One of the most photographed landmarks in England, the romantic ruins of Corfe Castle are a truly unmissable sight for any visitor to the Isle of Purbeck.
Perched resplendent at the top of a steep hill, dominating the Purbeck stone village of Corfe below and commanding a gap in the Purbeck chalk ridge, it is easy to see why this is one of the National Trust’s most visited historical sites, inspiring writers, artists and history buffs alike.
The castle is a Grade 1 listed building, recognised as an internationally important structure. It is also a Scheduled Monument, a “nationally important” historic building and archaeological site which has been given protection against unauthorised change.
In 2008, during the National Trust’s most recent restoration work on the castle, an “appearance” door was found in the keep, designed for King Henry 1. The National Trust claims that this is evidence that the castle would have been one of the most important in England at the time.
The earthworks known as “ The Rings”, thought to be the remains of a 12th century motte- and-bailey castle built during a siege of Corfe are also scheduled. Built by William the Conqueror, parts of the ruin date from the 11th century and it was one of the earliest castles in England to be built largely using stone, at a time when the majority were built with earth and timber. Corfe Castle underwent major structural changes in the 12th and 13th centuries.
An unexpected delight for visitors to Corfe is that, depending on the direction you approach, no two views of the castle are the same; indeed, when driving the main route down from London, a first time visitor is afforded a delicious surprise as the castle hones into view, dramatic and dominant, only once you are almost beneath it; such is the lush vegetation and hilly landscape surrounding it. From other directions such as via the top road between Kingston and Langton Matravers, on a clear day the ruins can be seen for miles around.
While Corfe Castle itself is rightly the main attraction, there are plenty of other attractions in the historic village itself worth visiting.
• The 12th Century Parish Church, St Edwards, is at the heart of the small purbeck stone village. The view of Corfe from the Church graveyard is so impressive that the Greyhound pub, immediately in front of the Castle base as you look from the village, is purported to be the most photographed public house in England. Plus look out for the plaque on the adjoining town hall, claiming to be “The smallest Building in England “.
•The Model Village at Corfe is an accurate 1/20th scale replica of the castle and surrounding landscape; it depicts Corfe as it would have looked in 1646 prior to its destruction by Oliver Cromwell’s troops during the Civil War. For admission prices and opening times visit https://www.corfecastlemodelvillage.co.uk/
• The National Trust Tea Rooms afford a unique close up view of the castle itself, in lush surroundings; serving traditional clotted cream tea with cream tea of the month offering a seasonal twist on the classic; plus an array of soup, cakes and sandwiches. It has a cosy atmosphere complete with open fire for the winter months.
• There are a number of local pubs well worth a visit; from the The Fox Inn reputed to be the oldest public house in Corfe, complete with ancient glass covered well in the floor of the bar area; to the gastropub Greyhound right beneath the castle, and the Bankes Arms with wonderful views of both the castle and railway from the Beer Garden.
• While the aforementioned hostelries have a wide and decent choice of fare, the new kid on the block when it comes to food in Corfe is the wonderful “Pink Goat”. This welcoming artistic cafe serves delicious coffee and cakes, plus, as the name suggests, specialises in gourmet goat related produce from their farm nearby, plus organic fruit and vegetables. Special gourmet evenings are a regular feature, and take away is also available.
ADMISSION: FREE to National Trust Members Peak rate prices – Adult standard ticket- £12.00 / Child – £6.00 Off Peak and family discounts available; see https://www.nationaltrust.org.uk/ corfe-castle