60 things to do in Dorset in 2016

Wheels Festival in Bournemouth

Wheels Festival in Bournemouth - Credit: Archant

Helen Stiles rounds up 60 essential dates for 2016


• 1 January - New Year’s Day Johann Strauss Gala Concert

See the New Year in with style at Bournemouth Symphony Orchestra’s traditional celebration of Johann Strauss, the Waltz King at Lighthouse, Poole. Box office 0844 406 8666.

• Until 3 January - Ice Skate in the Gardens of Light

What could be more magical that skating on an ice-rink set in the award-winning Gardens of Light at the UK’s Best Coastal Resort? Follow a glowing trail of projections and illuminations then get your skates on under the stars. makeitbournemouth.co.uk.

• 16 – 23 January - Goldilocks and the Three Bears

The award-winning Highcliffe Charity Players add an exciting circus twist to this classic family panto where Goldilocks saves the bears from the evil Baron Von Trappem at the Regent Centre, Christchurch. Box office 01202 499199.

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• 30 January - New Elizabethan Singers

The New Elizabethan Singers’ mark the start of their 50th anniversary year by performing a rarely heard 17th-century work Missa Salisburgensis by Heinrich Biber, who was the Kapellmeister of Salzburg Cathedral. The concert also includes Vivaldi’s Gloria. 7.30pm, St Mary’s Church, South Street, Bridport.

• 30 – 31 January - Lighthouse Holistic Festival

Now in its second year, there will be an array of some 80 stands to explore, therapies to try and advice to improve your health and wellbeing at Lighthouse, Poole. More details 0844 406 8666.


• 12 – 21 February - Shaftesbury Snowdrop Festival

Back in 2012 the good folk of Shaftesbury planted thousands of snowdrops as part of their Diamond Jubilee Community Legacy so they could become Britain’s first ‘Snowdrop Town’. Enjoy galanthus themed art exhibitions, walks, talks and wonderful drifts of snowdrops. shaftesburysnowdrops.org.

• 14 – 27 February - Purbeck Literary Festival

Creative workshops, poetry, performances, art exhibitions and events featuring the works of Enid Blyton, T. E Lawrence, Percy F Westerman and contemporary authors, many of whom lived in or were inspired by Purbeck and Dorset. More details at purbeckliteraryfestival.info.

• 19 February - The Wild Animals of Dorset

Amphibians, reptiles and mammals feature in this widescreen digital photographic presentation by award-wildlife photographer Colin Varndell. Hosted by the Dorset Mammal Group, it will also see the launch of an initiative to make Dorset the first hedgehog friendly county in Britain. 7.30pm, Wareham Parish Church Hall.


• 4 – 7 March - Swanage Blues & Roots Festival

Twice a year, every March and October, Swanage hosts one of the biggest blues parties on the South Coast. Join the thousands of music lovers who come to enjoy this event featuring over a 100 musicians at 60 events. The second festival runs 6 -9 October. More details at swanage-blues.org.

• 12 - 13 March - Leviathan Maritime Literary Festival

Weymouth’s historic harbour hosts the UK’s only dedicated maritime literary festival. At this inaugural event meet Britain’s best maritime authors and hear about their challenges, achievements, adventures and practical seafaring experiences. More details at weymouthleviathan.org.uk.

• 30 March – 3 April - From Page to Screen

The UK’s only film festival that celebrates the adaptation of books into films returns to Bridport with another glittering line-up of writers, film makers, directors, actors and a whole host of award-winning adaptations. More details at frompagetoscreen.org.uk.


• 3 April - Bournemouth Bay Run

Set along a seven-mile stretch of golden sands the Bournemouth Bay Run offers a route to suit all from half marathon, 10k, 5k or 1k family fun run, all in aid of the British Heart Foundation. Find out more at bhf.org.uk.

• 8 – 10 April - Spring Steam Gala

Swanage Steam Railway will be operating a huge range of both passenger and freight trains during this annual gala with plenty of photo opportunities for selfies with your favourite steam locomotive. swanagerailway.co.uk.

• 29 April – 1 May - Lyme Regis Fossil Fest

The Jurassic Coast town celebrates its long and illustrious history as a top spot for fossil hunters at this popular family friendly festival which attracts experts and amateurs, who come to discover more about a time when dinosaurs walked through Dorset. More details at fossilfestival.co.uk.

• 29 April – 3 May - Sherborne Abbey Festival

Held in the magnificent surroundings of Sherborne’s historic abbey this festival always attracts a fascinating mix of musicians from Baroque to Bebop. Stars confirmed for 2016 include virtuoso flautist Sir James Galway, vocal ensemble VOCES8 and early music performers Stile Antico. More at sherborneabbeyfestival.org.


• 2 May - Blandford Georgian Fayre

Music, dancing, stalls, fair rides, street markets, food and craft stalls and re-enactments celebrate the town’s wonderful Georgian history. blandfordgeorgianfayre.co.uk.

• 7 – 8 May - Christchurch Food & Wine Festival

This fun event for foodies draws thousands to sample and buy award-winning food and drink, watch celebrity chefs in action and generally exercise their taste buds. christchurchfoodfest.co.uk.

