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Dorset Town Sherborne reveals why itís such a popular location for Hollywood

As the much anticipated Thomas Vinterberg adaptation of Hardy’s fourth novel and first major literary success Far From the Madding Crowd opens in cinemas on 1 May, Dorset town Sherborne is eagerly awaiting the arrival of visitors keen to visit some of the film locations in the town.

The new film stars A-listers Carey Mulligan, Tom Sturridge and Matthias Schoenaerts, and Sherborne film locations include Sherborne Abbey, Castleton Church and Abbey Close, which was transformed into a 1870s market square located in the town of Casterbridge.

The Town is becoming used to hosting stars of stage and screen. This winter saw Sherborne School and the surrounding area appearing in the BBC adaptation of Wolf Hall, Hilary Mantel’s prize winning novel featuring Homeland and Band of Brothers actor Damian Lewis as Henry VIII and Mark Rylance as Henry VIII’s scheming minister Thomas Cromwell.

At the end of last year, Oscar-nominated film The Imitation Game featured Sherborne School as the set for the biopic film starring Benedict Cumberbatch as the Second World War code breaker Alan Turing. Turing attended Sherborne School from 1926 and film crews were at the school in November 2013 filming scenes depicting his boyhood years.

Why can’t Hollywood and independent film makers keep away from Sherborne? This small market town situated on the border between Dorset and Somerset punches well above its weight in so many ways. It boasts two magnificent castles, one of which was commissioned by Sir Walter Raleigh, a big star of his day in the 16th century and with magnificent grounds later crafted by Capability Brown; the other known as The Old Castle, built in the 12th century, is now an impressive ruin providing the background for many a Summer picnic and the odd wedding proposal!

There is also the gothic presence of fantastic Sherborne Abbey which goes back much further than its magnificent Perpendicular arches and famous fan-vaulting suggest. Tradition has it that King Alfred the Great was schooled here, and certainly his brothers King Ethelbald and King Ethelbert were buried (AD 860 and 865) in Sherborne Abbey. In more recent years The Sherborne Abbey Festival, an annual music festival taking place at the Abbey, has become a regular fixture and this year begins on 1 May, coinciding with the cinema release of Far from the Madding Crowd.

More recent celebrities associated with the Town include numerous alumni from historic Sherborne School, which, like the Abbey, has compelling architecture that provides a picturesque and atmospheric setting for big and small screen alike. The 16th century School boasts old boys such as actor Jeremy Irons, Coldplay's Chris Martin and Downton Abbey star Hugh Bonneville. Just recently local Sherborne boy, Ben Hardy, who played Peter Beale in the BBC TV soap opera Eastenders, was singled out by Hollywood to appear in the new X-Men Apocalypse film, due for release in 2016.

Visiting actors, camera crew and film producers can choose from any number of independent coffee shops when relaxing between takes. Coffee shop Oliver’s, which picked up the Western Gazette Taste award for best independent café, is one of several independent tea and coffee rooms in “Cheap Street”, Sherborne’s high street. It joins The Green restaurant (www.greenrestaurant.co.uk ) and the Eastbury Hotel (www.theeastburyhotel.co.uk) in having been recognised with awards and accolades for excellent service and dining experiences. There are also many independent shops including lots of unusual boutiques and gift shops, an independent butcher, J & M Parsons which has served Sherborne since 1840, Oxfords bakery which was established over 100 years ago and although there isn’t a candlestick maker there is an independent iron monger or hardware shop – Abbey Décor. Visitors to the Town in recent years have spotted Daniel Craig and Rachel Weisz – who live nearby - as well as Lord of the Rings actor Orlando Bloom and pop-star Will Young.

Tourists looking for somewhere to stay in the Town can choose from the elegant Georgian Eastbury Hotel in the town centre with its 23 gorgeous bedrooms and award-winning restaurant, or the many smaller guest houses, B&B’s, inns with rooms and holiday rentals including Picton House luxury B&B and Sherborne Cottages & Apartments. Just outside the town centre, Sherborne’s surrounding villages offer more holiday cottages, farmhouse B&B’s, pubs with rooms and camp sites including The Grange at Oborne luxury country house hotel, Alweston’s Munden House, The Hunter’s Moon at Middlemarsh, The Queens Arms at Corton Denham and The White Post at Rimpton.

Not content with being the ideal location, Sherborne also has its own International Film Festival which this year takes place from 29 October – 1 November and is now in its sixth year. The Sherborne Literary Festival runs earlier in the month from 14 October across five days.

Contact Sherborne Tourist Information Centre for details and info about the area: sherborne.tic@westdorset-weymouth.gov.uk or visit www.sherbornedorset.co.uk.

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Release Date: 28th April 2015

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