Corfe Castle is a landscape photographer’s paradise! Situated in the Purbeck Hills, between Wareham and Swanage in Dorset, this stunning, ancient monument has provided many a photographer with a breath-taking addition to their portfolio.
The castle, stands proud in the village of Corfe Castle, and is owned by The National Trust. It is also a grade I listed building. The oldest surviving structure on the castle site dates to the 11th century, although evidence exists of some form of stronghold predating the Norman Conquest. Edward the Martyr was assassinated at the site on 18 March 978.
There is evidence in the village of a civilization that existed in 6000 BC, as well as Celtic habitation circa 1300 BC and the Romans circa AD 50. There is a legend which Tomas Hardy recorded concerning the disappearance of an entire Roman legion, with only its ghost remaining, leading to the conclusion that a massive battle must have taken place between the Celts and the Romans which later resulted in the demise of the Celts. Early in the fifth century, after the Romans left, the Vikings and the Saxons occupied this area until AD 1090 when the Norman Conquest occurred.
The pictures featured in this article are from my second visit to the castle. On my first visit in November 2010, I was greeted with cloudy, overcast, grey and dull conditions. A disappointing venture! My second visit in March was very different. It was freezing cold with crisp, frosty grass beneath my feet. There was no wind, and just before the sun rose, the mist rolled in! I was a very tired but happy chappy!
There are several locations to view the castle. In my opinion, the best and most dramatic view is the hill opposite (to the West of the castle). Be sure to take a good pair of walking boots! The hill is VERY steep, and will require a great deal of effort and energy to reach the top. However, your efforts will be greatly rewarded, as the view is simply breathtaking.
With the right weather conditions, there are some stunning images to be taken of the castle. Cold and frosty mornings are ideal with the hope that some mist will roll in, to add drama to your images. The sun rises just in the right place, as you can see by my pictures, just above the castle.
You can of course get up close and personal with the castle. See the National Trust website for opening times and prices.
Continue through the village, which in itself presents some great images, and you will reach the other side of the castle for even more photographic opportunities.
On a weekend, be prepared to share the hill with many more photographers, as this is a very popular location. During the week, it does get less congested.
Vary your position on the hill. I started right at the very top and worked my way down, stopping at different spots for pictures. The sun will rise directly above the castle, so be quick to catch it rising, before it becomes too bright.
How to get to Corfe Castle
For the best place to park, just before you get to the castle, there is a small side road. Go down this road, then after about 200 yards or so is a small lay-by, which is perfect, as the entrance to the hill is right there.
With the nearby town of Swanage just a few miles away, and all the other wonderful locations Dorset has to offer, a full day (if not longer) can be spent here. Places like Kimmeridge, Lulworth and Durdle Door are very close by. Just a short walk from the lay-by is the village of Corfe Castle. A very pretty little village, with lots of photo opportunities.
If like me however, you need a hearty breakfast after that monstrous climb, head into Swanage where there are a number of ideal little cafés and restaurants!
As I mentioned earlier, Corfe Castle is a landscape photographer’s paradise. Dorset, as a whole is too. There are so many great locations to choose from. From the ancient ruins of Corfe, to the golden beaches of Weymouth, to the stunning Durdle Door, Dorset has it all. There are numerous hotels and caravan parks to choose from.
Corfe Castle has become one of my favourite locations to shoot. I hope you have as much fun there as I did, and I look forward to seeing your work.
Read this article, and many more, in High Definition, inside Issue 10 of Landscape Photography Magazine.