Aside from being home to the Jurassic Coast, there are some wonderful castles in Dorset that should certainly form part of any holiday itinerary.
Enjoy a stroll through the castle grounds, soak up the views on offer, learn about English history and discover how our wealthier ancestors once lived! These Dorset castles are also a great day out if the weather forecast is wet too!
Here, you can read all about some of our favourite castles to visit whilst in Dorset.
The dramatic ruins of Corfe Castle are situated halfway between Wareham and Swanage and they form one of Britain’s most iconic and evocative remnants of the English Civil War after they were partially demolished in 1646 by the Parliamentarians.
Nowadays, Corfe Castle is owned by the National Trust and is open to the public with daily tours available too. Discover 1,000 years of its history as a royal palace and fortress with fallen walls and secret spaces; there are tales of treachery and treason around every corner. There is plenty of things to do in Corfe Castle village itself too.
Address: The Square, Corfe Castle, Wareham, Dorset, BH20 5EZ
Tickets: Tickets available on the National Trust website
Suggested duration: 1-2 hours for the castle itself but you could easily spend half a day enjoying the delights of the village too.
Steeped in history, close to Lulworth Cove, Lulworth Castle is a magnificent building which was originally built in the 17th century as a hunting lodge to entertain royalty. Be sure to climb the tower and enjoy spectacular views across the surrounding Purbeck countryside and towards the Jurassic Coast. St Mary's Chapel, on the Castle grounds, is also worth a visit, being the first stand-alone Roman Catholic place of worship to be built after the Reformation.
With extensive parkland, woodland walks and a children’s playground, the grounds are perfect for walking the dog or enjoying a picnic. The Castle Tearoom is also onsite for light refreshments and souvenirs. Check out our guide on other things to do in Lulworth Cove and make a day of it!
Sherborne Castle and Gardens
Photo credit: Sherborne Castle website
Set in over 40 acres, Sherborne Castle was built in 1594 by Sir Walter Raleigh where he lived until he was accused of treason and executed in 1618. The castle reflects over 400 years of decorative styles, from magnificent staterooms, nationally important art collections, furniture, porcelain, and fossil displays.
Both a short and long garden walk is available taking in the outdoor features including a fossil house, a cascade, a folly, Raleigh’s seat, a sunken garden, an orangery and a boat house pier with views overlooking the ruins of Sherborne Old Castle. There’s also a tearoom and gift shop on site.
Located just 3 miles from Christchurch, Highcliffe Castle has been described as arguably the most important surviving house of the Romantic and Picturesque style of architecture, which flourished towards the end of the 18th century. Its significance is recognised nationally by its Grade I status on the Statutory List of Buildings of Special Architectural and Historical Interest.
The grounds surrounding Highcliffe Castle are perfect for a stroll or family picnic on the lawns. There is also direct access to a wonderful sandy beach and the unspoilt nature reserve of nearby Steamer Point. Within the grounds, there are tearooms too which serve hot and cold drinks along with delicious snacks and homemade cakes.
Sherborne Old Castle
Built in the 12th century by the Bishop of Salisbury, Sherborne Old Castle, unsurprisingly, has a long and chequered history which became a powerful Royalist base during the Civil War. Described by Sir Oliver Crowmwell as ‘Malicious and Mischievous’, it finally fell in 1645.
Visitors to the castle grounds today can enjoy the great gatehouse or a stroll on the grounds and appreciate a picnic where Sir Walter Raleigh once entertained when the castle acted as his country home. There’s an English Heritage shop onsite which sells souvenirs and refreshments.
Overlooking Portland Harbour in Dorset stands one of Henry VIII's finest coastal forts, built in the early 1540s to protect against French and Spanish invasion.
The audio tour (included in the price) helps bring this impressive castle to life from its Tudor origins as a Royalist stronghold against French and Spanish invasion, to its role as a World War I seaplane station and importance in World War II as a training base for combined operations including the D-Day landings.
Come face to face with King Henry VIII himself in the Great Hall, become a Tudor soldier or a Royalist Gunner when you try on the outfits and armour in the Armoury and don’t forget to visit the upper gun platform and enjoy the stunning sea views whilst up close to the powerful cannons.
Located on Brownsea Island, accessible only by boat, Brownsea Castle was built in 1547 by Henry VIII in a string of forts designed to defend the south coast of England against invasion from Europe. The castle was purchased by the National Trust in 1961 and leased to the John Lewis Partnership who restored it over many years. It is now used by the partnership as a corporate hotel for their employees and retired staff.
The castle offers guided walks periodically (every other month – booking essential) where visitors can discover more about the castle’s intriguing history, the island’s watchmen, royalty and the farming community.
Sandsfoot Castle, also known historically as Weymouth Castle, was built in 1541 by Henry VIII, along with Portland Castle, to defend this part of England’s coast against attack by the French and Spanish.
By the end of the 17th century, the castle was in bad repair and becoming a ruin, due to undermining by the sea and the weather. Since then, much stone has been removed and used in other structures, including the foundations of Weymouth’s town bridge, which still stands.
Sandsfoot Castle and the gardens around the ruins are the perfect place for a stroll with spectacular views across Portland Harbour. The beautiful gardens are made up of seasonal flowers, herb beds and herbaceous borders which surround an ornamental pond in the centre.
Address: Sandsfoot Castle, 39 Old Castle Rd, Weymouth, DT4 8QE
Tickets: Free to enter
Suggested duration: 1 hour
Map of Dorset castles
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please ensure you check carefully before making any decisions based on the contents within this article.