Kids love castles! And grown-ups love them too, so what could be better than a day in the gorgeous Dorset countryside with a proper castle thrown in?
Think “castles”, think Kings and Queens; think conflict and bloodshed; think banquets, boiling oil, siege-engines and, well, lots of other castle-stuff.
In short, castles usually conjure up images of strength, power and romance. Lulworth Castle won’t disappoint in that department, but from a totally unexpected direction.
Lulworth Castle wasn’t so much built for warfare and protection as for fun! Yes, even the wealthy and landed like to have a castle to play with and Lulworth was built over 400 years ago just for fun, or at least as a hunting “lodge” which in those days amounted to the same thing!
A Lord, Thomas Howard, had the castle built to entertain Royalty and members of the Court whilst on hunting trips in the area. Given that nearby Corfe Castle was, at that time, still standing, he may have felt the need to “keep up with the Jones” (or in this case the Bankes) by having a “castle” of his own.
It certainly looks the part, built to a mediaeval style complete with towers and crenellations. Inside, by all accounts, it also had the grandeur expected by Royalty and their entourage.
Today, there are only hints of this interior splendour left, as the castle, now owned by the Weld family, was gutted by fire in 1929. The Weld’s have owned the estate and castle since 1641, just five years before Corfe Castle was blown to bits by the Parliamentarians in the Civil War.
The exterior and roof of Lulworth Castle have now been restored, to a very high standard. The interior, which is open to the public, has not been restored, but, to an equally high standard! In other words the interior has been made safe for visitors and damaged woodwork and plaster stripped away to reveal walls and concealed doorways. The overall feel is one of home-DIY project meets serious history!
There’s plenty to interest and entertain, with the castle basements and ground floor open for exploration with interesting exhibits.
There are no other floors to explore on foot, because the fire didn’t leave any! But looking upwards you can get occasional glimpses of the grandeur that the place would once have had through the remains of ornate corridors that hang to the walls and lead to vacant space. There are also some very delicately decorated fireplaces.
You can also go right up to the roof. Which gives not-to-be-missed views of the Castle grounds and surrounding scenery.
The Castle is also renowned for the events it hosts, including the Camp Bestival festival.
Fans of Thomas Hardy will be interested in a stroll around St Andrew’s Church, next to the Castle. Hardy worked for the firm of Dorchester architects that rebuilt the Church and is thought to have done the drawings. As architects go, Hardy is a very famous novelist and poet, but the church is very peaceful, quaint and architecturally pleasing to the eye. Apparently the Church was once at the centre of a village, but the houses were removed and a new village built outside the walls of the castle grounds - slightly ironic given the efforts now made to welcome visitors in!
Go here as part of an organised event or as a visit in itself, either will be enjoyable and can be combined with visits to Tyneham, when the nearby ranges are open, as well as Wareham, Corfe or Swanage. All of which can be reached by scenic drives through the ranges. It is also, of course, very close to Lulworth Cove and Durdle Door.
It’s not everyday you get to enjoy the playground of Royalty! But don’t go on Saturdays (except at Easter) because it’s not open, except for weddings!!!
Lulworth Castle wasn’t so much built for warfare and protection as for fun!"