Paula Lester — herself a resident of Dorset — shares tips for those looking to enjoy a getaway in Sherborne.
Derived from the Saxon scir burne, meaning the place of the clear stream, Sherborne might be smaller than the county town of Dorchester (Thomas Hardy’s Casterbridge), but it has bags more charm and personality.
Centred around the Abbey Church of St Mary, next to the boys’ public school, there’s something special about the way the town’s convivial Cheap Street, which is pedestrianised during the day, snakes up through the honey-hued sandstone properties housing myriad shops, cafes and independent boutiques.
Indeed, think of an attractive emporium and Sherborne has it — from fine arts and antiques, a stationer and an art-supplies shop to a bookshop, two delicatessens, a grocer, an ice-cream parlour and a thriving weekly market.
Furthermore, as the town has its own station on the Exeter to London Waterloo line, it’s easy to reach it from the capital in a little over 2½ hours.
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Where to eat
The Three Wishes, sister cafe to The Eastbury, is an ideal spot for a late brunch of poached eggs, avocado salsa and sourdough.
For a special meal, head to The Green Restaurant to sample Russian head chef Sasha Matkevich’s delectable dishes, such as chargrilled fillet of hake with Cornish new potatoes, mussels and Dorset crab.
What to do
A visit to Sherborne Abbey is a must. The magnificent Saxon abbey is especially attractive at night when lit with an amber glow, it’s renowned for its fan-vaulted ceiling and a fine engraved glass reredos by Whistler.
Take in the town’s two castles — the ruins of the 12th-century ‘old’ castle lie within the grounds of the ‘new’ castle, built by Sir Walter Raleigh and the home of the Wingfield Digby family since 1617.
Where to stay
A few steps from the town centre in Long Street, you’ll find the elegant red-brick façade of The Eastbury. Once a Georgian gentleman’s private retreat, this sophisticated yet homely and dog-friendly 26-bedroom hotel retains an air of seclusion, thanks to a tranquil garden.
Acquired by Peter de Savary in 2018, guests are still able to enjoy the fine food served by executive chef Matthew Street in the Seasons Restaurant, but the five-star eyrie has been enhanced by five Victorian Potting Shed suites (from £372 a night), as well as a spa and the acquisition of a 17th-century cottage next to the hotel.
From £195 per night; www.theeastburyhotel.co.uk
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