Dorset Travel Guide: Things to do in Sherborne

If you’re visiting Sherborne, a trip to the town’s castles is a must!

Sherborne Travel Guide

Known as one of England’s most beautiful towns, Sherborn is a picturesque market town nestled in the heart of Dorset’s countryside. Surrounded by wooded hillsides and green pastures, this idyllic location steeped in history features charming architecture and a vibrant community atmosphere. In addition to dreamy streets full of independent shops, cafes, and places of interest, Sherborne is host to an impressive number of historical landmarks. It is the ideal destination for history enthusiasts, culture seekers, and outdoor adventurers alike, and in this Dorset guide, we offer advice on making the most of your visit.

Welcome to Sherborne

Located on the River Yeo, Sherborne is one of England’s most ancient towns, established in in the days of the Roman empire. It was originally a Saxon settlement, and the name Sherborne comes from the Saxon words ‘scir burne’, meaning place of the clear stream. Sherborne used to be the capital of Wessex, and a cathedral was first built in the area in 705, becoming a Benedictine abbey in 1075, when the Bishop’s seat moved from Sherborne to Old Sarum. In 1539, Henry VIII dissolved the monasteries, and Sherborne school was established in the monastic buildings in 1550, while the abbey became a parish church. Today, those buildings are the central focus of this vibrant market town. In addition to Sherborne Abbey, the town’s notable landmarks include the historic town centre and not one but two castles. Sherborne is full of medieval and Georgian architecture, and many of its buildings have been built using beautiful honey-brown sandy limestone indicative of this region. 


Sherborne: Places to Visit

  • Historical Buildings: Sherborne is not very big, but it has a wealth of things to do and a rich history. You might want to start your visit by seeing the two impressive castles. Sherborne Old Castle is a 12th century ruin, destroyed during the Civil War and located next to Sherborne Castle and Gardens, built in 1594. Previously owned by Sir Walter Raleigh, Sherborne Castle is all but gone now, as only the Southwest Gatehouse, the Great Tower, and the North Range survived the war. The site is well worth a visit, though, a nice spot for a picnic, fun to explore and a haven for birds and wildlife. Sir Walter Raleigh built the newer castle in 1594, and it has been home to the Digby family since 1617. The Sherborne Castle and Gardens grounds are only open at certain times, but there is plenty to see when the site is open, including beautifully landscaped gardens, interesting family artefacts, Sir Walter Raleigh’s Kitchen, and a fossil and archive display. Sherborne Abbey is another must-see attraction, featuring a gorgeous stone, fan-vaulted ceiling, and a magnificent Great West Window dedicated the Queen in 1998. Near the Abbey is the St Johns Almhouse, build around 1437 to house 17 impoverished people, who would receive full board, lodging, and clothing in exchange for surrendering their possessions and agreeing to the house rules. Today, it continues to care for the elderly, but the public can visit during the summer months. Of course, even just wandering the streets of Sherborne, you will see charming Georgian buildings and half-timbered Medieval dwellings, built of that warm, welcoming honey-coloured stone. You may also notice Georgian and Victorian frontages masking much older buildings. 



  • Cultural Highlights: This gorgeous region inspired Thomas Hardy to write Tess of the D’Urbervilles, Jude the Obscure, and The Woodlanders, all loosely based in North Dorset. In The Woodlanders, Sherborne is called Sherton Abbas, and in 2015, the town was used for the film version of Far From the Madding Crowd. In the real-life version of Sherborne, you will find art galleries, including the Jerram Gallery and the Swan Gallery, museums that include the Sherborne History Museum, and performing art galleries, all indicators of the vibrant cultural scene. In the spring, the Sherborne Abbey Festival offers a week-long celebration of music in a wide range of genres, and the Sherborne Literary Society holds events throughout the year. In August, St Cuthbert’s Church is transformed into a theatre for Opera in Oborne, and in May, the Dorset Art Weeks include artists and venues in Sherborne. This exciting event caters to a wide range of tastes and features a wide variety of mediums, including printmaking, painting, ceramics, jewellery, film, installation, woodwork, textiles, and more. 


