TOWNS and villages will be illuminated over the coming days as Christmas lights are switched on across Dorset and the New Forest.

The festivities will begin on Friday evening when the lights are switched on at Castlepoint Shopping Park. From 1pm to 5pm, there will be a free lantern making workshop and live music ahead of the big switch on. The stars of Bournemouth’s panto Jack and the Beanstalk will also be making an appearance including pop star Rachel Stevens, Mark Moraghan (Holby City) and Derek Moran (Channel 5’s Milkshake).

Christmas magic also comes to Lymington on Friday. From 4pm, there will be stalls selling festive treats with the lights being switched on by the Mayor at 6.15pm before Santa Claus comes to town.

Then on Saturday it's the turn of Southbourne to shine bright. Between 4.30pm and 5.30pm, there will be traditional carols and music, mulled wine and refreshments as well as the annual Christmas raffle.

Wimborne's annual switch-on will see performances in the Square from 10.30am on Saturday from a host of acts including Wimborne Ukelele Band, Just Sing Adult Choir, Viva Voices, St James' First School and Footlight Dancers with carols performed by Allenbourn Middle School Brass Band. The lights will be switched on by the Mayor at 4.30pm followed by firing on the Minster Green by Wimborne Militia at 4.45pm.

The popular Christchurch Christmas Festival returns on Saturday with a festive market from 10am followed by live reindeer in Saxon Square from 2pm. The Santa parade will start at Priory Gates at 4.30pm before the big Christmas lights switch on at 6pm. An Alpine bar will be open in Saxon Square from 12noon until 11pm.

Ferndown's extravaganza also takes place this Saturday and will see stalls, live music across two stages from the likes of Becca Fludgate, Emma Hardy and Calvin-Billington Glen, amusements and rides for children in Penny's Walk between 1pm and 5pm. The grand finale will be the switching on of the town's twinkling lights.

Swanage will also be lit up this Saturday with the town's annual illuminations taking place at around 4.30pm.

Ringwood will turn on its Christmas lights in style on Saturday, December 2. A festive market will take place between 10am and 6pm, with Father Christmas welcoming visitors to his Grotto from 10am to 3pm. The lights will be switched on at 4.30pm plus there will be free parking at all New Forest District Council car parks all day, in support of Small Business Saturday.

Corfe Castle will also be transformed into a winter wonderland next Saturday, with the big switch on taking place at 4.30pm.