other local attractions, which we used for the Blue Pool at Wareham. In addition, paying visitors arriving by public transport are offered a reduction on production of a valid bus or train ticket.

    The castle is open every day apart from Christmas and Boxing Days. It opens at 10.00 AM, closing between 4.00 and 6.00 PM depending on the season.

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    Castle in the Rain

    by DEBBBEDB Written Jul 29, 2007

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    Corfu
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    We walked to the castle entrance (National Trust - so at least it was free) where they warned us that the winds up on the hill were very strong and to keep a good grip on our son. We fought our way up to the keep, finding every possible overhang to duck into (on a dry day, we might not have gone into the dodgy looking places we did that day - as they didn't really look safe), on our way up to the castle keep. It is a fantastic, ruined castle, with fabulous views (I'm sure, but we didn't really look that day).

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    Visit Corfe Castle

    by Gwenvar Updated Feb 10, 2007

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    The 1000 Year Old Castle Corfe

    When you're at a place called Castle Corfe, what's best to do but visit the said castle, right?! Well, I didn't have time for it. All the time that I had was to take it's picture. But at the same time, I wasn't feeling much touristy that day, so it was ok. But that doesn't meen that you shouldn't visit it! With such dramatic history, this castle is well worth it.
    The castle was first started to being built by the Norman William the Conqueror and was destroyed during the English Civil war. It is also worth noting that archaeological excavations are presently being done.
    Following the fall of the castle, much of the stones were used to build the now very charming village right next to it. Do you know what else was built with the old stones from the castle? -The columns of Salisbury Cathedral. And once upon a time, in an old record, it was said that there was as many of them as the amount of hours in a year...

    The castle is managed by the well known National Trust, which has a store right next to it, in the village.

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    Have a short Walk Around the Village!

    by Gwenvar Written Feb 4, 2007

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    Corfe Castle village is so small that a walk up it's small hill, really makes for the perfect exercice. And don't forget to bring along your camera, this village is so beautiful, that you'll regret not to!

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    Bye, bye Rosemarie

    by iandsmith Updated Nov 26, 2005

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    The strength of that girl!

    The leaning tower of Pisa has no angle on this. Part of the unbelievable angles that some of the remnants now stand at. My normally calm self even felt apprehensive at walking beneath this rampart.
    A friend of mine has advanced a cogent argument as to how they remain upright. His theory is that the soil is so moist that when the explosion has occurred the ramparts are sucked back down by the gurgling mud and are thus implanted forever at improbable angles. Sounds feasible.

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    Jurassic Coast, et al

    by iandsmith Updated Nov 26, 2005

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    Durdle Door, just another nearby attraction

    Corfe Castle, naturally enough, is not the only thing to see in this somewhat neglected (by tourists) corner of England. Just south is England's first World Heritage Site, a stretch of coastline called the Jurassic Coast due to the very ancient evidence of times before humans in the form of fossils.
    Some unkind people have suggested I should not stray into the area for fear of being collected myself but we'll ignore their bleatings.
    There's also a hole-in-the-wall type feature called Durdle Door just down from the tempting Lulworth Cove, from where you can apparently take boat trips to the adjacent fossil coast.
    One of the other well-known attractions is the historic Swanage Railway, an historic steam experience you can board at Norden, just a short distance up the road from Corfe Castle.

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    The aura of Corfe

    by iandsmith Written Nov 26, 2005

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    A haunting ruin
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    Something rising from the gloom, trying to reclaim its magnificent past but never quite succeeding, a sentinel to a bygone era of wealth centralized in one spot, a mysterious rotting corpse of a ruin atop a tor in the countryside. Such is the feeling I left with after visiting Corfe Castle.

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    Swanage Railway

    by iandsmith Written Nov 26, 2005

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    The historic train beneath Corfe Castle

    This historic railway came to Swanage in 1885 after several attempts were made to get a bill through parliament but were rejected because the residents of Wareham didn't want a branch line going through their town. Eventually, in 1880, a local businessman and magistrate, George Burt, succeeded in doing the bleeding obvious and got one that avoided the centre of Wareham.
    Having survived the Beeching axe of 1963, British Railways closed the line in 1972 and lifted the track from Swanage to Corfe and Furzebrook. A group of undaunted enthusiasts got together and commenced rebuilding it however in 1975. The entire track now goes from Swanage to Norden Park where there is an excellent "park and ride" facility in addition to a buffet matching the one at Swanage.
    It all opened on January 3rd, 2002 and is now a major attraction in the area, and deservedly so.
    It costs around 7.50 per adult and runs regularly but the entire timetable is too much to include here.

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    Scotts Arms

    by iandsmith Written Nov 26, 2005

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    The unmissable (especially in autumn) Scotts Arms

    What an amazing sight. No need to mention "why it was so special" here. I couldn't help but wonder how much trouble they have keeping it all in check but I'm glad they have it as it is. Just wish they could have arranged a bit of sunlight on it to highlight the stunning colours.
    This is not at Corfe Castle itself but just 2 miles down the road where we stayed at Kingston and, along with the church, is the only thing in town you would come to look at but if you link it with Worth Matravers, then you'll have a lovely half day trip out seeing a couple of England's finest villages.

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    From any angle

    by iandsmith Written Nov 26, 2005

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    Not suitable for wheelchairs need I add!
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    From any angle it's a wonderful ruin. The frustration of the destruction is often overcome by the emotion of just being there in this place and letting your mind wander. These two shots are taken from where most of the living was done with the dining rooms and sleeping quarters in this area at the very top of the hill.

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