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Dorset hosts some of the biggest events in the South West, making its events' schedule one to rival. Every week through the summer you will find something exciting going on, from local food fairs, carnivals and country shows to world-renowned air displays and heritage shows. This great variety of Dorset events means that there will always be something fun for your to do.
Whether you have booked your break in Dorset or you are still trying to decide where to go, our guide to what's on in Dorset will help you plan your trip. We have done our research and sussed out the Dorset events you need to know about!
EVENTS IN MAY
Dorset knob throwing takes its name from Moore’s famous Dorset Knob biscuit, and the event is pretty much as the name suggests. This unique but well-known festival not only sees its visitors compete to throw a Dorset knob the furthest, but it runs alongside the Frome Valley Food Festival. Look out for other activities such as knob painting, knob eating and a knob and spoon race.
Well-known as a destination for fossil hunting, Lyme Regis hosts an annual festival dedicated to it, which offers a fascinating insight into the 200-million-year-old relics. See exhibitions from the likes of the Natural History Museum, the British Antarctic Society and Palaeontological Society, as well as getting the opportunity to attend interesting talks at the Marine Theatre. Bring the kids along and see what prehistoric remnants they can find!
The first of many food festivals in Dorset, Christchurch Food & Wine Festival transforms the high street into a foodie haven, packed with local delicacies and delicious samples. The free fun continues on the riverside at Christchurch Quay with a beer festival, kids’ kitchen, demonstrations, stalls and all the food and drink you could possibly imagine. This culinary experience is sure to tantalise taste buds and leave you with a few goodies to take home and enjoy.
What we love most about this event is that it really does cater for the whole family – even four-legged members. As well as everything from the largest rare breeds show in the county, to children’s entertainment, there are dedicated events for your dog to take part in too. Complete with a fun summer vibe in the grounds of Sherbourne Castle, it's the perfect way to spend your bank holiday.
EVENTS IN JUNE
One of the biggest free festivals in England, Wessex Folk Festival is held in Weymouth and features over 30 stage performances from a range of musicians and dancers. Acts take place on open-air stages and in the pubs around the town, with Morris dancers and trade stalls bringing joy, colour and a great atmosphere to the streets of Weymouth.
Is your mouth watering already? The Cheese & Chilli Festival in Christchurch is one of seven festivals that will take place around the UK this summer, featuring some of the tastiest produce from both local and national suppliers, with tasters, samples and the chance to take away plenty of delicious treats. Yum!
EVENTS IN JULY
A celebration of all things creative, Shaftesbury Fringe welcomes both new and established artists to perform and exhibit in over 30 venues throughout the stunning hilltop town. Choosing their dates carefully, the event slots into the country’s unofficial ‘Fringe circuit’ so you are likely to see some up and coming acts before they take on bigger festivals north of the border.
Weekends were made for fantastic food and delicious drink! This feast of fine foods sees an eclectic mix of vendors offering everything from stone-baked pizza to mouth-watering seafood – all washed down with a local beer or maybe even a cocktail. Visit the Streetfood Warehouse website to find out what tantalising treats will be on offer at the festival.
The atmospheric Nytimber Dorset Seafood Festival is a fantastic opportunity to experience, taste and learn about delicious seafood, just off the shores where it is caught. The award-winning event takes place around Weymouth’s historic harbour with over 100 stalls, several national chefs, hands-on experiences and plenty of family fun for all ages.
2019 celebrates the 60th Wareham Carnival, which will see the all-important procession walk drive and dance their way through the town centre from 1pm and onto the recreation ground, where the fun will continue. Look out for other fun activities including a kids' disco, duck race, history walk, flower festival, the judging of the local scarecrow competition and the carnival entries themselves.
With entertainment for all ages, this eight-day event is definitely one for families. As well as the famous carnival procession and three impressive firework displays, you can expect everything from air displays and live music, to sporting events and treasure hunts! At over 200 years old, it’s an event that is very much at the centre of the local community.
EVENTS IN AUGUST
Dorset is well and truly on the chilli map, having developed one of the hottest varieties in the world, the Dorset Naga! Self-described as the ‘hottest day out in Dorset’, the festival is held at St Giles Park, with stalls selling everything from chilli and pepper plants to spicy condiments, seeds and ceramics. Live demonstrations, chilli talks, discussions and live music performances make for a fun-filled (if slightly hot) family day out!
Packed with over 500 exhibitors, this traditional one-day agricultural show promises plenty of family fun. Here, local food and drink combine with the finest cattle and sheep competitions, shows and displays in the main ring, craft stalls and hands-on activities for children to create a day of fun and variety.
Regarded as the leading show of its type, the annual Great Dorset Steam Fair is a highlight in Dorset’s event schedule. Covering a showground of over 600 acres, it is one of Europe’s largest outdoor event locations. Featuring steam-powered vehicles and machinery, the typically British heritage event offers a unique blend of nostalgia and entertainment. As well as looking back at the important part that steam-power played in life in bygone years, there is a whole day of action-packed family fun too.
The Oak Fair | Stock Gaylard, Sturminster Newton
This unique event in rural Dorset is a wonderful way to enjoy quality time with the family over the late summer bank holiday. With over 200 exhibits, the fair celebrates the countryside, conservation, traditional craft and rural history with something for everyone. There will be stalls selling crafts, homewares and gifts, live demonstrations, big machinery shows, charity stands, as well as food and beer tents, activities and a free children’s area. Read our first-hand account of last year's Oak Fair.
Get set for the UK’s biggest air festival, promising four days of thrilling aviation displays and entertainment – in the air, on land and at sea! If you’re yet to book your Dorset holiday, the last weekend of August is THE time to be in the area. You can also watch cooking demonstrations with Navy chefs, shop and eat your way around the RAF village featuring a multitude of traders, play in the funfair and on the Friday and Saturday night, fireworks will light the sky above Bournemouth.
EVENTS IN SEPTEMBER
Showcasing the very best of rural life in Dorset for over 175 years, the annual show has taken the county back to its agricultural roots. Since the very first show in 1840, the event has developed into one of the most important dates for the county. From livestock and show jumping competitions to local product and crafts, Dorset County Show has all the ingredients for a typical rural show in England.
Plan your day with our guide to the Dorset County Show.
Where to stay
Another one for all you foodies! Launched by celebrated chef and restauranteur, Mark Hix, Food Rocks brings together leading chefs and the very best produce from Hix's hometown of Lyme Regis and its surrounding area. If you love food, this is a great chance to meet talented producers, watch insightful chef demonstrations and, of course, sample delicious local treats for yourself. The event is held on Marine Parade and Cart Road in Lyme Regis.
Seen a Dorset event or two that you would like to attend? If you are yet to book your summer holiday, choose from one of our Dorset cottages to set yourself on the beautiful Jurassic Coast. With a plethora of events to choose from and plenty of things to do, fun-filled family holidays are a given. Bringing your four-legged friend? More than half of our cottages are dog friendly too! Visiting during the festive season? Take a look at our guide to spending Christmas in Dorset and discover how to spend the New Year here too.