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10 Best Castles for Kids in Dorset

6 December 2022

While Dorset’s castles may not be as ancient as the fossils found on the Jurassic Coast, they’re still steeped in history. From extravagant estates to Henry VIII’s formidable forts, there are plenty of options for a brilliant family day out.

Lulworth Castle, Wareham

This is home to Camp Bestival, one of Britain’s best family festivals, but Lulworth Castle is great to visit all year round. 

The castle could be taken straight from a fairytale. Your kids can explore the glorious woodland and might even find the play area hidden among the trees. They can also enjoy mini-golf and other games on the castle lawns.

Sadly, much of the interior was gutted in a fire almost a hundred years ago, but you’ll still feel the castle’s grandeur. And the views from the top of the tower are truly breathtaking. 

Corfe Castle, Wareham

These captivating ruins, sat high on the hill above the village, have seen more than their fair share of battles and betrayals. 

Kids will have a blast imagining defending the castle from attacks. There’s lots of historical info, and knowledgeable staff are on hand to enhance the experience. 

It hosts regular events throughout the year, such as adventure trails and medieval battle reenactments. The kids can do archery and watch knights jousting. 

Portland Castle, Portland

This stout little fort wasn’t built for grand lords and ladies to entertain guests. It’s one of many coastal fortifications built by Henry VIII to defend Britain against the many enemies he made. 

This fort is steeped in history and has been involved in British warfare right up to its role in the D-Day landings. 

Kids will love the many cannon on display, and they can even dress up as Tudor soldiers and guard the battlements. 

The castle won’t take long to get around, but there’s a nice little beach nearby and there are plenty of other things to explore around Portland. 

Sandsfoot Castle, Weymouth

After visiting Portland Castle, why not stop here on your way back to the mainland. This small ruined fort is a lovely spot for a picnic if you’re making your way through Weymouth. There are sensational views over Portland Harbour, which the fort was built to defend.

Highcliffe Castle, Christchurch

There’s plenty to do at this lavish castle set in beautiful grounds. Kids can be detectives, with discovery trails around the house and grounds. They can also dress up in historical costumes and take part in craft activities. 

The castle even has its own little beach, so your kids can go for a paddle on a hot day. 

Sherborne Castle, Sherborne

Heading back inland, this one is another magnificent building surrounded by stunning landscapes. The grounds, complete with a gorgeous lake, are great for exploring, and the house contains the Family Museum. Here kids can see fossil exhibits and artifacts relating to Sir Walter Raleigh, the castle’s most famous resident.

Sherborne Old Castle, Sherborne

Set just across the lake from the newer Sherborne Castle, these crumbling ruins sit in stark contrast to their elegant surroundings. 

Kids will get an eerie sense of the former magnificence of the castle as they walk beneath the vast, ancient arches. There’s lots of space to run around and have a picnic. 

Why not visit both castles together for a complete family day out?

Christchurch Castle, Christchurch

This small, ruined castle and house is well worth a quick visit if you’re in Christchurch. It’s situated right in the heart of the town in a pretty spot next to the river. 

If your kids are feeling intrepid, they can make the steep climb up to the keep on the hill. It offers great views over the town and they can imagine defending it from savage invaders.

Durston Castle, Swanage

This grand Victorian house is set in a stunning country park on the clifftops. The visitor centre contains many fascinating exhibits and artworks. There’s also a nature reserve where kids can explore and discover the wildlife. 

If the kids are up to it, there’s a breathtaking walk along the clifftops to the lighthouse. 

Maiden Castle, Dorchester

OK, so you could argue that this isn’t really a castle. The hillfort, built over 2,500 years ago, is the size of fifty football pitches and was home to hundreds of people. However, it’s a truly fascinating place and one of the best places in the UK to understand life in prehistoric Britain. 

The sheer size is staggering, and kids’ minds will be blown when they hear that the huge ramparts and ditches were all built by hand. A great battle is thought to have taken place here when the Romans invaded. They’ll really get a feel for how difficult it would have been for anyone attacking up the steep slopes.

The views across the area are spectacular, well worth the short hike from the car park.

Photo by Graham Pengelly on Unsplash

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