What is Corfe Castle?
I lived in Dorset for a couple of years, and during that time, fell thoroughly in love with Corfe Castle, which was only a short drive away.
Even the approach to the castle is impressive. You’re driving along a quiet road, surrounded by fields, then suddenly BAM, you notice it. It’s a stark, jagged mass of ruined stone walls, looming over the countryside, looking both incongruous and strangely oversized for its surroundings.
When you get closer, it’s no less impressive. It requires a bit of a trek to the top, because it’s situated (like all good castles are) on the top of a hill. Visit on a windy day and you’ll find it hard to stay upright. But regardless of the weather, it’s an amazing place to wander around – not least because of its incredible sense of history.
The castle dates back to Norman times, so as you might imagine, it’s got a lot of history. It was here that King Edward (sometimes called Edward the Martyr) was assassinated – on orders by his stepmother, no less. Stabbed in the back whilst on horseback, he was then dragged along the stony ground until he died. See, you think you’ve got family troubles? You’ve got nothing on that poor guy.
Other notable folk met sticky ends at this castle. William de Braose’s wife and kids were apparently starved to death within the castle walls, and Lady Bankes (it’s mere coincidence I have the same surname, I promise) was betrayed here by her own garrison, who were responsible for ripping the castle down.
Historic castles inevitably come with plenty of ghost stories attached. Corfe Castle’s most famous spectre is the White Lady, who just happens to be headless (presumably to ramp up the chill-factor). She’s most commonly seen on the bridge leading up to the castle, where people claim to watch her shimmer – their own blood running unnaturally cold at the same time. Nobody’s quite sure who she might be, but some suggest she’s the spirit of a young girl who betrayed the castle during the Civil War. Others are convinced it’s the ghost of the late Lady Bankes, still intent upon defending her castle.
The most recent recorded sighting was in 1967, when a local man spotted her in the village of Corfe itself. Presumably even headless ghosts like a change of scenery from time to time, then.
There are several other ghosts associated with Corfe Castle. A young child can sometimes be heard sobbing in one of the cottages close to the castle. Strange lights have been reported, roaming the castle at night when there’s no-one up there. And of course, the ghost of the late King Edward is sometimes spotted, wandering round the castle grounds.
Rather more randomly, a legion of ghostly Roman soldiers can also sometimes be heard, marching down the Purbeck Hills to the foot of the castle. Talk about diversity, eh?
My Own Experiences
I’ve been to Corfe Castle on several occasions, and regrettably, never saw anything remotely spooky.
However, it’s undeniably an atmospheric place. There’s something very raw and stark about those ruins, nestled alone on an exposed hillside. They’re a dramatic contrast to the quaint village of Corfe, which lies directly below. If you’re ever in the area, I recommend a visit – as it’s a place you won’t forget in a hurry.