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Alternative ideas for spending Valentine's Day in Dorset

Dorset is well known for its dramatic coastline, beautiful beaches and rolling hills, so it’s no surprise that each year thousands of people flock to the county to celebrate that most romantic of holidays – Valentine’s Day. If you’re planning a romantic break in a Dorset holiday cottage with your loved one, you will probably have scouted out all of the best restaurants and romantic events in the area. However, if you’re looking for something unique to do with your partner to celebrate this year, Dorset also offers plenty of unique Valentine’s Day events and activities for the unconventional couple.

Try your hand at a couples’ treasure trail

A relaxing stroll is the perfect way to enjoy Valentine’s Day with your loved one, but to make your day even more special, add some extra interest to your ramblings. Whether you’re visiting for a Dorset cottage holiday or simply want to get to know your local area better, a treasure trail is an exciting and fun way to spend a day. Dorset Treasure Trails offer an impressive 63 self-guided trails in the county, which you can follow to uncover outstandingly beautiful forests, quaint towns and historic sites.

Sam from Treasure Trails comments: “Spending quality time together and making memories is so much better than wasting money on a cheesy gift. Going on a treasure trail ticks all of these boxes. Have a giggle with your loved one and explore somewhere new on a treasure trail. Our self-guided trails have even played a part in a wedding proposal!” Discover more about this unusual engagement in this video:

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Enjoy some modern theatre

You may think that theatre doesn’t quite qualify as an alternative Valentine’s Day activity, but thanks to Artsreach, Dorset’s arts charity, you can enjoy something very much out-of-the-ordinary on Valentine’s weekend. The charity is hosting a tour by the outstanding actor Dave Mynne – a unique take on The Odyssey that stands as a testament to the phrase; “Love? It’s all Greek!” Kerry Bartlett from Artsreach says:

“Those in Dorset next week for Valentine’s weekend can enjoy an exciting tale thanks to Artsreach, the county’s rural arts charity. Acclaimed performer Dave Mynne presents The Odyssey at two stunning rural locations in this beautiful county. Travel to hell and back in the company of heroes, gods and monsters as a host of exciting (and daft) characters, including a cyclops, a six-headed monster and the terrifying sea god Poseidon, conjure up a mighty storm and keep you on the edge of your seat. Let these be the only unsuitable-suitors this Valentine’s day! Catch The Odyssey – Greek Stuff in Kimmeridge at Sydling St Nicholas on Thursday 16th and Saturday 18th February respectively.”

Adventure films at Banff Mountain Film Festival

For the more adventurous couple, why not fit in a little travel inspiration to your day? This year, the prestigious Banff Mountain Film Festival World Tour is visiting Dorset, sharing the most exciting explorations from the world’s best extreme sportspeople. Rosie from the festival comments: "The Banff Mountain Film Festival World Tour is an excellent way to spend Valentine's Day - we often run screenings on February 14th and they are always popular! “An evening at the Banff Tour involves a hand-picked collection of short adventure films which are uplifting, inspirational and will leave you feeling motivated and excited about all the adventures you can have with your other half this year.

“Join us as we journey to the world's wildest destinations with some of the most intrepid explorers. And you don't need to be Bear Grylls to enjoy the event - the show appeals to anyone with a sense of adventure, and is a thrilling, life-affirming experience to share with your partner.” Rosie notes, “There's even a prize giveaway at the interval, so if you're lucky you might be able to save on the red roses and win some outdoorsy goodies instead!” Head to the Lighthouse Theatre in Poole on Tuesday 14th February to catch a slice of the action.

‘I Love Wildlife’ crafts day

One of the main attractions in Dorset is the county’s diverse wildlife. If you and your partner are wildlife lovers, why not use this day to give something back to the local flora and fauna? Many of us will be heading out for a picturesque walk along Dorset’s beaches on Valentine’s Day, and this year, Dorset Wildlife Trust are hosting a special event to celebrate. Visit the Chesil Beach Centre on one of Dorset’s most famous beaches for their ‘I Love Wildlife’ event. Make gifts for the wildlife in your garden with your partner in this brilliant bonding activity that will lend your day a real feel-good element. The event starts at 11am, and the price for crafts range from 50p-£1.

Alternatively, if you want to keep your Valentine’s Day old-fashioned, but don’t fancy spending your money on chocolates and flowers, give you and your partner the gift of nature by adopting one of Dorset’s rare red squirrels. Brownsea Island is one of very few places in the UK where these enigmatic animals can still be found. For just £20, you can contribute to a scheme maintaining the habitat that supports over 200 of these adorable creatures. Not only will you receive an adoption pack including information and a red squirrel soft toy; you will also be able to enjoy many walks on the island in the future in the knowledge that these precious animals are protected. You may even spot the inquisitive squirrels yourself!

Go donkey walking

If you’re looking for an even more hands-on animal experience for you and your beau this Valentine’s Day, one truly unique experience that you’ll never forget is offered by Donkey Walking Adventures in Dorset. This is the only place in the whole of the UK where you can not only meet donkeys, but groom them and actually take them out on a walk around the countryside. Chris from Donkey Walking Adventures explains that their one-of-a-kind service has brought in visitors from many parts of the world, who love having the chance to cuddle, walk and preen what is their very own donkey for the day. He notes that each donkey is hand-reared in what has been a one-man endeavour for over ten years. The Donkey Sanctuary charity helped Chris set the experience up, and it has expanded from a small company to a major attraction featured in the likes of the Sunday Times. Spend a laid-back Valentine’s Day strolling among the gorgeous Dorset landscape with your donkey and your partner, before stopping off at a local pub for lunch, where your donkey can even nibble on a bowl of chips – although they can’t go inside, of course!

Picnic on a Sunset boat trip

If you don’t want to stray too far from the traditional Valentine’s Day itinerary, but still feel like trying something unique and memorable, a sunset boat ride is the perfect pastime. Dorset’s stunning waterways are world-famous, and whether it be a leisurely trip to Brownsea Island or a relaxing cruise along the Wareham River, a boat ride is an intimate way to spend your special day. Sunset is the perfect time to embark upon your romantic sailing experience, with the warm, soft light flickering over the rippling water. Many companies in Dorset offer boat rides, such as Greenslade Pleasure Boats, whose traditional colourful vessels have been transporting tourists since 1970. Departing from Poole Harbour, you can tour everywhere from the harbour itself to the Swanage coast. They even offer themed private hire, with a fully licensed bar ready for a toast with your other half.

To make the experience even more special, why not enjoy a sunset picnic on-board, featuring delicious local produce? This year, Roberts’ Food Service are offering a Valentine’s Day picnic hamper featuring treats from Dorset handmade cake company, Jessica’s Cakes. Share a heart-shaped all butter shortbread with a raspberry jam centre, or a melt-in-the-mouth rich chocolate cupcake as you watch the sun settle beyond the horizon.

Image credits: Ben Cremin (Visualhunt) / Treasure Trails / Artsreach / Banff Mountain Film Festival / Ray eye (Wikimedia Commons) / James Cross Photography (Shutterstock)

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