As we enter the last few days of the year of 2018, I’m sure I’m not the only one feeling reflective. In that spirit, I thought it would be great to honour some of this years best memories with their own posts – and here, dear readers, I bring you my series of “Best of 2018” posts.
If you live in Britain, it’s probably a safe bet to make that you’ve visited at least one castle in your lifetime. Castles and fortified homes are a staple piece across the English landscape. Impressive, dramatic and steeped in history; there’s always something quite magical about exploring one.
Corfe Castle stands over the idyllic village of Corfe in Dorset and represents one of the oldest of such fortified buildings in England. The medieval castle was designed to be impressive as it was initially built for royal residence for William the Conqueror’s son, King Henry I. The castle stood proudly and intact for six centuries, seeing many sieges, battles, mysteries and plots play out around it. Over those several hundred years, it also changed hands meaning the castle lived life as a royal residence, a family home, a military garrison and a treasury among other things. If there is ever a place that brings to mind the saying “if these walls could talk…”, Corfe Castle is it.
Sadly, these days, there aren’t many walls of Corfe Castle left. The English Civil War of 1642 resulted in an act of Parliament being passed that required the demolition of the castle. The demolition was done by digging deep holes packed with gunpowder around the castle to bring the walls and towers down. Henry Bankes, the descendent of the family who last lived in the castle before its demolition bequeathed the castle’s remains to the National Trust in 1982. Today, the Trust works hard to keep the castle as intact as possible whilst also allowing members of the public to visit.
We’ve visited Corfe village and the castle several times and we have yet to tire of it. A twenty minute drive through the windy country lanes of the Purbecks leads us to the National Trust car park that sits directly under the village and the castle.
It’s a bit of an uphill walk to get to the village but you’re treated with lots of natural beauty along the way, from endless stretches of the glorious green that is the British countryside…
…to the streams that run along the path up to the village…
…all with the castle coming more and more into view as you go!
The entrance of the castle is accessed through the village but we’re never in a hurry to race up to it. The village itself is a beautiful place to explore. One of our favourite stops is to the sweet shop (if you can’t already tell, we’re rather obsessed with traditional sweet shops).
The village itself is filled with Cotswold stone and cottage beauty.
Corfe village boasts some of the best places to eat with its picturesque pubs. Two particular delights are The Fox Inn, reputed as one of the oldest pubs in Corfe (dating back to the 1600s) and The Greyhound Inn which has a beautiful beer garden that sits right at the foot of the castle.
Wherever you walk, you’re never far from being under the shadow of the castle on the hill.
The castle itself becomes more impressive as you get closer to it. You don’t really get to appreciate the sheer size of it until you start your ascent.
One of the things that took me by surprise when I first visited the castle was just how high up it is – and how windy it is up there! However, if you visit on a clear day, the views over the Purbeck hills are just breathtaking.
The remaining walls of the castle are also an impressive sight up close.
You get a feel for what the castle might have looked like in its former glory – from the towers to the gatehouses. Like many fortified buildings, it was also perfectly positioned in a place that offered impressive visibility for miles around. This might explain why the castle withstood the many sieges it encountered before its demolition.
On the day that these photos were taken, we had taken our American friends (Emily and Ledger) to the castle. It was a brilliantly warm and clear day and as we were in the midst of the famous 2018 heatwave, there were actually stretches of fields around us that were charred from recent grass fires making the normally green patchwork quilt that is the countryside a mixture of auburn and green instead.
Of course, we can never resist a bit of a photoshoot while we’re up there.
With window-seat views like these ones, who could resist?
All in all, Corfe Castle is one of the most magical and memorable places we’ve visited in 2018 and it’s somewhere we’ll continue to visit.