If you’re thinking of booking a Christmas break this year, Dorset should be top of your list. The festive season is a particularly magical time in this spellbinding county, with masses of great events happening throughout the holidays providing fun and entertainment for all ages. Immerse yourself in the festive spirit with our list of Christmas must-dos and have the fairytale Christmas you’ve always dreamed of.
Christmas is a very special time to visit Hardy's homes in Dorset, with both Hardy’s Cottage and Max Gate (a five-minute drive away) transformed with traditional Victorian decorations. Expect home-baked Yuletide treats, Christmas crafts, carols, musical performances, stories and mummers plays on certain dates, readings of some of Hardy’s winter poetry and beautifully wintery walks through the woods.
Brewery Square, Dorchester - less than 10 minutes from Greenwood Grange
The Christmas season in Dorset’s county town kicks off on 24 November, when the vibrant modern quarter of Brewery Square (so named for being on the site of the former Eldridge Pope brewery) hosts activities, live music and displays as well as serving up mulled wine and other festive treats.
Kingston Lacy – 30 minutes from Greenwood Grange
This country house and estate close to Wimborne Minster makes for a great festive day out, with traditional decorations and displays on how Christmas would have been for the aristocratic Bankes children who once lived here. As well as beautifully illuminated winter walks, there’s Santa to meet too.
Corfe Castle - 30 minutes from Greenwood Grange
This evocative ruined castle – an iconic survivor of the English Civil War – is hosting both old and new songs for its Carols in the Castle event on 9 December. Its tea-room will also be open for festive treats.
Bridport's Christmas Cheer - 30 minutes from Greenwood Grange
This market town ushers in Christmas with this lively, community-based event on 5 December, with carols, a Santa’s Grotto, live music by local performers, a market and plenty of scope for late-night shopping.
The Snowman, The Lighthouse, Poole - 30 minutes from Greenwood Grange
The largest arts centre in the UK outside London is a wonderful place to catch one of the best-loved festive classics – a favourite with both kids and adults. Shown on a big screen, it will be accompanied by a live performance by the Bournemouth Symphony Orchestra.
Christmas pantomimes, shows and carol concerts - various locations
This year sees plenty of opportunities to catch a Christmas pantomime in Dorset: there’s Sleeping Beauty in Bournemouth, Dick Whittington in Poole and Weymouth, and Cinderella in Wimborne. Other Christmas entertainment in Dorset includes a live screening of the Bolshoi Ballet Live, performing The Nutcracker, at Bridport's Electric Palace; A Christmas Carol at the Shelley Theatre in Bournemouth; The Little Match Girl at Corfe Castle; A Ghost Story for Christmas at Kingston Maurward; and Christchurch's Christmas Spectacular (dance, ballads, Christmas favourites and Irving Berlin show-stoppers) at the town’s Regent venue. There are also carol concerts all over Dorset, with the chance to both listen to professionals in action and join in.
Christmas Tree Trail – 40 minutes from Greenwood Grange
Bournemouth and surrounding coastal villages are worth visiting at Christmas for their array of spectacular Christmas trees from around the world. Start or finish in Bournemouth Square with its Alpine Bar.
Lyme Regis' Christmas Lights Switch-on - 45 minutes from Greenwood Grange
Head for this traditional resort on 1 December and see the illuminations twinkle into life. You can also make a lantern to join in the Santa’s Parade to the Christmas tree.
Santa’s Grottos – various locations
Little ones can visit Father Christmas and his elves in several Santa’s grottos in Dorset, including Farmer Palmer’s Farm Park, Adventure Wonderland and Kingston Lacy (see above). He’ll also be aboard Santa Special trains from Swanage, on Christmas cruises around Poole Harbour, arriving at the Bovington Tank Museum by armoured vehicle and going down the chimney of the Red Lion Hotel in Wareham.