• 16 – 22 May - Lawrence Week

Talks, displays, activities and events at Clouds Hill in Moreton, the home of T E Lawrence - better known as Lawrence of Arabia - marking the personal path that placed Lawrence in Cairo a 100 years ago and his heroic part in the Arab Revolt. More details nationaltrust.org.uk/clouds-hill.

• 28 May - 12 June - Dorset Art Weeks

This popular bi-annual attracts thousands of visitors from across the county and beyond to visit the hundreds of open studios, galleries and exhibitions celebrating Dorset’s rich and vibrant arts community - from sculpture and pottery to paintings and textiles. Not to be missed! Find out more at dorsetartweeks.co.uk.

• 28 May – 12 June - Purbeck Art Weeks Festival

This year’s festival, which showcases Purbeck’s prolific arts community, marks Shakespeare’s 400th birthday by taking the theme of ‘Midsummer Dreams’. Visit open studios, exhibitions and workshops to see how this is expressed though music and visual arts including a magical shoal of ceramic fish in Swanage. purbeckartweeks.co.uk.

• 29 – 31 May - B-Town Throwdown

Bournemouth’s festival of hip hop culture features battles, workshops and master classes all culminating in Breakin’ Convention ’16 event at Pavilion Dance South West with its mix of international stars and home-grown talent. More details pdsw.org.uk.


• 3 – 5 June - Wheels Festival

Expect non-stop, high speed action along the Demo Straight, monster metal crushing madness on the beach, gravity defying quad bike jumps and breath-taking BMX and skateboard tricks. Free event. More details at bournemouthwheels.co.uk.

• 10 – 12 June - Wimborne Minster Folk Festival

The streets of this lovely historic town will resound to the sound of clogs, bells and toe-tapping folk tunes as the popular festival dances into town with its concerts, ceilidhs, workshops and Morris displays. wimbornefolk.co.uk.

• 12 – 18 June - Bridport Food & Beer Festival

The ‘Bridport Food Taste Trail’, where you sample food from 15 local outlets, is just one of many tasty events happening throughout the town during this week long festival. bridportfoodfestival.com.

• 17 – 25 June - Bournemouth Food Festival

Held at locations across Bournemouth this is a celebration of street food from wood fired pizza and Thai noodles to Spanish paella and Italian ice cream. More details bournemouthfoodanddrink.co.uk.

• 24 June - Ashmore Filly Loo

A special summer solstice celebration at Dorset’s highest village, where villagers dance around the pond and after dark there’s a torch lit procession with the ancient Abbots Bromley Horn Dance. Magical!

• 25 – 29 June - Festival of Learning

Bournemouth University’s ever popular free festival returns with both old favourites and new and exciting events that offer something for all the family, as well as those looking for professional development opportunities and networking sessions. More details at bournemouth.ac.uk/fol.

• 25- 26 June - Tankfest

The best displays of historic moving armour in the world dazzle at Bovington’s Tank Museum, Dorset. Find out more at tankmuseum.org.


• 8 – 9 July - British Beach Polo Championships

Polo players do battle on the golden beaches of Sandbanks. More details sandpolo.com.

• 9 – 10 July - Pommery Dorset Seafood Festival

Multi-award-winning event at Weymouth Harbour that showcases the areas seafood. More details dorsetseafood.co.uk.

• 10 July - Bournemouth Pier to Pier Swim

Challenging open water swim of 1.4 miles from Bournemouth Pier to Boscombe Pier.

• 13 - 17 July - Larmer Tree Festival

Boutique-style music and comedy festival held on the Dorset/Wiltshire border. larmertreefestival.co.uk.

• 16 - 17 July - Wimborne History Festival

A whole host of historic themes including a Roman festival field and a Viking project centred around the town’s rich heritage feature at this new event. More details wimborneminster.net.

• 26 – 30 July - Dorset Opera Festival

This annual summer residency at Bryanston School features performances of Tchaikovsky’s Eugene Onegin and Verdi’s Macbeth. dorsetopera.com.

• 27 July – 12 August - Brownsea Open Air Theatre

Enjoy watching Shakespeare on gorgeous Brownsea Island, as the long establish theatrical company perform Two Gentlemen of Verona. Arrive by boat and bring a picnic. brownsea-theatre.co.uk.

• 28 – 31 July - Camp Bestival

The award-winning family festival at Lulworth Castle has an Outer Space theme so expect various cosmic goings on as well as Fat Boy Slim and Tears for Fears. campbestival.net.

• 28 – 31 July - Bournemouth Beach Soccer Championships

Samba style beach football, sundowners and plenty of soccer entertainment.

• 30 – 31 July - The Great Dorset Chilli Festival

Hot and spicy fiesta of food and drink at Wimborne St Giles. greatdorsetchillifestival.co.uk.


• 6 August - Dorset Food & Arts Festival

Local food and arts are showcased at Queen Mother Square in the heart of Poundbury. More details at dorsetfestival.org.

