Castles & Forts in Dorset

In Dorset, there are fascinating stories of bygone times to be discovered everywhere!

Have you ever wondered how certain places became ruins or who once lived in the grand castle on top of the hill?

Or perhaps you’re intrigued by how your favourite place looked hundreds of years ago or how a town defended itself against Viking invasions.

Unearth your inner historian on a visit to Dorset...

Visit a thousand-year-old royal castle shaped by warfare

The unmistakeable ruins of Corfe Castle tower dramatically over its picturesque village at the very heart of Purbeck. The castle was built in 1086 and was one of the county’s great strongholds until betrayal from within led to its downfall.

The village of Corfe Castle itself makes for a great outing. Why not try something different and travel to Corfe by steam engine on the Swanage Railway? Or visit the castle in miniature at the Corfe Castle Model Village and Gardens. You can buy a combined ticket for the Railway and Model Village to save some pennies.

Explore one of Henry VIII's finest coastal forts

Overlooking Portland harbour, Portland Castle was built in the early 1540s to protect against French and Spanish invasion.

Portland Castle offers lots to do for families and couples alike, and being only four miles from Weymouth, this historic adventure can easily be combined with some more contemporary seaside fun.

Experience the life of the extraordinary Mr. Selfridge at Highcliffe Castle

Highcliffe Castle is a Grade I Listed, romantic fantasy castle and was built mainly between 1831 and 1836 by Lord Stuart de Rothesay. It has been described as arguably the most important surviving house of the Romantic and Picturesque style of architecture.

The team of knowledgeable room hosts bring to life the detailed history of the building and its residents, amongst whom was Harry Gordon Selfridge (of the Selfridge's Department Store fame). Mr Selfridge lived in the Castle between 1916 and 1922, and is buried with his wife and mother at St Mark’s churchyard just across the road from the Castle.

Behind the scenes guided tours last approximately one hour and provide access to the unrestored parts of the Castle, as well as the heritage rooms.

The beautiful grounds are perfect for a relaxing stroll or a family picnic on the lawns and there is direct access to both the wonderful sandy beach and unspoilt nature reserve of nearby Steamer Point. You can also enjoy a traditional Edwardian High Tea at The Castle Kitchen tearooms and if the weather is nice, sit out to admire views of the Castle.

Climb one of the biggest Iron Age hillforts in Europe!

Among the largest and most complex of Iron Age hillforts in Europe, Maiden Castle’s huge multiple ramparts enclose an area the size of 50 football pitches. The fort once protected hundreds of residents before the Romans came and established the town of ‘Durnovaria’ on Dorchester’s current site.

Today the castle offers wide open spaces to frolic, fling frisbees, picnic and get a taste of history.

Visit a Royal hunting lodge

Lulworth Castle was built in the early 17th Century as a hunting lodge to entertain aristocracy and royalty. Unfortunately the castle was gutted by a disastrous fire in 1929, however the owners, along with English Heritage, have returned the exterior to its original glory. Some of the internal rooms have also been restored to show what life was like hundreds of years ago.

You can climb the castle tower for spectacular panoramic views of the surrounding countryside and coast. You can also visit the grounds and parkland with its 18th Century Roman Catholic Chapel and 15th Century Church of St Andrew.

A town of two castles

The town of Sherborne, located in the northern part of Dorset boasts not one, but two castles.

Discover the historic Digby stately home of Sherborne Castle, built by Sir Walter Raleigh in 1594. See magnificent state rooms; Raleigh’s kitchen; relics from the Civil War and a museum. Explore acres of impressive lakeside gardens in a stunning setting.

Sherborne Old Castle is a 12th century ruin built as a fortified palace and is set in beautiful grounds next to Sherborne Castle. Initially owned by the church, it withstood two sieges during the Civil War and is now a romantic ruin and home to great wildlife.

Explore a coastal fortress 

Enjoy the stunning views of the Jurassic Coast from the ramparts from Weymouth's Nothe Fort or go underground and explore the many tunnels and secret passageways beneath.

Learn more of the fort's historical past and its role in protecting the Naval Harbour at Portland from 1860 and how advances in military technology changed the fort until its decommissioning in 1956. 

Accommodation fit for a King

After learning so much about the monarchs that shaped Dorset’s past, you’ll be in need of a fine place to stay and rest your head.

You’re in luck, as Dorset offers a grand selection of hotels, guest houses, cottages, campsites and in some cases, something a little more quirky!