Last October, after deliberating it for far too long, we joined the National Trust as members and honestly, it was the best thing we ever did as a family. With four children days out are expensive and it can be hard sometimes to find ways to pass the weekends and holidays without having to spend an absolute fortune. So last month, during our holiday in Dorset, the first thing we did was to check the National Trust site and discovered that Corfe Castle was not only close by, but free for National Trust members.
I can still remember, maybe thirty years ago now, visiting Corfe Castle with my own parents during one of our many stays on the Jurassic Coast, and I was excited to return with my own family. I think there is always something special about revisiting your childhood and although many years had passed, as soon as I saw the castle the memories came flooding back!
The added bonus of National Trust Membership is that parking is free and, with the car park just across the road, it was so convenient for us with three young children. We followed the path through the woods and a really lovely little timber trail, and then up the hill towards the castle. The kids were so excited to see the ruins as the castle got nearer.
As we reached the top of the path we found ourselves in the most picturesque village with lots of traditional little shops such as a sweet shop, a bakery, a tea room and pubs. We stopped for a bite to eat at the bakery and honestly it was one of the best we’ve ever come across!
Having had some lunch, bought some sweets, and had a little nosy around the gift shops, we headed over to the castle, showed our membership cards, took a map, and in we went!
Just inside the entrance there was a small activity tent where the children could make a paper crown, take a worksheet for the castle trail, and choose a teddy for the teddy zipline once we got to the top.
Luckily the children finished their crowns just in time for the trebuchet – a medieval catapult which is put into action at various times throughout the day. The crowds gathered down and the countdown began, and the children couldn’t wait to see what happened next!
The trebuchet was pretty impressive, flinging a football (filled with water) up in the air and right the way across to the castle! It was a great way to kick off our day at the castle.
On the grass infront of the castle there are lots of wooden blocks for the children to play with and carts to carry them around. I can imagine on a sunny day we would love sitting out there on a blanket, enjoying a picnic while the children played, although even in the cold and wind they had so much fun!
Of course it wouldn’t be a castle without wooden stocks and the children were more than happy to play along! I can remember doing the exact same thing myself when I was younger and how I had thought it was the most fun ever, it’s funny the memories that really stay with you.
As we made our way up towards the castle the children were excited to look for clues to fill in their trail sheets. Dotted around in the castle and the surroundings were several information points with little stamps to mark off each point on the worksheet. I love this kind of thing as it means that the children forget about the distance we are walking, the weather, being hungry, or just one of the many things they like to whine about at times, and just focus on the task in hand!
The castle itself is really impressive and, over 1000 years old, has so much history as a royal palace and fortress. The girls always get very excited wondering which princesses may have lived at the castles we visit, although in most cases they insist that it was Rapunzel!
It’s worth noting that at this time of year, it is very windy at the top of the castle and we were very grateful for warm winter coats and lots of layers. That said, the view from the top is so beautiful and it was lovely to share a moment just looking out together.
Some of the information points on the children’s worksheets were a little tricky to discover, infant there were several we didn’t find at all. If I was to suggest any changes to the trail I would make them a little easier to find as, although it was just a little fun, to my children it was a big deal and they were all really upset not to find the missing clues.
I think the thing that my children love the most about castles is just how many nooks and crannies there are for them to hide – although this definitely raises my blood pressure a little!
For me, I found the castle so impressive and even in it’s ruins, it was clear to see what a majestic and breathtaking building is once must have been. I am fascinated by medieval history and love nothing more than exploring ancient ruins, plus as a blogger I have to say, they are amazing sites for photography!
But our favourite thing about Corfe Castle was most definitely the teddy zip line. It is, as the name suggests, a zip line for teddy bears and I don’t think I have ever seen anything like it at any other castle, or attraction for that matter.
Each bear comes ready harnessed, or if you bring your own bear you can borrow a harness, and children can then attach the bear to the zip line and watch them whizz down towards the bottom.
As you can imagine the kids loved it and cheered the whole way down as their bears reached the bottom. Every child that sends their teddy down the zip line then receives a bravery certificate on the way out which is another really lovely touch.
We decided to spend a little more time wandering around the ruins at the top, enjoying the views, and letting the children play. The children will always find a way to entertain themselves, even if there was very little going up at in the castle itself, and we easily passed a few hours just letting them run wild!
Without National Trust Memberships admission to Corfe Castle is £10 per adult and £5 per child, or £25 for a family, which I actually think it very reasonable. Given the amount of time we spent there, and the crafts the children enjoyed, I would have more than happy at the value for money of our day.
Regardless of our visit taking place in the Winter we had such a lovely day and I think that’s the beauty of a day out like this. There is something really lovely about wrapping up warm and blowing away the cobwebs, especially when it’s in a setting as lovely as this one.
As the afternoon came to an end we started to make our way back down to the entrance and the children noticed another craft taking place using stamps and clay to make little keepsakes to take home.
On the way out the activity tent had put out some chalkboards and chalk for the children to use and the girls couldn’t resist one last activity before it was time to leave.
We had such a good time at Corfe Castle and would definitely recommend it to those living in, or visiting, the area. As far as castles go it is definitely one of my favourites and I’d love to return in the Summer to see it in a whole new light.