Things to see and do in Sherborne
PUBLISHED: 10:08 16 May 2017 | UPDATED: 10:08 16 May 2017
Local resident Jane Adkins reveals some of the hidden treasures in and around her home town
It’s been called “the prettiest small town in Dorset” (by Sir Simon Jenkins) and on a beautiful Spring day when the sun catches the ochre-coloured sandstone of the ancient Abbey, bathing the rest of the town in a golden glow, you would be hard pressed to find a more romantic location to spend time in.
The explorer and consummate courtier Sir Walter Raleigh knew a thing or two about romance thanks to his reputed love affair with Queen Elizabeth I; he also fell in love with the town making his home at Sherborne Castle and calling it his “fortune’s fold”.
More fortune was accumulated in the town a couple of hundred years after Sir Walter’s demise with the rise of the silk industry. Sherborne Museum on Church Lane reveals how Sherborne silk became world renowned and continued the town’s connections with royalty.
Mention the name Sherborne and most people recall the famous public school. Sherborne School for Boys, established in 1550, has featured as a backdrop in a number of compelling television dramas and films including Wolf Hall, and The Imitation Game which was about one of Sherborne’s old boys – Alan Turing who cracked the Enigma Code. Other recent alumni include Coldplay’s Chris Martin and actors Jeremy Irons, and Hugh Bonneville who starred in Downton Abbey. Sherborne is no stranger to visiting celebrities with Daniel Craig, Rachel Weisz and Orlando Bloom seen around town.
Things to see
• The Abbey: The dramatic gothic presence of Sherborne Abbey goes back much further than its magnificent Perpendicular arches and famous fan-vaulting suggest. It’s reputed that King Alfred the Great was schooled here, and the Abbey is the final resting place for his brothers King Ethelbald and King Ethelbert (AD 860 and 865). The Abbey exterior and the Abbey Close also provided the atmospheric film location for Far From the Madding Crowd (2015).
• The Castles: Sherborne has two castles – the old and the new. The latter was built by Sir Walter Raleigh in 1594, and its magnificent grounds were later created by Capability Brown. The Old Castle, built in the 12th century, is now an impressive ruin managed by English Heritage. It has provided the background for many a summer picnic and wedding proposal!
• Sherborne Museum: Located in the heart of town, the museum occupies what was formerly the Almonry belonging to the Abbey and makes a great starting point for a visit to Sherborne.
• Sherborne Steam & Waterwheel Centre: Housing probably the largest working waterwheel in Dorset, it has a special place in Sherborne’s history because of its role in providing a water supply for the town from 1869 after which the death rate from water-borne diseases was reduced by more than a half.
A taste of Sherborne
There are currently 14 coffee and tea shops to choose from in Sherborne, but if you are looking to make more of a meal of things, here are two very different options. The Green: Stylish modern British cooking using great local produce and seasonal ingredients. greenrestaurant.co.uk.
Vida Comida at The Swan: The taste of Spain comes to Sherborne with its first Tapas Bar. vidacomida.co.uk.
If you want to explore Sherborne’s gorgeous countryside seek out these two award-winning establishments: The Queens Arms just on the border at Corton Denham, where they measure their locally sourced food in metres not miles (thequeensarms.com). The multi-award-winning gastro pub The White Post at Rimpton has the county line running straight through its bar. They serve the finest Sunday roast in two counties and their Pig @The Post starter is legendary (thewhitepost.com).
Where to stay
The Eastbury Hotel on Long Street is an award-winning boutique town house hotel, known for its fabulous food and locally inspired menus – it won a Gold award in Taste of the West 2017 and Best Hotel Restaurant in the Dorset Magazine Food, Drink & Farming Awards 2016. Dine in its Conservatory Restaurant or al fresco in its beautiful walled garden when the weather is fine. More details at theeastburyhotel.co.uk.
Prefer to be in the countryside? Munden House in Alweston, just outside Sherborne, is an AA 5 star property recommended by Alastair Sawday. Use it as a B&B or take one of the suites with kitchen for a self-catering option for up to four people. More details at mundenhouse.co.uk.
If you want to be in town The Plume of Feathers is a 17th century inn, just across the road from Sherborne Abbey, which has recently refurbished four of its rooms to a high standard.