Corfe Castle village is famously home to one of the country’s most iconic castles which was partly destroyed during the English Civil War. With a backdrop of the spectacular castle ruins, Corfe Castle village is full of character with Purbeck stone built cottages lining the streets. Corfe Castle is a popular tourist base and day trip destination with a museum and model village as well as the central castle attraction. The village is almost entirely built out of grey Purbeck limestone quarried locally and contains plenty of fine inns (the oldest dating from 1568), tearooms, gift and sweet shops for visitors to browse. There is also a wide choice of hotel, B&B and self catering accommodation in and around the village.
The Swanage Railway provides a historic steam train link to Corfe Castle from Swanage on the Purbeck coast – a great, scenic route in avoiding the traffic in the height of summer! Several ancient burial mounds dating from 6000 BC have been discovered on Corfe Common and the village has seen its share of turbulent historic events particularly surrounding the castle. The majority of past residents however were employed in the clay digging or quarrying industries once common across Purbeck. Find out more in the village museum.
Corfe Castle, National Trust
Corfe Castle was built in a gap in the Purbeck Hills as a strategic defence from invaders coming from the sea. The castle was started by William the Conqueror soon after his invasion in 1066. In the thirteenth century although a royal residence it was also used as a prison and once here many prisoners never left. During the English Civil War despite being defended successfully by Lady Mary Bankes and her garrison in 1643 the Parliamentarians succeeded in capturing the castle and inhabitants in a second siege in 1646 after which they deliberately demolished it leaving it very much as you see it today. The Castle View Visitor Centre tells you more about the lives of those associated with the castle through the years. A range of events are also organised throughout the year including open-air theatre, school holiday activities and living history events. Guided tours are also available. The castle is a stunning sight at all times of year and is specially lit up for Christmas.
The Swanage Railway is a restored, award-winning standard gauge railway that runs for 6 miles from Swanage on the coast through the Purbeck countryside to Corfe Castle. The ultimate aim of the Swanage Railway Trust is to run a regular service up to Wareham where it could connect with the mainline network. Steam and diesel heritage trains take you through some of Dorset’s most beautiful scenery and the railway hosts year round galas and family events including popular Santa Special trains, Evening Dining and Sunday Lunch services. You can even have a go yourself by taking one of the Driving Experience courses.
Museum & Model Village
Corfe Castle is home to England’s smallest town hall building in which the museum is housed on the ground floor. The museum traces the village’s history from the time of the dinosaurs through to Corfe’s industrial past including the clay diggers that provided clay for Wedgewood pottery. Entry is free and the museum is open daily. Corfe Castle’s Model Village is a 1/20th representation of what the castle and village would have looked like before the castle was demolished by Cromwell’s troops in 1646. It first opened in 1966 and was handmade by Eddie Holland. On the site there is also a tearoom, enchanted and wildlife gardens, a croquet lawn and giant games for all the family.
Enid Blyton in Purbeck & Corfe Castle
Enid Blyton set many of her books in Dorset. She often holidayed here with her second husband. They were known to stay at several hotels in Swanage and drew inspiration from some of Dorset’s most well known surroundings. Kirrin Castle in the Famous Five Books was inspired by Corfe Castle and Whispering Island is based on Brownsea Island and is also referred to as Keep Away Island in the Famous Five books – a reflection of its previous owner’s attitude to visitors! Enid Blyton was known to enjoy visitor attractions such as taking the steam train from Swanage to Corfe Castle and swimming around Swanage Pier. The Ginger Pop shop in Corfe Castle stocks Blyton books and tapes and has produced a handy leaflet and map showing you the Blyton-related sights in Purbeck.