Corfe Castle | Wild Dorset Ruin

Corfe Castle sits of one of the steepest hills in Dorset, England, overlooking the village of Corfe on the Isle of Purbeck peninsula.

It nestles within a decisive gap cutting through an extended row of chalk hills, bounded by the towns of Swanage and Wareham.

corfe castle

Where Is Corfe Castle?

Corfe Castle is on the south coast of England, in the county of Dorset:


Corfe Castle History

Early Life

Though some evidence of Anglo-Saxon nobility indicates royal life on the hill prior to the 11th century, the castle as it appears today is yet another castle creation amongst dozens of others by William the Conqueror.

Adding to the grandeur of his reign, William established the royal hunting forest of Purbeck within the vicinity of Corfe Castle. The palace became home to William’s son, who became King Henry I.

Later Years

Like many other castles in England, Corfe has reinvented itself over the centuries, including added walls, enclosures and stone fortifications to complement the local Purbeck limestone tower. It’s served as a treasury, royal palace and military garrison.

During the English Civil War in the 1600s, the castle initially fared well because the current owner, Sir John Bankes and the formidable Lady Bankes, stood firmly in support of King Charles 1.

But eventually, after several attempted sieges, Corfe Castle finally fell to occupation by the “Roundheads,” led by Oliver Cromwell. It turned out that Lady Bankes, locally hailed as ‘Brave Dame Mary,’ was betrayed by one of her own officers, Colonel Pitman.

As if that treachery and assault weren’t insufferable enough, the Parliamentarians, under the leadership of Cromwell, blew up the castle in 1646, at the end of the war.

They destroyed the cherished royal palace from the inside out, using gunpowder packed into deep holes to explode the towers and demolish the ramparts in a blaze of despicable betrayal.

Current Ownership

But the story of Corfe Castle was far from over.

The Bankes family regained ownership of the land and the castle remains, which they gifted to the National Trust in 1982, along with large parts of Corfe Village and other lands and mansions in Purbeck.


Visitors Info

Though the original structures have been reduced to uninhabitable ruins, a peaceful timeless aura pervades the grounds and environment, making it a favourite spot for picnics and family outings.

In keeping with the tradition of royal castle events, Corfe Castle plays host to some classics such as the Festival of Archaeology, outdoor music and arts festivals, and summer games and activities for kids.

An audio trail entertains with tall tales of daily castle life and royal revelations from the Norman and Tudors periods through the English Civil War. Some visitors claim to faintly hear the fierce battle cries of Brave Dame Mary protecting her kingdom in centuries long gone.


How To Get to Corfe Castle

By train:

The nearest train station linking to Dorset and Bournemouth/Poole is Wareham, after which you can walk, cycle or take the Number 40 bus onwards to us. See our Destination Corfe Castle article for more information.

By road:

An A351 Wareham to Swanage road

Parking: National Trust parking on A351 opposite the castle mound on the left when approaching from Wareham. Alternative pay and display parking at Purbeck Park (turn left at the roundabout when approaching from Wareham), or West Street (max four hours).

By bus:

Wilts & Dorset number 40 Poole to Swanage (passing Wareham train station). See our Destination Corfe Castle article for more information.

https://www.nationaltrust.org.uk/corfe-castle#How to get here

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