An English Christmas Trip: Some Notes About the Dorset Portion of Our Trip


Updown Cottage at Christmas Last Year

I’ve written at length at what we have planned for the London portion of our trip so now I’d like to move on to what we have planned while we’re in Dorset. When this post is published, we’ll be on our way to Dorset after picking up our rental car (the glories of scheduling in advance).

This is the part of the trip we’re looking forward to the most. We’re going to be spending a total of 2 1/2 weeks in Dorset, long enough that we suspect the place will feel like home when we finally have to leave (trying not to think about that).

For those that don’t know, we’ll be spending Christmas in Shaftesbury, Dorset, a place that holds a lot of special meaning for us. You can read all about why we love this place so much in this old post here.

We’ll be staying in a self-catering cottage, located right on Gold Hill called Updown Cottage, a beautiful old cottage that has been lovingly restored by its owners (who happen to be good friends of ours). It’s the perfect place to spend a family Christmas and we cannot wait to arrive.

This will be the most ‘vacationy’ part of our trip, for several reasons.

We do most of our business directly with the UK. Well, during the 2 weeks around Christmas and New Year’s, the UK pretty much shuts for business. There’s a trickle of work, but for the most part I have a lot of free time during the holiday season.

So, this will be an opportunity for us to detach from work a little bit and enjoy ourselves. Don’t worry though, we’ll still be updating the site and our Facebook page and our email newsletter will still go out every Tuesday (the glories of advance scheduling).

The London part of our trip is going to be very hectic, so it will be a nice change of pace to slow down and take in the scenery. Go for long walks with my son and my camera. Enjoy a hot cooked meal on Christmas. Snuggle up in front of the fireplace and watch great British Telly. It’s going to be lovely.

What exactly will we be getting up to while we’re in Dorset?

As always, I have a list.

Dorset Experience We’re Looking Forward to Most

Salisbury Christmas Market – I’m really looking forward to this as it’s one of the most popular Christmas markets in the UK and I’m looking forward to picking up some locally made gifts.

Flight Above Dorset – Last time I was in Dorset, a local friend look me up in his plane from the Compton Abbas airport and I took some great pictures of Dorset from above. He has kindly agreed to take me up again if the weather is suitable.

Photo Expedition with a local Dorset Photographer – I’m a big fan of a local photographer, I buy his Dorset Calendar every year, and I wrote him and asked if he’d be interested in a photo expedition around Dorset since he knows all the best places to get good pictures and he has kindly agreed. I’m really looking forward to this.

Meeting with Friends – Of course, the one thing I’m looking forward to most is meeting up with our friends that we haven’t seen since our last trip. When we first started traveling here, we didn’t have any local friends so we felt very alien and like tourists. Now that we have a few good friends, we feel like we’re coming home.

Swanage Steam Railway Santa Express – There’s a heritage Steam Railway that runs out of Swanage and every Christmas they have a special Santa Train where kids get to meet Santa and have a fun Christmas day out. I had to book tickets weeks ago and now they’re sold out – so I know this is going to be fun!

Christmas at Stourhead – We fell in love with the Stately Home and Gardens of Stourhead on our last visit and we’re very excited about going back as the house is going to be decorated for Christmas. We also really want to go for a walk in the gardens, as long as the weather is pleasant, which according to the forecasts it should be.

Traditional British Christmas – Obviously, this is the main reason we’re going! We are very much looking forward to having a traditional British Christmas. It’s going to be quite surreal to wake up on Christmas morning in Shaftesbury and hear the church bells ring out. Can’t wait to open our presents (the cottage owners will be providing a tree and decorations) in the cottage. We can now watch all our favorite Christmas Specials when they air (Doctor Who! Downton!) and enjoy the Queen’s Christmas Message in the proper place. Mrs. Anglotopia is also planning on cooking a traditional Christmas Lunch and we’ve already ordered the Turkey from the local butcher.

Portsmouth Dockyard Visit – In the lull between Christmas and New Year’s we’re going to venture over to Hampshire and visit the HMS Victory at the Portsmouth Dockyards, along with the Mary Rose and the other items on display. I’m quite excited about seeing that iconic ship. England Expects!

Visit to Chesil Beach – It’s strange, I’ve always wanted to visit Chesil Beach, the famous several mile long beach of rock near Weymouth, but every time I’ve tried to go, we’ve been prevented. First time, we got so lost we gave up trying to get there (it was our first time driving), second time the weather didn’t cooperate, third time we just ran out of time. So, this trip I’m determined to visit Chesil Beach.

Visit the Abandoned Village of Tyneham – Tyneham is a small village where the residents were forcibly relocated during World War II and never allowed to return. Now, the village is a crumbling ruin and it’s usually open to the curious on the weekends (it’s located on Ministry of Defense owned land). During the Christmas season, it’s open to visitors so I really want to pay a visit.

Visit West Bay – West Bay is now famous as the setting for the hit ITV show Broadchurch and it’s now become a popular spot to visit for tourists. So, we’ll definitely try to make a stop.

We also have a large list of attractions we’d like to visit while we’re in Dorset but we haven’t set any of them in stone. We’re going to play it by ear and decide to do things when it suits best. There’s no rush to pack every day full of stuff – we have 16 glorious days in Dorset.

Do you have any recommendations for things to visit in Dorset, Wiltshire or Somerset? Let us know in the comments!

Read More at Anglotopia


  1. avatarSteve Clark says

    You are going to have a fantastic time! Glad to see you will make it to my home town (Portsmouth). Have a very Happy Christmas and we look forward to the rest of your posts. Reading this make me long for our trip next Christmas to the Isle of Wight – a place close to our hearts and where I first took my American wife on a trip. We are renting a cottage there for our stay.

  2. avatarMichelle says

    I had never heard of Tyneham until I read it here…only knew about village of Imber here in Moonraker country…abandoned for same reasons.
    Lacock and Castle Coombe are beautiful villages not far from each other if you are heading north to Wiltshire but probably best to visit in Spring/Summer.
    A free guided tour of Salisbury cathedral if you visit is highly recommended. Lots to learn about these beautiful buildings that are missed if you go around on your own.
    Happy Christmas….don’t forget ‘cheese and biscuits’ for your Christmas fare…cheddar and Stilton yum!

  3. avatarPhaedra says

    Chesil Beach is lovely! I have sat on that beach many times! There’s a lovely restaurant on Portland called the Cove, that..if you’re there on a clear can see Wales. (It’s just down the road from Chesil Beach.) Visit downtown Weymouth…very lovely! Also…hit up Dorchester and visit “The Keep”..a military museum. Anglotopia Jr. might like that a lot! There’s also a market there, but can’t remember which day it’s open. (I’m thinking Wednesday.)

  4. avatarDavid Ashford says

    Got to go to Glastonbury if you can. It was known as Avalon in Arthurian legend. If you go on a clear day, see if you can climb Glastonbury Tor to the old Abbey. The view is astonishing.

  5. avatarGardenOfEnglandGirl says

    You could combine West Bay with watching/joining the Boxing Day swim. Much better thing to do than go to the sales. Here is website: Also Riverside restaurant is so far the best fish/seafood restaurant I’ve been to.
    And don’t forget to make bubble & squeak and combine with Christmas left over cold meats, pickles etc on that too :-)

    Your itinary of chesil beach, swanage etc takes me back to my gcse geography field trip! I would say don’t forget to see Lulworth Cove inc Durdle Door :-)
    Happy Christmas

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