Next time you’re frantically googling “last minute holidays abroad” stop and think about what marvels we have right here on our doorstep in Britain. Before my weekend of wonder in Sherborne I’d never visited Dorset, which now, in hindsight seems almost like a crime. This exceptionally pretty, small market town nestled perfectly on the Dorset/ Somerset border is an ideal place to stay and experience one of England’s most beautiful counties. It’s historic, un-spoilt and magnificent in many ways.
Tinseltown has fallen head over heels in love with picturesque Sherborne. Not one, but two big-budget Hollywood blockbusters recently used this sleepy town as their set, so it’s definitely the place to experience celebrity stardust. Far from The Madding Crowd, an adaptation of Tom Hardy’s classic 1874 English novel was filmed around the historic Abbey. The movie, which hits cinemas this week, stars Carey Mulligan (pictured on set below), Michael Sheen and Juno Temple – who were all seen off set enjoying the laid back local vibe. Meanwhile Benedict Cumberbatch and Keira Knightley also descended on Sherborne while shooting Oscar-winning film the Imitation Game – a biopic about Second World War code breaker Alan Turing, who attended Sherborne School from 1926 until 1936.
Exploring the area
Sherborne really is picture perfect, surrounded by rolling countryside that creates a faultless backdrop for walks, bike riding and horse riding adventures. For a slice of tranquility head to Sherborne Castle, it’s truly magnificent. The 16th century castle, still home to the Wingfield Digby Family, has an outstanding art and furniture collection. The real wow factor is the dazzling Grade 1 listed garden, a must see for anyone who appreciates nature at it’s finest. Trails lead you through a beautifully kept 30-acre garden with fabulous views of 1,000 acres of lake, rolling landscapes and sweeping lawns, topped off with a magnificent deer park. This superb property also hosts weddings, country fairs and classic car rallies.
The Abbey is arguable what makes Sherbone the most attractive town in Dorset. The 15th century Abbey is a visual masterpiece inside and out and has a very warm, calming aura. With it’s majestic stain-glass windows, spectacular ceiling and romantic, ringing church bells it’s obvious why locals proudly come every Sunday. As we sat outside in the sunshine admiring the idyllic setting of warm stone cottages and a pretty village green, it was hard to believe just two hours ago we were battling heavy traffic in central London.
Enjoying the town
Sherborne high street is in the Top Ten of best UK High Streets and is a charming place to while away the hours whatever the weather. There’s an abundance of old, traditional family shops, lovely boutiques, butchers, bakers and antique treasure troves. An old-fashioned paradise when it comes to leisurely afternoons, it also hosts an open-air market twice a week. The locals recently united to fight off supermarket giant Tesco, who hoped to build a big store on the high street. There are so many charming little cafes, coffee shops and teashops you’ll be spoilt for choice as far as lunch goes. There’s a lot to love about this quaint hideout, which is probably why it attracts a host of huge A list celebrities. Look out for Daniel Craig and Rachel Weisz, who are often seen relaxing in a teashop or Orlando Bloom browsing independent children’s clothes shops. Sherborne School for Boys also has a long list of alumni who attended, including Coldplay’s Chris Martin and actor Jeremy Irons.
A foodies delight
For incredible food nestled right in the heart of the town head to The Green. I can’t recommend this restaurant enough, their attention to detail and passion for fine-dining is as impressive as the delicious food served. I ordered trio of crab and roasted hogget, both were heavenly. It’s not the place to skip desert either, their homemade ice cream, uniquely flavoured by bay leaf, lime leaf and cinnamon is an absolute must.
For the ultimate Sunday roast head to new gourmet restaurant The White Post in Rimpton Hill. A little gem is just a stone’s throw from Sherbone. As soon as you step foot inside your adventure begins with a fantastic countryside view. Their lunch menu includes an incredible sharing four-meat platter of slow cooked pork, rare rib of beef, tender lamb and roasted chicken – a feast for your eyes and your belly. This is definitely the place to be on a lazy Sunday afternoon.
Where to stay:
We stayed at The Eastbury Hotel, just a three-minute walk from the heart of Sherborne. The stylish boutique hotel has won many awards for it’s excellence and food, and it’s easy to see why. Our room, The Cowslip, was elegant, romantic and spacious with the pièce de résistance being a stylish roll top bath.
This town house hotel is an absolute must for foodies, their evening menu is something to behold. I highly recommend their mouthwatering seven-course tasting menu, giving you the chance to try a mix of their impressive culinary delights. A hearty, home-cooked breakfast is included in your stay and you can hire bikes for £10 to go exploring afterwards. The Eastbury’s afternoon tea is also a treat not to be missed.
Room rates at The Eastbury Hotel start from £139 per night for a standard double room, and from £70 for a single room, including full English breakfast. Call 01935 813131 or visit www.theeastburyhotel.co.uk
For information about Sherborne Castle, including admission prices and opening times, call 01935 813182 or click www.sherbornecastle.com
To plan your stay contact Sherbone Tourist Information on 01935 815 341/ www.sherbornedorset.co.uk
* I went on this trip as a travel feature for Woman magazine. The full article, as printed in the magazine this month, is below *