• Wanderlost Staff

Climbing Castles

By: Sam MacDonald

I might be short but heights don’t bother me.

I grew up climbing trees: we had these two trees in particular. One, a huge pecan tree in the middle of our yard was just made for climbing. It’s branches started out low and then made this staircase up to middle of the tree. I remember sitting up there for hours, sometimes reading a book, and sometimes just enjoying the day.

The other tree was in the back corner of our back pasture and was in the middle of this grove of trees. I would go down there whenever I needed to be alone and away from everyone. Sometimes, the horses would be in the pasture with me, and they would just look up at me like, “What are you doing?” They would always stay near me when I was in that tree; I like to think they were making sure I didn’t fall.

I also cliff dive. The lake we keep our boat on has these bluffs that we climb and jump off. We don’t do this as often now as when we were kids, and whenever we do, I get a little nervous that I won’t remember the path to the top, but still, it comes back to me. The first climb is the easiest since the rocks aren’t wet yet, but the more we climb, the more precarious it becomes. Once I get to the top, I always have a moment's pause: I have to syke myself up to throwing myself forward off the rocks I’ve just worked so hard to get on top of. Once I’ve gotten my nerve, I experience three seconds of free fall and then, bam, engulfed in water.

All of this to say, I’m no stranger to climbing things, I just never thought that thing would be castle ruins.

Corfe Castle is this set of castle ruins in Dorset, England. The castle was originally built in the 1100s, but was then was destroyed in the 1600s by the person who owned it. It is set at the top of a large hill and overlooks the village and farmlands that surround it.

Most of the days we were in England were ridiculously windy. The day we visited Corfe was no exception.

To get up to the castle, you have to go into the village and then hike up the pathway to the castle.

I climbed on the castle ruins three different times. I would like to add a caveat; the way I’m about to describe these different climbs will sound not safe, and that’s just because I’m bad at describing things. I did not climb anywhere that was unsteady or where I wouldn’t have a strong hold; I was perfectly safe.

The first was down on the castle wall near the bridge. There were these little slits in the wall. I guess they were either for the guards to see through or so that wind can get through the wall. I’m not sure though. Because these are ruins, the walls aren’t completely smooth. There was this part of the wall that jutted out just like a step in front of one of these slits. I utilized the step and took pictures through the slit down the wall.

The second place I climbed was actually up in the main part of the castle. The ‘room’ used to be in the Great Hall. The walls of this room were almost completely torn down. This room was at the top of the hill and completely exposed to the wind. I found an opening in the wall where the rock had crumbled away and made a crack. The crack was big enough for me, so I stood up in it and took pictures from the top of the wall looking back at the castle.

It was really incredible to get to stand there. Everything was spread out before me. The hill falling away at my feet, stretching out into the village and then the farmland. I could see everything. Even though the wind was battering at me, I never once felt moved around by it, I was safely wedged into the wall.

The final place I climbed was in the main part of the ruins where there is more rock and building left of the castle. There are some stairways that lead nowhere and arched pathways that people long ago used to walk on but that can no longer be reached. It was one such archway that I was trying to get to.

I didn’t manage to get on the pathway, but I did climb up stairs and then on some of the ruined bits of wall and managed to become level with the archway.

It’s seems silly because while I wanted to climb just to climb, I mostly did to get different angles of pictures. I don’t think most people would get it, but it was more than worth it for me. It was also really fun and I’m glad I have these memories to look back on. It took me back to my childhood, climbing things to see, but also climbing things to have an adventure.