Presided over by a fairytale castle quite literally constructed at the behest of William the Conqueror, it’s fair to say that Corfe Castle village is one of the most magical destinations home to the UK! After all, home to quaint eateries and romantic ruins, this stunning Dorset destination has all the trappings of a quintessentially British village, albeit with even more charm! Here’s a quick guide to the best things to do in Corfe Castle parish and church (as well as nearby attractions and locations worth visiting)!
Why you must visit Corfe Castle Village on your next England trip
Set against the backdrop of rolling green hills (there is plenty of rain in this part of the country!), Corfe Castle is not far from the salty breeze and crashing waves of the sea. Strategically placed in the southern part of Dorset, a county awash with lore and legend, Corfe Castle village gets its name from the castle of the same name which sits high on a hill overlooking the rest of the village.
Perfect for a day out or a longer romantic break if time allows, nowadays the Dorset village boasts a population of around 1500 residents. So whether you wish to cosy up with a Westcountry cream tea, live out your fairytale castle exploration dreams, or simply wish to escape the hustle and bustle of busy modern day life, Corfe Castle has all this and more…
A brief history of Corfe Castle
There’s likely been human inhabitation of the area where Corfe Castle parish and castle are now situated since at least 6000 BCE. This is known thanks to the presence of nearby burial mounds in the surrounding region. What is definite, is that thanks to the construction of Corfe Castle fortifications in the 11th-century, a small settlement grew in the castle’s shadow, a village which was eventually to be known as ‘Corfe Castle’.
In more recent times, at the height of Purbeck Marble quarrying, Corfe Castle village likely played a key part. You see, during the 18th-century, a census showed that of the 100 or so men involved in local industries, around fifty percent were clay cutters! So influential on local culture has Corfe Castle been that it’s said that Enid Blyton based a number of her castles in the ‘Famous Five’ books on Corfe Castle!
Things to do in Corfe Castle Village
Visit Corfe Castle
Of course, the star of the show is Corfe Castle. Largely constructed during the 11th-century in the French style (giving it an oh-s0-fairytale appearance), the fortifications were once said to be the ‘most fortified’ stronghold in Britain. It’s worth noting that there has been a castle in some form or another since at least the 10th-century, as this is where Edward the Martyr was murdered in 978.
The Castle then remained Royal Property throughout the Middle Ages and right up until Elizabeth I sold the castle in 1572. What started off as a tower and keep soon transformed into a sprawling complex, the ruins of which can be explored today.
Unfortunately, much of the castle was destroyed during the Civil Wars. Today, Corfe Castle is owned and managed by the National Trust. Members visit free and you’ll be supplied with an audio guide to help you explore the romantic ruins in further depth.
See Castle Town Trust Museum
As well as its unusual castle, Corfe Castle also happens to boast the smallest town hall in England! Well, within this tiny space, there’s a Town Trust Museum which explores the history of the town, as well as its relationship with the local clay, stone, and Purbeck Marble industries. Entrance to the museum is free. Discover more about the smallest town hall in England here.
Wander the streets of Corfe Castle
No matter how much time you have to explore the village (and I recommend at least half a day and an overnight stay if you truly want to make the most of your visit), then wandering the streets of Corfe Castle is never a bad idea. From higgeldy piggeldy houses to historic pubs, just be sure to bring your camera along with you!
Visit the Parish Church
Nestled in the heart of the village (truth be told, the bulk of Corfe Castle is comprised of a few interlinking streets based around the church), the Parish Church of Corfe Castle is dedicated to St Edward, King and Martyr (in reference to Edward the Martyr, who died in the nearby castle during the 10th-century).
Established during the 13th-century, the church was largely founded for the ever-growing population of artisans, quarrymen, and other villagers who largely worked at the adjacent castle. Such was the prominence of Corfe Castle Village in the larger Dorset area that it even had two members of parliament.
As you might imagine, due to the village’s proximity to Corfe Castle, the church was sacked by Parliamentarians during the 17th-century English Civil War. They stole lead from the roof and by the 19th-century, the church was in such poor repair, that it was largely demolished. What you see today was, for the most part, built in the mid 19th-century Gothic Style.
Take a day trip to Tyneham Lost Village
One of the best-kept secrets of Dorset is easily that of Tyneham Village, which is less than a half-hour drive from Corfe Castle. Once upon a time, Tyneham would have been just like any other small and sleepy settlement in the West Country.
However, all of this changed when the residents were forcibly evacuated during the Second World War by the army so that the military could train within the area. Though this was only meant to be a temporary measure, by the 1950s the army had forcibly purchased the land, effectively shutting the villagers out forever. Today, much of the village lies in ruins and can only be visited during certain times of the year. Discover village opening times here.
Where to stay in Corfe Castle (and how to get there)
While we highly recommend visiting Corfe Castle overnight so as to see the best of the village without the day tripper crowds, if you’re short on time then Corfe Castle can easily be seen as a day trip from nearby Bournemouth or Poole. If you don’t have access to your own car and wish to discover the best of the Purbeck coast, book a tour from Bournemouth like this one.
If you’re looking to stay overnight and want a quintessentially British B&B experience, then you might consider booking Ammonite Bed and Breakfast. One of the more cosy hotels in Corfe Castle is that of the Ammonite B&B. Check prices and further information here.
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