The Great British Summer Holiday: What To Do In Dorset

The Great British Summer Holiday
Hankering after the summer holidays of timeless picture-postcard glory? Discover our recommended list of the best classic summer activities for you and your family in Dorset. From festivals to film nights, fireworks to folk music, here are some of the events that will entertain everyone this summer.

There is the enduring stereotype that in England it rains constantly and all that British people do is drink tea and talk about the weather – either in Dick Van Dyke style cockney-rhyming-slang or the RP Queen’s English of the 1930’s. I suppose that means that if living in the UK was as real as this stereotype, we would all either be Mary Poppins, the chimney sweep or the old Bird Lady selling crumbs for “tuppence a bag”. We may drink a lot of tea as a nation, it is in fact raining in July and, as I have just proved, we talk about the weather a lot. However, London is not just the boxes on the monopoly board or the colourful streets of Paddington Bear and Britishness is a whole lot more colourful, varied, nuanced and interesting than any stereotype. Yet, there is something wholesome, nostalgic and appealing about the Great British…something. Sometimes in the rat race and drudgery of life, or in the human disconnect in the age of devices and soundproof headphones, we crave an experience or a time that feels more connected. That Dunkirk spirit, the camaraderie of the Blitz, the celebrations of VE day and the innocence of a summer fete. Life that seemed heartier and cosy, like an old episode of Midsomer Murders (without the murders) or an Enid Blyton storybook (without the antiquated racism). Just the nice bits, the community care and connection, the simple fun and joyful celebratory atmosphere. Sometimes we just want a taste of a cream-tea summer, like a snapshot from an old postcard. Sweet, simple, wholesome and with the slightly romantic air of rose-tinted glasses. We crave a taste of this time, this tone, all washed down with a cup of tea and lashings of ginger beer, as we shelter from the rain in a stripy coloured beach hut. It’s like we crave a slither of the childhood memories or endless summers where you could play outside all day and life was a lot more carefree and simple. Life of course is neither of these things, just as British people aren’t just stereotypes. With the rise of ‘cottage core’ and ‘slow living’ trends on platforms like Instagram and TickTock, we can see an appetite and hankering for elements of a more old-fashioned lifestyle and timeless entertainment. If this is what you are craving a taste of too, here is our list of Great British timeless summer activities in Dorset.

Old Swanage Railway Poster

Swanage Railway

Starting from the 22nd of July and carrying on through until the 3rd of September, all children aged 5-15 will be able to travel with an adult on the Swanage Railway for just £1. Literally travel back in time by experiencing a journey with Swanage Railway. “The heritage railway attraction operates full-size steam and diesel passenger trains along the five and a half miles of line from Norden to Corfe Castle and down to the Victorian seaside town of Swanage.” With stops including Corfe Castle, passengers are only a 12-minute walk to Dorset Adventure Park. A perfect way to spend a wholesome summer’s day – travelling by steam train to an outdoor activity spot in the heart of Purbeck’s woodland and at the food of Corfe Castle. A visit via steam train to Dorset Adventure Park captures the classic joy of simply playing together outside. The Aqua Park features two brilliant blue lakes with floating obstacle courses to race each other across, as well as the classic back to nature fun of the mud-trail with its own 50 obstacles to conquer. 

 We recommend a taxi from the station to Dorset Adventure Park, as the 3-minute drive will protect families from any unpaved stretches of road.

Old Candy Floss Photo

Summer Fetes, Fairs and Regattas

There is nothing more wholesome and charmingly British than a summer fete, fair or regatta. Nothing says summer time more than a carnival. Merry-go-rounds, bobbing plastic ducks, coconut shy, pimms, scones and sunset, summer clouds, floating in the skies like balls of (American) candy floss. A summer fair is timeless, good old-fashioned fun and luckily for those living in and visiting Dorset, there are quite a few scheduled throughout the summer season. These include Symondsbury Estate Summer Fete on from 10am until 4pm on Wednesday 26th July. This fete includes live music, Punch & Judy show, Morris Dancing, and a magic show. From the 29th of July to the 5th of August in the Swanage Carnival. This festival features a programme of events (including fire engine pulling) and an ‘under the sea’ theme. There is the ‘traditional village fete’ at Church Knowle from 2-5pm on the 5t of August. A cash only event that includes bric a brac, book and cake stalls, children’s activities like tug of war and the coconut shy as well as plenty of scones, tea and pimms. Also starting on the 5th and running until the 12th of August is the Lyme Regis Regatta, with events including: a fireworks display, torchlight procession, duck race, candles down the river and more family friendly activities. The week culminates in the Grand Carnival Procession.

From 10am-5pm, on the 19th to the 20th of August there promises to be a weekend of fun at the Canford Summer Fair.

Old cruise photo

Outdoor Cinema & Theatre

There are few summer events that feel as special as a trip to an outdoor cinema event. Given how much of our lives are spent numbly scrolling through streaming services like Netflix, a trip to any kind of cinema should seem uneventful. Yet, it is the event that makes it special. Instead of the everyday monotony of consuming films and binding tv series, with outdoor cinema events we take the time to really enjoy the collective magic of Hollywood. Hollywood may be as non-British as candy floss but the picnic aspect of outdoor cinema justifies it’s spot on this list – as well as the vintage nod to the drive-in movie phase of the 1950’s. From August the 25th-26th, there you can experience ‘Cinema Under The Stars’ as part of the Purbeck film festival. Other notable outdoor cinema events across Dorset this summer include screenings of: Mamma Mia, The Greatest Showman, Top Gun and Elvis

As a family, you can also experience outdoor theatre productions of Robin Hood and Shakespeare’s As You Like It. It doesn’t get much more quintessentially British than that. 

Old party photo

Brownsea Island

Like something that has fallen straight out of the storybook pages of Enid Blyton’s Famous Five, Magnificent Seven or Arthur Ransome’s Swallows and Amazons, Brownsea Island winks at the rest of Dorset like an untold adventure. From the 1st-31st of August, on Tuesdays, Wednesday’s and Thursdays at 11am-3pm, your family can visit the island for a ‘summer of play’. From making, moulding to exploring, Brownsea Island offers a cosy classic British summer holiday experience. 

Sometimes you just can’t beat a classic British summer – even when it rains.

Words by Olivia Lowry

4 1 vote
Article Rating
Notify of
Inline Feedbacks
View all comments

Share this page with your friends and Family


Thank you for your support!

Looking for something?