Dorset walk - Woolgarston and Brenscombe Hill

The view of Corfe Castle from West Hill

The view of Corfe Castle from West Hill - Credit: Archant

Fancy a bracing Christmas walk with impressive views? Edward Griffiths explores the quieter paths around Corfe Castle

This relatively short but bracing walk follows less-visited paths and bridleways over northern Corfe Common and fields around Little Woolgarston and Tabbit’s Hill Lane. The second half follows Brenscombe Hill along part of the Purbeck Ridge with breathtaking views over Poole Harbour and towards Tyneham Cap, with glimpses of the Isle of Wight and Portland. Reaching East Hill and the gap which Corfe Castle was built to secure, an easy descent leads back into the village. With panoramic views and the romantic ruins of Corfe Castle to marvel at, this is the perfect walk to impress any visitors you may have over the Christmas holidays. After you can relax in front of a crackling log fire with a refreshing pint in one of the many local hostelries in the village.



• Distance: 4 miles (6.5km)

• Time: 3 hours

• Exertion: Not too strenuous. Ascents are quite gentle. Several stiles. Mud in some fields

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• Start: National Trust’s Corfe Castle Car Park or Number 40 bus-stop on A351 near B3351 Studland turning (Grid Ref: SY958825)

• Exertion: Not too strenuous. Ascents are quite gentle. Several stiles. Mud in some fields

• Map: OS Landranger Sheet 195

• Public Transport: Wilts and Dorset 40 and 44

• Dogs: On leads in fields and commons where there is livestock or where requested

• Refreshments: Corfe Castle Tea Rooms, Model Village Tea Rooms at weekends, Castle Inn, Fox Inn, Greyhound and Bankes Arms for lunches and bar meals


The walk

1 From the car park, cross the A351 into the ‘Village Centre’ footpath with Corfe River below you and West Hill right. Past West Mill information board, go through the half-gate onto West Hill’s lower reaches for superb photographs of Corfe Castle. Then rejoin your path down to the footbridge over Corfe River. Through the half-gate, cross the Church Knowle road into the half-gated ‘Corfe Centre ¾’ footpath. With Corfe Castle towering above, and Corfe River down to your right, walk up into the village. Past the tearooms, sweet shop and Corfe Castle entrance, cross The Square into St Mary’s Church steps by the Post Office.

2 Through the churchyard, leave through the left gates into East Street. Turn right along the pavement. Past the cemetery, cross the road and continue past the school and Castle Inn. After the stone barn with outside steps, take the left track and go through the ‘Corfe Common’ 1½ bridleway-gates. Follow the grass track down. After a left footpath-gate, cross the stream bridge and follow the rising path, bending right through scrub. Over and down, bending left, go under the railway bridge with half-gates either side, and follow the boardwalk to Corfe Common. Keep to the left side of the common, rising gently with super views, over to the hedge-gap. Through, continue up the left side, having passed under electricity wires, to the corner gap. Through, continue up to the top left corner bridleway half-gate leaving ‘Corfe Common’.

3 Walk down the field to Little Woolgarston, aiming well left of the bottom house, to the two-way signed bridleway-gate onto the farm track. Cross to the footpath-stile and walk down the field to the footpath-gate. If muddy here, use the footpath-stiles and sleeper-bridge in the thicket on its left side. Then, into the field, follow the tracks up to the tree gap. Through this, walk up the middle of this field to the hedge-gate. Through, continue up the field’s faint centre track to the top corner footpath-stile in the hedge. Over, follow the left hedge across the short field to the next footpath-stile/gate. Over, pass the left stone barn, go over the footpath-stile and follow the right hedge down and round to the fence’s footpath-stile.

4 Over, walk down the valley-field to the footpath-stile near the left wooden fence‘s end. Over the facing stile with tyres beneath, turn very sharp left in the field. Follow the right fence up and right around the barn (possibly a building site now) to one or more footpath-gates leading into the lane with a backward footpath-sign. Turn left up Tabbitt’s Hill Lane, sunken for the latter part. At the T-junction, turn left along Sandy Hill Lane. Past left Pounts Mead, take the right stone-marked ‘Brenscombe Hill ½’ stony bridleway, sunken approaching the foothills. Through 1½ gates, continue up the gently rising chalk and bedrock track, passing the left-fork lower bridleway with Corfe Castle visible in the distance and Swanage behind you. Reaching the top of Brenscombe Hill and the ‘Corfe Castle 1¼’ stone, bear left to follow the ridge.

5 The views are sensational, including the Isle of Wight, all of Poole Harbour and the east coast, and the Purbeck Ridge to Tyneham Cap. Just follow the well-used path along the ridge top, passing 1½ bridleway-gates and a second set at the aerial-mast. The second milestone past here says ‘East Hill ½’. Follow the ridge top again until Corfe Castle disappears from view. At some right straggly bushes, veer left to the left edge of the ridge and continue until the castle reappears. Shortly, you reach the ‘Corfe ½’milestone. Here, go down approximately 70 stone-edged steps to the Permissive Path stile onto Sandy Hill Lane. Under the railway bridge, cross the A351. Turn right along the pavement below the castle, cross the Church Knowle road and cross back to your starting point car park.