Surrounded by rolling green hills and not far from the salty breeze of the sea, the fairytale Norman fortifications of Corfe Castle are impossibly beautiful and incredibly romantic. Flocked to as a must-see tourist destination ever since the 18th-century, here’s how to see Corfe Castle at sunset…
Corfe Castle: an 11th-century castle and pretty Dorset village
Corfe Castle can be found in the Purbeck Valley, somewhere on the road between Swanage and Wareham. In a rather confusing turn of events, the term ‘Corfe Castle’ is not only the name of the 11th-century fortifications on the Isle of Purbeck but also the name of a quintessentially British village lying just below them.
The construction of the castle during the Middle Ages gave rise to an entire settlement. Thanks, in part, to the sheer number of trade jobs the castle would have provided. The services of every profession from blacksmiths to cooks were required by the extensive Norman Keep.
While the current castle on site was commissioned by William the Conqueror during the 11th-century, there’s evidence of human inhabitation of the area for millennia. Recent archaeological evidence suggests that a stronghold may well have existed on site prior to the 1000s. After all, it was here in 968 where Edward the Martyr was assassinated in 978.
Unfortunately, much of the current Corfe Castle was destroyed by parliamentarians during the Civil War. In more recent times, it’s said that many of the castles in Enid Blyton’s ‘Famous Five’ series were based on Corfe. Today, Corfe Castle is managed by the National Trust and is Grade I listed.
The village itself is home to an abundance of charming cottages, quaint pubs, tearooms, and specatcular views of the fairytale castle. You can’t go wrong by dedicating a couple of hours to exploring the village. Best visited in the European shoulder seasons so as to enjoy the good weather while avoiding the crowds, be sure to coincide your visit with either sunrise or sunset to ensure for the best lighting.
Where to see Corfe Castle at sunset
For those who are wishing to capture images of the fortification and village at their best, it’s well worth ascending one of several steep hills surrounding the village. With this being said, no hike (and yes, the climb to the top of these hills is pretty steep!) should be undertaken unprepared.
What this means is wearing sturdy hiking boots, bringing clothing which is good for cool, windy weather, etc. If you are planning on seeing Corfe Castle at sunset then the best view point can be found by turning left out of the National Trust Visitor Centre Car Park (which is paid, but free for National Trust Members).
From there, you should walk towards Corfe Castle village along the pavement, all the while keeping the castle to your right-hand side. Almost immediately upon entering the village, you’ll see a railway bridge to your left. Pass under the bridge.
Immediately on the left-hand side, you’ll see a stile and steps leading up to East Hill (which is also known as Challows Hill). From there, it’s a steep walk of over three hundred steps to the top. In spite of the steep (and rather difficult climb), there’s no denying that East Hill truly is the best spot to capture Corfe Castle at sunset.
From the top of the ridge, it’s possible to see well into the distance. And, on a clear day, it’s even possible to see the sea; including the Jurrasic Coastline and the Isle of Wight! Challows Hill also presents the best place to enjoy a bird’s eye perspective of the sprawling village below.
Where to see sunrise at Corfe Castle
For those wishing to capture Corfe Castle at sunrise, West Hill (also known as Creech Hill) provides the best viewing spot. It’s also in the morning that you’re most likely to see sea mist surrounding the village and giving the Castle an almost ethereal look.
The hill on this side of the Purbeck Valley is just as steep as that of the East, if not more so. You’ll need water and good walking boots. To reach Creech Hill, exit the National Trust Visitor Centre Car Park and cross the road. From there, go through the gate and carry on up the hill to be rewarded by stunning views of Corfe Castle.