Subscribe to our newsletter None saved

Walk - Swanage Coastal Park - Corfe Castle

3D Fly Through

View a 3D fly through of the route using the Google Earth plugin

Hide the 3D fly through

Route Description

  1. From Swanage Coastal Park, walking down the road, take the turning on the left hand side, signed Priests Way. Continue westwards on the Priest Way ignoring the tracks leading off to right and left , until you come to the National Trust sign at Eastington. Do not go onto the footpath to the left here, signed to Seacombe Bottom and the Coast Path, but carry on to Eastington Farm, where a track crosses the footpath.
  2. Take the path straight ahead signed, “Priest's Way/Worth”, and follow it to the far left-hand corner of each of the next two fields, to come out on the road into Worth Matravers.
  3. On the road, turn left and go into Worth Matravers, carrying on straight ahead at the Square and Compass and continuing into the village itself.
  4. Carrying on past the village green with its pond and pump, and continuing past the church, take the footpath on your right at the far side of the field beyond the church, leading up out of Worth Matravers and into the countryside above.

The quarry workings on your right are the Swanworth Quarries, a major source of Purbeck limestone. These quarries are of particular interest to geologists, containing the most complete section on the Isle of Purbeck of the many different beds of limestones.

Local limestone beds are also a source of fascination to palaeontologists, or fossil-hunters, and they are famous for their fossilised dinosaur footprints. These are mostly from small dinosaurs, but at nearby Keat's Quarry footprints were discovered that are almost a metre across (see the Dancing Ledge Walk).

  1. At Hill Bottom the path joins the Purbeck Way. Turn right and carry on as the path winds up through the trees in Coombe Bottom and heads up onto the open ground above and onwards to the  B3069 road.

The Purbeck Way is a 12½-mile walking route which runs from Wareham, through the best of the local scenery – riverside, heathland, woodland, downland, the imposing Purbeck Hills and the dramatic Jurassic coastline – to Swanage. Another waymarked 12½-mile loop, the Purbeck Way West, links it from Wareham to Coombe Keynes, passing through Lulworth en route.

  1. Arriving at the B3069, cross the road and pick up the track opposite, just a little to the left, and with it head downhill over farmland.

After a short distance, Corfe Castle comes into view, perched strategically on its mound in the dramatic break between the towering ridges of West Hill and East Hill, with the flat heaths and downs of the Wareham hinterland visible behind it. It was in the perfect position for a stronghold in uncertain times: no-one could travel from north to south (or vice versa) through the Isle of Purbeck without passing the castle.

Although it is thought likely that there was a Roman defensive site here, the crumbling ruins visible today are the remains of an eleventh-century limestone rebuild of a ninth-century wooden building. In the thirteenth century King John carried out extensive improvements, adding a fine hall and chapel as well as some domestic buildings; and his son, Henry III, carried on where he left off, constructing additional walls, towers and gatehouses.

In the sixteenth century it passed out of the hands of monarchs, when Elizabeth I sold it to her dancing master, Sir Christopher Hatton, and in 1635 it was sold again, to the Lord Chief Justice Sir John Bankes. When the Roundheads raged through Dorset in the English Civil War a decade later, ravaging many of the local strongholds where Royalists resisted the Parliamentarian takeover, the castle survived a six-week siege and a number of half-hearted blockades.

In 1646, however, a second major siege was successful, thanks to the efforts of a treacherous inmate, and the Parliamentary forces systematically destroyed the castle. Nonetheless, like many a castle built by the Plantagenet kings, it was fairly indestructible, and an astonishing proportion of it survived the demolition.

  1. Towards the bottom of the hill, among the trees, the Purbeck Way goes off to the left. Turning with it, follow the footpath through the fields and over the footbridge, onto Corfe Common.

Scoles Farmhouse, in the fields to the west of the footpath, is a Grade II listed building. Although the main house is early seventeenth century, parts of it date back to the thirteenth century. The manor of Afflington, over to the east, dates even further back, being listed in the Domesday Book of 1086 as the Manor of Alvronetone, held by Aelfrun. The Bronze Age barrows on Afflington lands, however, show that people were living here maybe three thousand years before that.

  1. On Corfe Common, stay on the Purbeck Way, climbing towards the castle and then turning left onto the path heading roughly westwards towards the B3069 as it travels northwards this time towards Corfe Castle village. Reaching the road, cross it and carry on through the gate on the far side.

Corfe Common itself, a Site of Special Scientific Interest and preserved as rough grazing and a public open space, has extensive earthworks, field patterns and trackways going right back through history to prehistoric times. An axe and several small flints found in a disused sand quarry on West Common have been dated as being from the Mesolithic period, which ran from the end of the last Ice Age, about 10,000 years ago, to the start of the Bronze Age in around 2035 BC.

For a long time the common was particularly known for its eight Bronze Age bowl barrows, or burial mounds; but more recent work by English Heritage unearthed two more of these barrows on east Common. These would have been high-status burials, and their positions on hill-tops made them useful landmarks for the people who lived here.

