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Hollywood gives Sherborne added Christmas sparkle and a starring role in 2014

This Christmas visitors to Sherborne, a historic market town on the Dorset/Somerset border, may notice something different in the air. 2013 has been a remarkable year with Sherborne starring as the setting for not one but two Hollywood films set to be blockbuster hits in 2014: A-lister stars Carey Mulligan and Michael Sheen appear in “Far from the Madding Crowd” with scenes filmed around Sherborne’s 8th century abbey while Benedict Cumberbatch appears as the code-breaker Alan Turing in “The Imitation Game”, with scenes set in the 460 year old Sherborne School.

The town is no stranger to fame and fortune as it was once the capital of Wessex and in the late sixteenth century attracted the attention of Sir Walter Raleigh who initially acquired the now ruined 12th century Old Castle but then decided to commission Sherborne Lodge in 1594 which later became the New Castle.

For the first time visitor the castles are a great place to start and next to the grounds of the New Castle, designed by Capability Brown, Sherborne boasts one of the West Country’s biggest Christmas decoration shops set in the 18th century walled kitchen gardens of the castle.

Sherborne at Christmas becomes a popular attraction, with its wealth of independent shops and Christmas festivities and the main street lined with twinkling Christmas trees. With celebrities like Daniel Craig, Rachel Weisz, Orlando Bloom and Robbie Williams spotted in the town who knows who will be taking advantage of a freshly made coffee or eating one of the delicious Dorset delicacies to be found in the many welcoming independent coffee shops around town. Try the Sherborne Stodger: it’s as filling as it sounds!

Sherborne’s annual Christmas Tree Festival delights as local groups and organisations create a colourful collection of decorated trees in the Cheap Street Church –a fabulous way to celebrate the festive season. From tinsel and twinkling stars to bold red garlands and jolly snowmen, this collection of gaily decorated trees is inspirational and the display opens daily from 7 – 15 December.

In December Sherborne has its own dedicated Festive Shopping Day on Sunday, 8 December when the town puts on a whole host of different musical, fun and entertaining activities. The main shopping area of Cheap Street is closed to traffic enabling street performers, choirs, bands, orchestras, carollers and 'Victorian' chestnut roasters to provide entertainment and the magnificent Abbey has special drop in services throughout the day.

This Christmas the Abbey will host a number of festive concerts and services including the Advent Carol Service on Sunday 1 December, the Christingle Service on Sunday 8 December, The Abbey Carol Service on Sunday 22 December and on Christmas Eve the Blessing of the Crib and Lighting of the Christmas Tree. A Sherborne Christmas Concert takes place there on 9th December and the Bournemouth Symphony Orchestra will perform a Celebration Carol Concert on 19th December. Plus for some true West Country celebrations, catch the Artslink Christmas Concert featuring the Sherborne Carollers and Stanchester Quire singing a programme of West Country carols and songs at the Digby Hall on Thursday 12 December.

And if you are still puzzled as to why Sherborne rings so many bells – The Abbey actually has the heaviest ring of eight bells in the world – then take a look at some of the famous names who were once pupils at its renowned boy’s public school: author John le Carre, actor Jeremy Irons, Coldplay’s Chris Martin.

Love Sherborne so much now, you may want to stay longer? The award winning Eastbury Hotel & Restaurant in Long Street is within easy walking distance of the town centre and has 23 en-suite bedrooms and an attractive dining area that looks onto a charming walled garden where you can enjoy a hassle free Christmas Lunch. There’s also a comfortable lounge where you can relax and enjoy morning or afternoon tea and they are great champions of local food and produce.

The hotel has some sparkling party celebrations laid on for Christmas guests with exclusive rates for guests wishing to stay over. www.theeastburyhotel.co.uk

Further information from: www.sherbornedorset.co.uk

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Release Date: 25th November 2013

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