Twinkling lights, frosty hills, mulled wine and log fires, Dorset in December is a truly magical setting for a winter escape. From festive markets and coastal walks to historic sites and wildlife encounters, the county's charm takes on a new dimension during the colder months.

Visit the festive markets

December is synonymous with Christmas markets and Dorset doesn't disappoint, boasting a range of festive markets that offer an array of locally crafted gifts, comforting treats, and an enchanting ambience.

The Bournemouth Christmas Market exudes a magical Alpine village feel with its wooden chalets, illuminations and and a wide selection of homemade products. Symondsbury Estate Christmas Market is also a highlight, selling luxury giftware, festive decorations, homeware and artisan food and drink.

Wandering through these markets is not only a chance to buy some special gifts but a chance to really embrace the seasonal cheer.

Bournemouth Xmas Market at night with fireworks

Coastal walks with a wintry twist

While summer is known for sandy beaches and refreshing dips in the sea, Dorset's coastline holds a special allure in winter.

Bundle up and embark on coastal walks that offer spectacular views of dramatic cliffs and crashing waves against a backdrop of winter skies.

Wander along the path at Durdle Door or Lulworth Cove and experience the serenity of this beautiful place without the crowds. From early to mid December, you can view the sunrise shining through the arch of Durdle Door, a moment photographers flock to capture!

A walk around Hambledon Hill is equally captivating, with its far reaching countryside vistas. On misty, December days you can walk to the top and feel like you are on a green isle in a sea made of clouds.

Sun rising through Durdle Door arch in DecemberImage credit: Steve Hogan

Celebrate the winter solstice

The winter solstice is an ancient celebration that marks the shortest day of the year. Also known as Yule, it’s where traditions like carolling and Yule logs come from.

A special place to celebrate the solstice in Dorset is at Studland Bay where you can join the National Trust rangers for a magical morning walk to view the sunrise from Old Harry Rocks followed by a full English breakfast at Knoll Beach Cafe.

Alternatively, you can witness sunrise or sunset at one of Dorset’s stone circles such as Black Down, Kingston Russell or Hampton Down.

Old Harry Rocks with a moody, cloudy sky

Step aboard the Polar Express!

Journey through Purbeck on The Polar Express Train Ride and experience the wonder of the much-loved festive film from the comfort of a Swanage Railway heritage carriage.

Wear your favourite winter pyjamas & dressing gown as you sip on a mug of hot chocolate and watch the magic unfold before your eyes – there’ll be all the characters you know and love, along with singing and dancing to get you and your family into the Christmas spirit.

Snowy scene at corfe castle station

Magical Christmas light displays

December is the month of twinkling lights, and Dorset knows how to put on a show.

Explore the spectacular Illuminate at Abbotsbury Subtropical Gardens, where the gardens come alive with dazzling, colourful displays.

The Poole Maritime Christmas Light Display is back for its second year with thousands of twinkling lights and art installations taking you on a nautical journey through the town.

For a more traditional experience, why not visit one of Dorset’s Christmas Tree Festivals where you can wander round beautiful churches adorned with a dazzling array of decorated trees.

Poole Maritime Xmas Lights

Winter wildlife encounters

Dorset's natural beauty extends to its wildlife, and winter provides unique opportunities for spotting some of its most remarkable inhabitants.

Head to the RSPB Arne Nature Reserve, home of BBC's Winterwatch to catch sight of Sika deer, Dartford warblers, and other birds.

The Fleet Lagoon, a haven for birdwatchers, attracts a diverse array of waders and waterfowl during the colder months.

Avocet wading bird, copyright Peter MoorePhoto credit: Peter Moore

Cosy accommodation and spa retreats

Winter getaways are all about warmth and comfort, and Dorset offers a range of cosy places to stay.

Whether you opt for a charming countryside cottage or a luxury spa resort, you'll find yourself enveloped in comfort.

After a day of exploring, unwind next to the wood burner or warm up in a thermal suite with a winter-themed spa treatment and indoor facilities that leave you feeling on cloud nine.

Baileys and jenga by a log firePhoto credit: Greenwood Grange

New Year's Eve celebrations

Wrap up your December getaway with a memorable New Year's Eve celebration in Dorset.

Many towns and villages host fireworks displays and parties that light up the night sky as you welcome the new year in style.

Fireworks over The Cobb at the Candles on The Cobb event in Lyme Regis, Dorset

Ready to book?

Whether you're a nature lover, a foodie, or simply someone who appreciates the enchantment of the holiday season, Dorset has something to offer.

So, bundle up, embrace the festive spirit, and explore the captivating landscapes and activities that make Dorset in December a winter wonderland worth discovering.

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