Dotted on Dorset’s hillsides and coastlines are a healthy quota of castles, each giving a glimpse into the rich history of the sprawling county. Some of Dorset’s castles make for the perfect rainy day hideaway, while others are picnic paradise, thanks to coastal views or perfectly preened gardens. All are within easy driving distance of the Silverlake Estate and each one is worth taking the time to visit on your next Dorset holiday. Here are some of the best castles in Dorset, along with their highlights.
Lulworth is perhaps the most famous of all Dorset castles. Originally built as a hunting lodge for aristocracy, Lulworth Castle boasts all of the impressive architecture and regal grounds you would expect from a playground for the wealthy. It hosts various events and festivals throughout the year, with Bestival being the best known. Returning each summer, the festival transforms the grounds of Lulworth Estate into a magical, musical playground for young and old alike.
Distance from Silverlake: 11 miles
There simply cannot be a round-up of the best Dorset castles without mention of Corfe Castle. Dating back to the 11th century and still standing as spectacular ruins, the mediaeval castle’s romantic silhouette against the backdrop of the peaceful Purbeck Hills attracts photographers from far and wide. Budding historians will appreciate its history too; established by William the Conqueror, Corfe Castle made it through the English Civil War, only to meet its untimely demise at the hands of the Parliamentarians shortly after.
Distance from Silverlake: 15 miles
Not only famous for his many wives, Henry VIII was also known to build exceptional castles. Portland Castle is one example and is just a short drive from the Silverlake Estate. The well-preserved coastal fort is often lauded as one of the best examples of Tudor military architecture still standing today. Once poised to protect from French and Spanish invasion, today it boasts panoramic views of the Jurassic Coast and an insight into life in Tudor times inside. Portland Castle is only four miles from Weymouth, so be sure to combine the two.
Distance from Silverlake: 15 miles
If you visit just one castle in Dorset for its coastal views, Durlston Castle could well be it. Durlston Castle sits just a mile from Swanage, but feels marooned in a countryside paradise, thanks to its 320 acres of country park. The park is designated as an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty and a National Nature Reserve, filled with wildlife and geology. Its dark skies also make it the perfect place for stargazing and an Astronomy Centre with its own observatory puts the solar system, star clusters, galaxies and meteor showers on display.
Distance from Silverlake: 22 miles
Visit Highcliffe Castle for its coastal views towards the Isle of Wight and over the English Channel. The Grade I listed castle’s cliff-top location makes it our choice for summer days out full of picnics and walks. Start or end your visit in nearby Christchurch, a charming Dorset town where coast meets countryside; the town is sandwiched between the New Forest National Park and the seaside town of Bournemouth.
Distance from Silverlake: 34 miles
Explore Dorset’s castles and much more
Dorset’s castles provide the perfect mix of historical significance, architectural intrigue and beautiful views that showcase this special county from a new angle. They’re a great way to spend a day on your next Dorset holiday.
If you’ve been inspired to visit Dorset, discover our Dorset holidays and find a great place to stay in the stunning surroundings of Silverlake.
Portland Castle image credit: Hugh Llewelyn