DORSET'S most charming festival made its return this weekend - and there were surprises around every corner for visitors.

The Purbeck Valley Folk Festival brought together some of the scene's best-loved performers, including Beth Orton and Richard Thompson.

But away from the main stage, there were plenty of other activities to enjoy for the whole family.

Here are our five highlights:

1. The venue: There can be few places in the world as picturesque as lovely Purbeck, and this event makes the most of its rural setting. Visitors to the folk festival park in sight of Corfe Castle and listen to live music in a barn. Drinkers sat atop straw bales in a makeshift bar. Saturday's gloomy weather and Sunday's drizzle only added to the atmosphere.

2. The camping: This is usually the worst part of any festival (bar the toilets, of course), and I admit that I unfurled my tent with a sinking heart. But the site was perfect, with options for family camping away from the noise of the festival, as well as luxury yurts for glamping. Somehow, waking up on a drizzly Sunday in a field was actually enjoyable.

3. The dancing: There were plenty of opportunities to cut a rug during the weekend, as well as a stage set specifically for younger visitors to dance. Hundreds of people took part in one of folk's most enduring traditions - the ceilidh.

4. The celebration of music history: Visitors had the opportunity to join longsword dance workshops and watch Morris dancers. There were bluegrass jams and Welsh singing sessions. The festival traces folk history from its origins to today.

5. The music: There were some utterly wonderful performances across the course of the weekend. Special mention has to go to Richard Thompson and his Electric Trio for one of the best gigs I've ever seen, but I also really loved Dorset's own Bierfass Band, who played a spectacular set of covers on brass instruments. Here's hoping they'll be back next year - I definitely will.