• 18 – 21 August - Bournemouth Air Festival

This multi award-winning free festival takes to the skies over Bournemouth with fantastic displays from an awesome array of aircraft including the Royal Navy and the Red Arrows. There is also an interactive Armed Forces Villages, Pier to Pier trading and incredible Night Air evening entertainment. Find out more at bournemouthair.co.uk.

• 21 August - Bridport Torchlight Procession

Bridport’s famous Torchlight Procession makes its way from Bucky Doo Square, in the centre of town, down to West Bay where the traditional firework display and bonfire take place. Procession begins around 9pm.

• 21 August - Buckham Fair

The fundraising dog and pony show held on Martin and Philippa Clunes’ farm just outside Beaminster is a great day out for all the family, two or four-legged. Enter your family pet into the novelty dog show and see if it catches judge Martin’s eye. More details at buckhamfair.co.uk.

• 25 – 29 August - Great Dorset Steam Fair

Situated near the village of Tarrant Hinton, this fabulous family run heritage fair features steam driven giants of the past as well as some original heavy horse power. Add to that vintage vehicles, cider makers, rural crafts and a colourful display of showmen’s engines which come alive at night with their light displays and you have a magical day out. More details gdsf.co.uk.

• 27 – 28 August - Stock Gaylard Oak Fair

This special wood-inspired event at Sturminster Newton is perfect for those interested in woodcraft, timber, the countryside and conservation. More details stockgaylard.com.


• 1 - 5 September - Purbeck Chamber Music Festival

Curated by internationally renowned cellist Natalie Clein, this annual event features world class musicians who join Natalie in her native Purbeck to make wonderful music together. More details at purbeck-chambermusic.org.uk.

• 3 September - Bridport Hat Festival

This head gear inspired event invites you to get your hat on, and the most creative and stylish creations – for human or pet - win a prize. Show off your top titfer at the group photo at midday in Bucky Doo Square. bridporthatfest.org.

• 3 - 4 September - Dorset County Show

At the showground outside Dorchester this annual show brings together some of the finest agricultural displays, animals and local produce and crafts from across the county and beyond as well as having some thrilling show ring displays. More details at dorsetcountyshow.co.uk.

• 3 - 4 September - Waterfest Weymouth

A fantastic waterside event showcasing everything from traditionally rigged vessels to modern navy craft, with shanty music, child-focussed activity zones and a whole host of water-based displays in historic Weymouth’s harbour. More details weareweymouth.co.uk.

• 16 - 25 September - Inside Out Dorset Festival

Enjoy large-scale outdoor theatre, dance, installation, and performance across Dorset, Bournemouth and Poole including ‘Hengistbury Headlines’ - a performance trail that explores the local landscape, heritage, wildlife and environment. There is always plenty to surprise and delight at this event. insideoutdorset.co.uk.

• 17 - 25 September - Purbeck & Swanage Walking Festival

The beautiful Isle of Purbeck is a walker’s paradise and this festival offers and wide range of guided and themed walks in the area to suit all ages and abilities. More at walkswanage.com.


• 6 - 18 October - Bournemouth Arts By the Sea Festival

Expect a magical mix of exciting outdoor performances across the town and the beach at this family friendly arts festival with events, installations and art experiences. More at visitbournemouth.com.

• 12 – 16 October - Sherborne Literary Festival

Famous names and best-selling authors flock to the abbey town to talk fact and fiction at this popular autumn literary festival for all ages. sherborneliterarysociety.com.

• 12 – 30 October - Enchanted Illuminations

Abbotsbury Subtropical Gardens is transformed into a magical landscape after dusk by a wonderful display of illuminations, culminating with a fancy dress Halloween family fright night; abbotsbury-tourism.co.uk.

• 20 – 29 October - Screen Bites Food Film Festival

Films inspired by food combine with a local farmers’ market at rural venues across Dorset during this tasty food and film festival. More details at screenbites.co.uk.

• 22 October - Wimborne Food Festival

Celebrate the local food and drink scene at this lovely local food festival which also launches Dorset Food and Drink Week which then runs from 22 – 30 October. More details at dorsetaonb.org.uk.


• 6 – 13 November - Bridport Literary Festival

This well established festival always attracts some of the brightest and most interesting writers across the UK including some big names who give talks and workshops across the town. More at bridlit.com.

• 26 November - Dorset Food & Drink Christmas Fair

This annual celebration of the county’s great food and drink producers at Athelhampton House is a great hunting ground for unusual Christmas gifts.


• 18 December - Chase the Pudding

Join a whole host of Santas on Weymouth Beach for the annual chasing of someone dressed up as a Christmas pudding!

• 21 December - Winter Solstice Walk

Watch the sunrise on the shortest day of the year with a walk to Old Harry Rocks followed by a full English breakfast at the Knoll Beach Café. Starts 7.15am. More details at nationaltrust.org click on Studland.

• 31 December - Weymouth’s Big Fancy Dress Party

Get your glad rags on for one of the biggest fancy dress competitions in the UK as Weymouth welcomes in the New Year in outrageous style.