Boasting one of the most unique and beautiful settings in the UK, the historic Corfe Castle village is a truly special spot on Dorset’s Jurassic Coast, nestled beneath the ruin of Corfe Castle itself.
Steeped in history, with the castle still keeping watch over its streets, the village of Corfe Castle offers plenty to explore – from the museum housed in England’s smallest town hall to the ancient pathways and burial mounds across Corfe Common.
Why not have a pint of locally-brewed ale in The Fox, reputedly the oldest pub in Corfe Castle (circa 1568), or take a stroll around the village’s storybook streets, gift shops and period railway station.
Exploring Corfe Castle village
Corfe is the perfect day out for a fun-filled family day of exploring, a romantic wander around a ruined castle and historic village, or a place to meet friends and family for a local ale or bite to eat in a stunning setting.
How to fit everything into one day
Both locals and visitors like to make a day of it by arriving to Corfe Castle in style on the Swanage Railway steam train. Spend some time exploring Corfe Castle railway and its museum.
If you’re an early bird, Corfe Castle Model Village does an excellent full English/vegetarian breakfast, with courtyard seating outside to the front and terrace seating overlooking the pretty English country garden and model village at the rear.
Explore Corfe Castle itself, which holds regular Viking and Saxon re-enactments that bring history to life with traditional craft and military displays in the castle grounds. There are plenty of nooks and crannies to explore, along with a wealth of information as you go on Corfe Castle’s turbulent history. Stop at the top for impressive views across the village.
There are plenty of lunch options in the village itself, but if you fancy DIY-ing it, you can grab everything you need for a picnic at the village bakery and Corfe Castle Village Stores. Be warned…to get from one the other you have to pass an ice cream shop called Box of Delights, as well as a traditional sweet shop, so you may get side-tracked! You’ll find a cut-through to a picnic area and playground on both East Street and West Street, with views across The Halves common.
Take a stroll up West Street for pretty thatched cottages and access to Corfe Common with views reaching across to Kingston and Church Knowle.
You’ll also find various independent shops in the village in which to buy a memento of your day. Try the model village for pocket money-spending; Seasons Green for a mixture of pretty, practical and handmade gifts; and the Gallery at 41 for local artists’ work.
Check the calendar for Corfe Castle Village Hall, which holds various events throughout the year including productions by the local amateur dramatics society, Double Act; travelling shows via Artsreach Dorset; and charity evenings such as barn dances and quiz nights.
Feeling peckish? Try a bite to eat at a cafe, pub or restaurant
There are four pubs in Corfe Castle, which all serve food and between them host regular live music, quiz nights and charitable events. There is also a bistro and two cafes.
Many of these feature locally-produced meat and fish, and Dorset-grown ingredients – with The Pink Goat even serving organic goat meat from the nearby Swanage Gourmet Goats.
And if you’re a fan of gin, despite its modest size, Corfe Castle Village Stores stocks over 350 different kinds. Local Cedar Organic eggs with their fantastically yellow yolk can also be bought in the shop.
Feeling active? Explore sports and activities
Discover beautiful walks in and around Corfe Castle, as well as various sport and activity options.
- Studland Trekking Centre – the riding stables in nearby Studland doesn’t do lessons but it does offer hacking for both novices and experienced riders across heathland, through the forest and along the beach of Studland Bay
- Dorset Adventure Park – a short drive outside Corfe Castle village is Dorset Adventure Park – with two outdoor inflatable courses and a mud trail assault course
- Croquet – for a more gentle form of exercise head to the Corfe Castle Model Village. It’s not a full-size croquet lawn, but is guaranteed to bring out your competitive spirit nonetheless!
Walks in and around Corfe Castle
Your exploration of Corfe doesn’t end at the castle – just a stone’s throw from the village are a wealth of wonderful places to unearth some of Purbeck’s historical gems and thriving wildlife.
Local facilities and amenities
Corfe Castle has a thriving community, including a library, primary school and pre-school, regular workshops and social events in the village hall, and a sports pavilion.
There is a GP surgery in the village. Wareham and Swanage both have community hospitals, with Swanage running a minor injuries unit (8am – 8pm every day).
