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Corfe Castle

Visited  August 2013

Location Corfe Castle, Dorset
Entrance Fee Yes
Railway Station Nearby Yes- Heritage steam railway
Parking Yes
Facilities Toilets, Cafe
Map

 

Corfe Castle in August is a big tourist draw- It is not so much the world and his wife visiting, more the world, his wife, children, mother-in- law, dog and several neighbours. In short it is the busiest castle we have ever visited, and even getting there early did not help- the car park was already more than half full at 10.15, just quarter of an hour after opening. Our best tip for visiting would be to avoid August if you possibly can!

 


 

 


Review

 

Having read up on the castle in advance, I knew about the history and how it was badly slighted after the civil war when a 48 day siege was ended by an act of treachery from within the castle itself. However, until I visited myself I had no idea of quite how- broken- the castle was left after the 1646 slighting.

 

On the approach up to the castle, there are large chunks of stonework, known as 'tumble' which were quite literally blasted out of the castle and then tumbled down the mound to their present day resting place.  Several men were known to have died during the slighting of the castle, their bodies are thought to be still under the tumbling stone walls which crushed them. Macabre facts which unfortunately interest children more than anything else! There are also parts of walls which protrude rather menacingly, as if they could topple at any moment. Odd gaps in walls, where it looks as though you could just push the two adjoining walls together to make it one again, complete the ruined look of the castle.

 


 

 

Prior to the civil war, the castle had been a large, defensive structure, built on a natural mound. It dates back to the reign of King John , although there is evidence of earlier habitation of the hill- and the castle mound is reputed to be the place where King Edward (the Martyr) was killed by his step- mother in 978, and his step- brother Ethelred was then given the throne. Ethelred was, unready, and Edward became a martyr with a loyal cult following. Karma!

 


 

 


 

By 1635 the castle was in the ownership of the Bankes family, who held it in two sieges during the Civil War. Lady Bankes was left to defend the castle on her own after her husband died, but was allowed to leave the castle unharmed after the siege ended. She locked the castle up  for the final time before leaving- the keys are still kept at nearby Kingston Lacy House, the home built by the Bankes family after they lost the castle.

 

The ruins of the castle are substantial, despite the damage by the parliamentarians it is an impressive site. There are activities for children- a trail involving activities such as brass rubbing, and throughout August there were activity tents demonstrating castle life in historic times. Archery was also on offer the day we were there, but it was quite expensive in our opinion.

 

The crowds at the castle made photography a challenge, it was not possible to take many 'people free' shots in the main  areas due to the sheer busyness of the site. It actually got worse if you progressed into the village of Corfe Castle. The ancient streets were not built to cater for mass tourism. Luckily we brought our own packed lunches with us, as the numerous local cafes seemed overwhelmed by the number of people. This is a large and popular castle, so if crowds are a problem for you then try and visit outside of the summer holidays.

 


 

 


 

More info:  National Trust Corfe Castle

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