Sherborne: Things to Do

  • Outdoor Exploration: When you have waked the Town Trail from the library to the castles, the Abbey and the Almhouse, and you are looking for more invigorating exercise, you will find plenty of options in Sherborne. Walk the Monarch Way north to the town of Yeovil, or the Macmillan Way, north to the iron age hillfort at Cadbury Camp or south to Yetminster or Evershot. If cycling is more your speed, try the National Cycle Network Route 26, which will take you to the Island of Portland coast in the south or to Glastonbury in Somerset if you head north. Those who enjoy golf should take the opportunity to experience the Sherborne Golf Course. There are also beautiful gardens in Sherborne, including Paddock Garden, and Pageant Gardens, which are situated at opposite sides of town. 


  • Shopping and Dining: In Sherborne, you will find an eclectic mix of independent shops, boutiques, and artisanal markets. On the principal shopping street, known as Cheap Street, the shopping does not disappoint, as there are fashion boutiques, coffee shops, restaurants, shops selling handicrafts, and much more. Every Thursday and Saturday from 9am to 5pm, the Pannier Market is held at The Parade, the small square net to the Conduit, and on the third Friday of each month you can find the Farmer’s Market along Cheap Street from 9am to 1pm. When it is time for a bite, there is an amazing array of places to eat, from cafes and restaurants to bistros and pubs. There are even restaurants and pubs in and around Sherborne that have been featured in the prestigious Michelin Guide. One of the best restaurants in Sherborne, located right in the centre of town, is the Green Restaurant, with tis daily menu that uses local, high-quality, ethically sourced ingredients. 


  • Day Trips and Excursions: Once you have seen all that Sherborne has to offer, there is still plenty to see in the area, while keeping Sherborne as your home base. Stonehenge is a mere 54km away, and that is definitely a bucket list site. Constructed sometimes around 3100 BC, it is estimated to have taken about 30 million hours to build. No one knows exactly why it was constructed, and theories abound. A bit closer than that you will find Bath Abbey, in the town of Bath, a UNESCO World Heritage site where the Roman Baths offer a window into history. At Sparkford, in Somerset, the Haynes Motor Museum is an award-winning museum displaying more than 400 cars and bikes, and the Fleet Air Arm Museum in Yeovilton, Ilchester is a glorious representation of the Royal Navy in the Air. 


Practical Tips for Visiting Sherborne

It is easy to get to Sherborne by train or by car, and once you are there, the town is easily walkable. Should you need transportation, though, there is a local bus service that has stops all over town, including at the train station, at the edge of town. Many of Sherborne’s attractions are accessible, including Sherborne Castle and Gardens, Sherborne Old Castle, the Abbey, the Almshouse, Pageant Gardens, and Paddock Gardens. If you have travelled to Sherborne in your car, you will be pleased to note that there are long and short stay car parks throughout the town, most with accessible parking spaces and two with Electric Vehicle charge points. 

Let Together Travel Help With Your Sherborne Holiday

When you are planning your trip to Sherborne, contact Together Travel to check availability for the Sherborne Cottage. A honey-coloured 17th-century cottage bursting with charm, the cottage is situated in the centre of Sherborne. Inside is an oasis of understated elegance and calm, fully restored throughout to carefully blend the original character the contemporary essentials and amenities one would expect from a self-catering property. The comfortable and inviting lounge is also sophisticated, with an inglenook fireplace and wood burner, and French patio doors leading out to an enchanting cottage garden. The garden has a dining patio and wood-fired hot tub, as well as a secret bunk hideaway perfect for young teens. The kitchen is fully-equipped and charmingly decorated, in Hague blue with red splashes, making it a functional and creative space. There is a conveniently located downstairs WC, and upstairs, guests can choose a sumptuous Super-King with a Victorian-style bathtub and en-suite shower room, or a Double bedroom with an adjoining bathroom. One more flight up, in the cottage’s eaves, there is another spacious Super-King, with views of the rear garden. Whether or not Sherborne is your preferred destination, Together Travel has a wealth of luxury cottages in the UK for you to enjoy. Find out how we can make your holiday amazing by contacting our expert concierge team at +44(0)1625 416430 or emailing us for more information.