The nearest urgent care and Accident & Emergency centres are at Poole Hospital, Dorset County Hospital in Dorchester and the Royal Bournemouth Hospital.
How to Get to Corfe Castle
For your SatNav: BH20 5EZ. The village is situated on the A351 between Wareham to Swanage.
There are various car parks in Corfe Castle – the National Trust car park is the nearest for the castle.
There is also a pay and display car park in West Street.
Take the Swanage Railway to Corfe Castle for a day out without driving. Corfe Castle railway station is just a couple of minutes’ walk from the village square and castle.
If you’re coming from further afield, South Western trains stop at Wareham where you can pick up the No. 40 bus or a taxi.
The number 40 Swanage to Poole bus runs hourly each way throughout the day, stopping at various points in the village
The history of Corfe Castle village
There is evidence of human activity in Corfe dating back to 6,000 BC, as well as both the Iron and Bronze Ages. Today, you can walk in the footsteps of our ancestors here among ancient barrows (high-statues burial mounds) on Corfe Common and the Purbeck Ridgeway. It is believed that Celtic tribes also farmed the land, before and during the Roman conquest.
And of course there is the history of Corfe Castle itself, which ranges from Saxon times to present day.
Most buildings in the village are made from locally quarried Purbeck stone – a key trade in the area during the 17th Century, although evidence shows that extracting local Purbeck marble was an important industry from as far back as the 1st Century AD.
Purbeck stone has been used all over Britain – from decorative carvings in cathedrals to repaving the streets of London after the Great Fire in 1666. This marked a new beginning for nearby Swanage, as the stone began to be shipped straight from its shores, rather than being taken via land to Poole.
Purbeck stone is still extracted and used as a building material today – you can explore the now disused quarry caves of nearby Winspit, or simply take a stroll around Corfe Castle village and admire the work of some of Purbeck’s first quarrymen and quarry owners who began this industry in the area.
The village was also a hub for Purbeck Ball clay mining in the area between the 18th and 20th Centuries (notably utilised by china and porcelain producer Wedgewood in the 1700s). For some years, clay mining was a primary source of income for residents of Corfe Castle.
The expansion of the ball clay industry led to the creation of Dorset’s first railway in 1806. This gave rise to the eventual development of the Swanage Railway in 1885, which runs today as a heritage locomotive train line. You’ll find a small museum dedicated to the area’s ball clay mining just outside Corfe at Norden train station.
The fact that many of the original houses and cottages have been so well preserved makes Corfe Castle not only a picture-postcard village but one that where modern-day living embraces the original character of the village.
Today, tourism is a big industry (as it is on much of the Isle of Purbeck), although traditional economies such as farming still have a significant presence. Many residents commute to Swanage, Poole, Bournemouth and Dorchester for work.
There is a higher number of second and holiday homes in Corfe, Swanage and Purbeck compared to some other areas of the county. However, the sense of community in Corfe Castle is strong and apparent whether you’re a local or a visitor, with a wealth of seasonal and year-round events, activities and places to explore.
- Swanage – spend a day at the seaside in Purbeck’s only seaside town with its beautiful sandy bay, watersports activities and plenty of places to eat, relax and explore
- Swanage Railway – step back in time on a steam train. Each stop along the way has its own unique area of Purbeck to explore and things to do
- Margaret Green Animal Rescue Centre – a lovely afternoon out for young children and fans of four-legged furries in the nearby village of Church Knowle. The centre cares for a range of animals, including cats, rabbits, horses and pigs. The New Inn is a good spot for a roast while you’re there
- Harman’s Cross playground and village hall – a great playground for all ages. Tie in with one of the regular events this active village hall runs
- Lulworth Estate – encompassing Lulworth Castle and park, as well as the stunning Lulworth cove and Durdle Door
- Tyneham – a ghost village abandoned in World War II. With an incredibly poignant story, this village and nearby walk to Worbarrow Bay makes for a memorable day out
- Studland – with four sandy beaches, a pretty village, miles of walks through sand dunes, heathland and even a path up to Old Harry Rocks, there’s plenty to do in Studland for the whole day