It may be the dark and freezing depths of winter, but that means it’s a great time to get planning your Ultimate Dorset Year. Time to tick off all those things you meant to see and visit in this beautiful county, but never got round to. To help you choose we’ve dreamed up 12 fabulous Dorset Things to Do in 2018 - one for each month

1 Say hello to the Cerne Abbas Giant. He may be the rudest man in Dorset, whose origins go right back to the Iron Age, but he’s a friendly fellow – all 180-foot of him. He’s an international as well as a Dorset icon for reasons which will become obvious when you get closer...

2 Watch the sun come up round Durdle Door. For a few weeks before the winter solstice each year, it’s possible to witness the sun rising through Durdle Door, this county’s iconic limestone arch.

3 Explore the Lost Village of Tyneham. It’s 74 years since the villagers of this tiny hamlet were ordered by the War Office to pack their bags and leave just before Christmas 1943.The area had been requisitioned as a military training area to prepare troops for D-Day and the subsequent Battle of Normandy. After they left, a note was found pinned to the church door which said: “Please treat the church and houses with care. We have given up our homes, where many of us have lived for generations, to help win the war and keep men free. We shall return one day and thank you for treating the village kindly.” More info on village opening times at uk/lulworth-range-walks.

4 Sail away to Brownsea Island. The island upon which Enid Blyton’s Famous Five’s Kirrin was based, Brownsea is also the birthplace of the scouting movement and home to an endearing colony of red squirrels. For details of how to get there contact

5 Find a fossil at Lyme Regis. Mary Anning was just 12 when she discovered the bony remains of an ichthyosaur in 1811, at a time when folk still believed they were placed in the rocks by the devil to ‘muddle men’s minds’. The cliffs along the Jurassic Coast are dangerous and prone to sudden rock falls so do take care when foraging there.

6 See the swans of Abbotsbury. Abbotsbury Swannery – the real Swan Lake – is the only place in the world where you are able to walk through the heart of a colony of nesting Mute Swans and the best time to do it is in the spring, when the cygnets have hatched.

7 Listen to the sound of the waves at Chesil Beach. The noise created by waves breaking over Chesil Beach’s 18 miles of perfectly graded stones is so beautiful it’s been turned into an art installation. The eponymous book, by Ian McEwan, and filmed on the beach itself, is about to be released as a production by the BBC.

8 Gaze upon The Blue Pool. Very fine clay in suspension in the waters of this Wareham beauty spot diffracts light to produce a spectrum of colour depending on the conditions – sometimes blue, sometimes turquoise, but always beautiful and a little bit mysterious.

9 Visit Clouds Hill House, home of Lawrence of Arabia. There are just four rooms in this tiny dwelling, which was used as a refuge by the mystical and celebrated T E Lawrence when he tired of the hubbub of military life at nearby Bovington Camp. It contains many of hisfavourite artworks, possessions and inventions and if you’re fortunate enough to be alone in one of the rooms, you can literally feel the beat of his heart.

10 Go down Gold Hill. Or up, the choice is yours. Either way, seeing the Shaftesbury street made world-famous by Ridley Scott’siconic Hovis advert will lift your heart.

11 Walk (a bit) of the South West Coastal Path. Start at Poole and keep going until you reach the county boundary. Or just keep going, as thousands have.

12 Gaze upon Midsummer. She’s the Russell-Cotes Museum’s most popular painting and no wonder. Just looking at her will make you feel warmer, even if you visit in the depths of winter.