There are field systems visible here, too, from the Iron Age, which succeeded the Bronze Age a few centuries before the Romans invaded, and the English Heritage study also identified a Romano-British field system here known as “Celtic fields”. A series of parallel cuttings on the common were confirmed as ancient trackways, where carts loaded with stone were brought from local quarries to Corfe Castle.

  1. At the waymarker, turn right towards Corfe Castle and follow the footpath beside the houses, heading directly towards the castle, crossing the road at Halves Cottages to carry on along the right-hand boundaries of the fields until you come to the playground at the foot of the castle. From here go left between the houses onto West Street. Turning right follow West Street past the Town Hall to the Square.
  2. From the Town Hall carry on around the Square onto East Street, to the bus stop on the far side of the road some distance to the right.

Nearby refreshments

There are numerous restaurants, pubs and tea shops in Corfe Castle

 

Public transport

The Wilts & Dorset No 40 bus runs regularly between Swanage and Poole. Pick it up at the East Street bus stop in Corfe Castle. For details visit www.travelinesw.com or phone 0871 200 22 33

 

A well-earned rest! Photographer Margaret Hemmings (2012 Photo Competition entry)

A well-earned rest! Photographer Margaret Hemmings (2012 Photo Competition entry)

Add to rucksack

Nearby Walks

Loading weather...

Latest News

  • Voting Opens For Top Dog Walk Competition

    Voting has just opened for the third annual Top Dog Walk competition with the continued backing of Your Dog Magazine and the Kennel Club’s access advisor Stephen Jenkinson, an expert on where dog owners can go and what they can do in the countryside. Dog owners are invited to nominate their favourite walk, for their four-legged friends, from walks all around the South West Coast Path. One lucky voter will receive a complimentary stay at one of Toad Hall Cottages 300 dog friendly cottages to the value of £500.

  • The Early Photographer Catches the Prize!

    Back in August saw the announcement of the winning photographs in Round 5 of the Amateur Photographer of the Year Competition – entitled Dawn and Dusk. Among the 30 most spectacular images the majority included the sea and coastline in some form.

    If you are thinking of entering this year’s South West Coast Path photographic competition it is well worth feasting your eyes on these to give you renewed inspiration.

    Amateur Photographer of the Year – Dawn and Dusk Gallery

  • Penny Mordaunt MP Visits the Coast Path to Discuss Storm Damage

    The new Coastal Communities Minister Penny Mordaunt MP, visited the South West Coast Path at Thurlestone, South Devon, earlier this week.

    Penny Mordaunt

  • South West Coast Path Secures £1 million Investment

    The South West Coast Path Association is delighted to announce today that they have been successful in their bid to the Coastal Communities Fund to secure £1 million investment in the South West Coast Path. 

  • Photo journalists - Create a story for the path

    We want you to help us to tell the story of a day in the life of the South West Coast Path. Our friends at Western Morning News have offered us a two page photo essay spread to include up to eight photographs with a 500 word editorial. We can do it ourselves of course but we know that you can do it even better! We're asking for help from Coast Path enthusiasts with photo journalism skills to produce this. 

  • Coast Path reopened near Thurlestone

    Devon County Council yesterday completed work to re-open a section of Coast Path south of Thurlestone which had been closed since early 2013 when it was severed by a cliff fall. The new route follows the edge of the field, and whilst slightly longer than the original route retains stunning views along the coast.  

  • New National Trail Geocoins to be released

    In July, August and September ten new Geocoins, one a week for ten weeks will be released. The first will coincide with the start of the National Trail Geocaching Week from 12th to 19th July. The last as part the Great South West Walks event 20th to 28th September.

  • South West Coast Path Photographic Competition attracts Top Professional as Judge

    The team behind this year’s Coast Path Photographic Competition is excited to announce that David Noton has agreed to come on board as their Professional Judge. 

  • The Great South West Walks 2014 Opens For Bookings - 100 New Walks Announced

    With 100 stunning coastal walks to choose from, the Great South West Walks 2014 is now open for bookings.

    These specially selected circular walks by the South West Coast Path Association, will take place across Cornwall, Devon, Somerset and Dorset from 20th – 28th September.

  • South West Water teams up with SWCP

    South West Water and the South West Coast Path Association announce today that they are working together to ensure that the South West Coast Path is one of the best walks in the world for all to enjoy.

Latest Events

  • Exmoor's Woodlands

    Thursday, 30th October : 7pm at Lynmouth Pavilion

    A Delve into Exmoor's Woodlands

    A talk by Robin Offer, Exmoor National Park Conservation Advisor (Trees and Woodlands).

    What makes Exmoor's woodlands so special?

    Free but please book on 01598 752509

     

  • Tales of the Exmoor Coast

    22nd November 2014 4:00pm-7:00pm

    Hear folk lore, fable and fact about Exmoor's coast from Exmoor National Park Ranger Tim Parish, then we invite you to add your own! Interactive and entertaining - come and share your stories...

    This event is brought to you by: Lynmouth Pavilion Project
    Location: Lynmouth Pavilion EX35 6EQ
    Booking: Booking not essential but would be helpful
    Charge: Free event
    Contact: 01598 752509