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Introducing Sherborne

All streets in the honey-stoned town of Sherborne lead to its majestic abbey, set at the centre of a grassy green and once the most important church in Wessex; both of Alfred the Great’s elder brothers, Ethelred and Ethelbert, are buried beneath the abbey’s flagstones. Sherborne was the capital of Wessex until the end of the 11th century, when the bishopric moved to Old Sarum, but continued to be a town of strategic and religious importance throughout the Middle Ages. These days it’s a quiet and attractive market town, filled with antique shops, haberdashers and estate agents; reminders of its former status remain in its twin castles, which stand on either side of the silvery sheen of Sherborne Lake.

Sherborne’s tourist office (815341; sherborne.tic@westdorset-dc.gov.uk; Digby Rd; 9am-5pm Mon-Sat Apr-Oct) stocks the free All About Sherborne leaflet with a map and town trail. Walking tours (£3; 11am Fri May-Sep) depart from the tourist office and last 1½ hours.

Sherborne Museum (812252; www.sherbornemuseum.co.uk; Church Lane; adult/child £1/free; 10.30am-4.30pm Tue-Sat, 2.30pm-4.30pm Sun Apr-Oct) explores the town’s history through costumes, period photos and some fascinating illustrations, but the museum’s most prized possession is a digital version of the Sherborne Missal, the most exquisite illuminated manuscript to survive from the Middle Ages. The original is held in the British Library.