A Field Guide to Dorset Festivals

From the colourfully quirky to the sizzlingly soulful, the Dorset festival scene has never been more vibrant.


This summer, if you’re staying in one of our Dorset holiday cottages and want to go footloose and fancy free in a field, then have a scroll through our festival guide and see what grabs you….

Coastliners Festival, 21st April

Set on the historic harbour at ‘Old Pool Town’, Coastliners is a celebration of traditional sea shanties and seafaring-folk. You can look forward to performances from some of the UK’s top shanty bands and folk acts, plus enjoy workshops, film screenings and learn all about Dorset’s rich cultural heritage. This event is produced by students at the Arts Univerisity Bournemouth.

Lyme Regis Fossil Festival, 4th – 6th May

The Lyme Regis Fossil Festival is perfect for any youngsters who possess a keen interest in earth sciences and is also great fun for all the family. You can enjoy walks, talks, theatre, music, comedy, exhibits, plus you can pick the brains of some of the country’s most eminent scientists. Most of the exhibition venues are free.

Bournmouth 7s, 25th – 27th May

They call it the ‘Sporting Glastonbury’, Bournemouth 7s combines a festival atmosphere with some formidable sporting events attracting hundreds of sports teams from all over the country. Twelve themed festival arenas and more than forty live acts and DJs help make it the world’s largest sports and music festival.

Swanage Fish Festival, 9th– 10th June

You’re invited to Swanage Fish Festival for a ‘mouth-watering array of exotic fish fare’ served up by some the finest seafood chefs in Dorset. Whether it’s champagne and oysters or a fish-finger bap and cuppa, sit back and relax in the splendid Prince Albert Gardens and enjoy the sparkling views of the bay.

Bournemouth Food & Drink Festival, 15th – 24th June

The seaside town of Bournemouth hosts a ten-day festival full of cookery displays, cocktail masterclasses and kitchen demos in what will be an upbeat culinary extravaganza on the Dorset coast. Expect mouth-watering street food and funky live music from the festival hub right through to the town square.

Bridport Beer Festival, 16th June

This is one for the beer lovers. The Bridport Beer Festival plays host to more than eighty real ales and ciders, from the ‘light and fruity’ to the ‘dark and broody’. It doesn’t matter if you’re a ‘grizzled old quaffer’ or a ‘green-horned sipper’, there’s sure to be a brew for you at this merry old shindig in West Dorset.

Purbeck Pirate Festival, 1st – 2nd  July

‘Shiver-me-timbers’, it’s the Purbeck Pirate Festival back for another yearrrrrr, me hearties. Jump aboard the Frigate Shtandart, an exact replica of the man-of-war built by Peter the Great in 1703 in defence of Saint Petersburg. Watch the clash of cutlasses as the pirates do battle and enjoy a whole host of pirate-style entertainment, from face painting to treasure trails. Loads of fun for the whole family.

Pommery Dorset Seafood Festival, 14th – 15th July

Champagne and seafood, the perfect combination…Pommery Dorset Seafood Festival is a celebration of the county’s rich and diverse coastal cuisine, including live demonstrations from ‘seafood superheroes’ and more than one hundred food stalls. There’ll be plenty to ‘chin-chin’ about at this two-day soirée.

Larmer Tree Festival, 19th – 22nd July

Back for its 27th year, Larmer Tree Festival is one of the UK’s most beloved gatherings offering up a combination of breathtaking scenery and outstanding line-ups. This ‘eccentric’ summer garden party stretches over three delightful days and four joyful nights in the Larmer Tree Gardens, in the heart of Cranborne Chase. Featuring at this year’s festival will be Jake Bugg, First Aid Kit, and Public Service Broadcasting.

Tolpuddle Martyrs Festivals, 20th July – 22nd July

A commemoration of the six Tolpuddle farm workers who bravely fought for workers’ rights and formed one of the first trade union movements in Britain. The festival dates back all the way to 1875 when the Agricultural Workers Union presented an engraved watch to James Hammett, the only one of six martyrs to return home to Tolpuddle.

Camp Bestival Festival, 26th – 29th July

Simple Minds, Rick Astley, Clean Bandit, Orbital, Basement Jaxx…just some of the headline acts that will be performing at this year’s Camp Bestival Festival hosted by Lulworth Castle and set to the backdrop of Dorset’s magnificent Jurassic Coast.

Bournemouth Air Festival, 30th July – 2nd September

It’s ‘chocks away’ for the award-winning and internationally renowned Bournemouth Air Festival. There’ll be action in the skies above the seafront, including some amazing pyrotechnic night flying, plus street entertainment, live music and military performances.

The Great Dorset Chilli Festival, 28th – 29th July

It’s the hottest day out in Dorset and ‘a must’ for all those with a passion for peppers. Held at St Giles Park, home of the Earl of Shaftesbury, The Great Dorset Chilli Festival has a packed schedule of cooking demos, talks on growing techniques, artisan food stalls, music, spicy street food, Dorset ice cream and local ales. If you’re feeling brave, you can sample the famous ‘Dorset Naga’, at one time reputed to be the hottest chilli on the planet!

River Cottage Festival, 25th – 26th August

Mad Dog Mcrea, RSVP Bangra, and Lauren Bannon are just some of the exciting musical talent set to take to the stage at this year’s River Cottage Festival. There’s also a wonderful array of feasts and tipples, including street food, market stalls, a smoking fire pit and cocktails under canvas. Expect masterclasses, expert talks from guest speakers such as Prue Leith and Caroline Lucas, plus plenty of fun for the kiddywinks.

Lyme Regis Folk Festival, 31st August – 2nd September

Show of Hands, Ninebarrow & Friends, and Merry Hell…just some of the exciting folk acts set to light up the stage at this year’s Lyme Regis Folk Festival. This colourful event is now a seasoned entry on the UK’s folk festival calendar and has a reputation for throwing the spotlight on talented local artists.

Bridport Hat Festival, 1st September

It’s a monster bash, a multi-celebration of all things hats. Bridport Hat Festival raises hundreds of pounds for head-related charities and doffs its cap to some of the most creative and stylish headwear around. Expect live music, games, hatted dogs, talks, displays, and a hat auction to end all hat auctions.

b-side festival, 8th – 16th September

This bi-annual event aims to illuminate the often forgotten and less commercial aspects of local coastal towns and communities. ‘b-side’ provides ‘moments of reflection, beauty, surreal interventions and unexpected encounters with art’.

The Purbeck Nordic Walking Festival, 14th – 16th September

Also known as ‘Purplebeck’, The Purbeck Nordic Walking Festival brings together walkers, ramblers and hikers to enjoy the stunning paths and trails around the Jurassic coast, from Brownsea Island to Old Harry Rocks. Expect three days of yomping plus evening socials and live music at the festival hub beneath Corfe Castle.

Swanage Blues Festival, 4th – 7th October

One hundred plus musicians, sixty gigs, and more venues than you can count on your fingers…the Swanage Blues Festival is a four-day blues bonanza. Expect a warm welcome all over town as you discover intimate acoustic sessions and foot-stomping barroom beats. Aspiring performers are invited to take part in the Electric Jam sessions, Open Mic sessions and Stan’s Blues Jamboree.

Bridport Literary Festival, 4th – 11th November

Wordsmiths and booklovers everywhere are invited to one of Dorset’s most historic towns for the 14th annual Bridport Literary Festival which promises to be a real page-turner. Pop along for the latest chapter.