Dorset’s best summer festivals

Summer is here and that means Dorset will be hosting some incredible festivals over the next few months, from beach polo to some of the biggest music events in the UK.

If you are staying in Dorset holiday cottages this summer, then you need to read our round-up of the very best festivals you can attend.

British Beach Polo Championships

To mark the 10th anniversary of the British Beach Polo Championships, which are held at Sandbanks in Poole, organisers have revealed that the festival event will be the biggest beach polo event in the world.

The ancient sport of polo dates back to Persia in 600 BC and is now played in over 80 countries on grass, sand and snow. The British Beach Polo Championships in Dorset will be staging a four team main competition, but running alongside this will be university and junior matches, international beach volleyball and other activities including polo pony and a 4x4 charity race.

Sandpolo Ambassador, model and polo player, Jodie Kidd says, “You simply cannot beat the polo at Sandbanks; it gathers some of the world’s top polo players together on a wonderful blue flag beach in July for some exceptional polo, a great party atmosphere and a fashionable crowd dancing to top DJs on the beach.”

Jamie Morrison, who is a polo professional, adds, “Sandbanks’ beach polo is a phenomenal event. My players thoroughly enjoy the level of competition, the size and enthusiasm of the crowd and, frankly, spending a few days in a magical part of Dorset overlooking Poole Harbour and Old Harry Rocks.”

The international beach volleyball championships is now a regular attraction and the sport has become even more popular since being sold out at the London Olympics back in 2012. The event also hosts legendary beach parties to finish both days, kicking off at 7pm, with the last revellers leaving the beach around 1am.

Date of festival: 7-8 July

Pommery Dorset Seafood Festival

The Pommery Dorset Seafood Festival is the UK’s largest free-to-attend seafood festival and is now an annual summer event.

This year the Weymouth Harbour based festival will be celebrating its 10th anniversary and is once again expecting to welcome crowds of over 50,000 people. The festival hosts some of the top names in seafood produce, chefs, and fishing.

The seafood festival raises money for the Fishermen's Mission, a charity that offers immediate assistance, day or night, to the families of fishermen who have been killed or seriously injured. The theme explores the journey our seafood takes from ‘Sea to Plate’ and provides visitors with an enriching experience that is not only entertaining, but imparts a better understanding of the sea, the fishermen and the difficulties they face, the coast and the issues of sustainable fishing and environmental impact.

If you visit this year’s festival, you can head to more than 90 stands and listen to Fishy Tales, hosted by Nick Fisher with Jeremy Paxman – the first live and interactive celebrity seafood discussion panel at the Pommery Dorset Seafood Festival. There is also a kids’ zone with a large children’s workshop to enjoy, an international circus, lots of live music and even the HMS Severn moored in the harbour so the crew and captain can tell you all about the vessel

Date of festival: 8-9 July

Camp Bestival

Camp Bestival will once again be taking place at the stunning Lulworth Castle and against the backdrop of England’s dramatic Jurassic coastline.

The family-friendly festival, which won the best family festival award in 2009, 2010, 2013 and 2014, is highly recommended by Visit Dorset and this year the event is celebrating its 10th year.

The music played at the festival covers a variety of genres, but on top of internationally recognised artists smashing out their hits, there is stand-up comedy and DJ sets to enjoy as well.

This year’s live acts include Madness, Mark Ronson, All Saints and Kate Nash, whilst some of the comedians performing include Reginald D Hunter and Kidocracy.

Date of festival: 27-30 July

Great Dorset Chilli Festival

Officially the hottest day out in Dorset, the Great Dorset Chilli Festival, which is held at Wimborne St Giles, is a great event to visit for chilli enthusiasts, food lovers and families.

The 7th festival will have lots of stalls selling all things chilli, from pepper plants to cayenne condiments; seeds to ceramics; plus cooking demonstrations; talks on growing chillies; artisan food producers; music; spicy street food; local ice creams to cool the mouth and local beers to slake the thirst.

The creation of the Dorset Naga, at one time reputed to be the world’s hottest chilli, has made the county one of the top destinations for chilli lovers to visit.

A number of competitions will take place over the first weekend of August including a chilli con carne cook-off, chilli plant growing competitions, chilli pepper growing competitions, and chilli sauce competitions, too.

If you are not a fan of hot food, then there are plenty of things to eat with cheeses, chocolates, jams, garlic, chilli ginger beer and Dorset ice cream all being served.

One of the highlights of the festival is the chilli eating competition - just too much fun to miss.

Date of festival: 5-6 August

Burton Bradstock Festival of Music and Art

The Burton Bradstock Festival of Music and Art is six days of amazing music, but it also hosts an exhibition displaying some of the finest ceramics and art in the South West.

The music festival is filled with classical, folk and jazz music and it regularly welcomes internationally-recognised artists from around the world.

Alexandra Ridout, who won the 2016 BBC Young Musician jazz award, as well as other popular artists including Ross Brown, Milos Milivijevc, Craig Ogden and David Gordon will all be performing at the popular event.

Date of festival: 12-20 August

Great Dorset Steam Fair

The fair is a fun and action packed day out for all the family and 2017 sees it reach its 49th birthday.

The Great Dorset Steam Fair is the world’s largest heritage and cultural event showcasing Great Britain’s national industrial, agricultural and leisure history.

You will be amazed at the variety of exhibitions and the sheer scale of the show as there is always something to see and do at the festival.

As well as the steam engines, there is a music festival, fairground, stunt displays, a food hall, craft marquee and lots, lots more.

Date of festival: 24-28 August

Bridport Hat Festival

If you want to attend a quirkier festival, then the Bridport Hat Festival is the one you want to attend. This will be the 8th edition and the town centre will be taken over by thousands of hat wearers.

You can expect to see competitions, live acts and enjoy lots of food and drink, too. Of course, there is ample opportunity to buy yourself and all your family a hat at the trade stalls.

During the festival, there will be pop-up bands, street buskers and other street entertainment taking place throughout the town.

Date of festival: 2 September


This four-day music festival, which was originally held on the Isle of Wight, has this year relocated to the Lulworth Estate in Dorset.

Bestival is the bigger brother of Camp Bestival and usually attracts over 40,000 festival goers and although there are lots of different things to do here it is primarily a music festival.

The festival has won multiple awards and is now regarded as one of the best music festivals in the UK, attracting some of the most renowned musicians in the world.

This year’s line-up is certainly impressive with the likes of the XX, Dizzee Rascal, Pet Shop Boys, Rag’n’Bone Man, Wiley, Jamie T and Radio 1 DJ Annie Mac all set to perform.

There are a number of stages and attractions for you to enjoy so it’s best to work out who you really want to see before you visit as there is expected to be a bumper crowd this year.

Date of festival: 7-10 September

Image Credits: Lee Collier, Alex Brenner (BE Festival), Dean (flickr.com), Gary Ullah

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