We visited Sherborne Castle, a beautiful and historic mansion located within the parish of Castleton, on our holiday to Dorset, England.
The old Sherborne Castle was built in the 12th-century and was briefly the home of Sir Walter Raleigh. New Sherborne Castle is a 16th-century Tudor mansion, standing in a 1,200-acre park which forms part of the Digby estate.
The castle is known for its beautiful gardens and picturesque views across the surrounding countryside.
History of Sherborne Old Castle
The ruins of a 12th-century castle sit in the grounds of the Sherborne mansion. It was built as the fortified palace of the Bishop of Salisbury, Roger de Caen, one of the most powerful men for his age. He served King Henry I as Chancellor and Justiciar and governed England in the King’s absence.
King Henry I nominated his daughter, Matilda, as the heir to the throne, but in 1135 Stephen of Blois claimed that his uncle had changed his mind on his deathbed. This sparked a 19-year civil war, known as The Anarchy.
The bishop fell out of favour leading to King Stephen seizing Sherborne Castle. However, Robert Earl of Gloucester captured the castle in 1143 but reverted back to the King (now King Henry II) upon his death.
By 1355 the castle was handed back to the Bishop of Salisbury where it remained until the 16th century when the church had no longer had use for it, then it was passed to Queen Elizabeth I.
After seeing Sherborne on the way to Plymouth, Sir Walter Raleigh fell in love with the castle, resulting in Queen Elizabeth leasing it to him in 1592.
During Raleigh’s imprisonment, King James leased the estate to Robert Carr, who sold it in 1617 to the 1st Earl of Bristol, Sir John Digby.
A sign by the “ruins’ explains why and when this tower was built:
“This folly was built in the mid-eighteenth century as part of a scheme to beautify the ruins of the Old Castle. The archives record that Daniel Penny, a local builder, was paid £22 in 1756 for “building ruins under the Castle” and the following year he was paid £4 8s 6d for “finishing the Tower”.
From a notebook that he kept it is clear that Lord Digby liked the then fashionable style of completing a garden vista with a picturesque ruin, and he incorporated his own genuine ruin of the Old Castle into the landscape that he was creating.
When the lake was finished in 1754 the Old Castle ruins became the backdrop to the water, which were improved by the addition of this mock-ruined tower mantled in ivy. The crenelated wall which can be seen at the top of the bank was built by Daniel Penny at the same time as part of the landscaping scheme.”
History of Sherborne New Castle
Sir Walter Raleigh decided to build a new house rather than refurbish the old castle. This new dwelling, Sherborne Lodge, was a four-storey rectangular building with corner towers.
Lord Digby, whose descendants still own Sherborne Castle, added four wings to the house, keeping the original architecture and towers.
Thankfully, the lodge remained intact after the English Civil War siege and became known as The New Sherborne Castle.
The estates are run by Mr and Mrs John Wingfield Digby and their son Edward along with over fifty full time and thirty part time staff. The estates comprise of over five hundred agricultural, residential, and commercial properties, including three pubs (the Digby Tap, Sherborne, the Lime Tree Inn, Thornford, and the Three Elms, North Wootton) and various shops in Sherborne.
Inside New Sherborne Castle
The elegant rooms in Sherborne Castle are open to the public from April to September. As you wander through the house, staff are available to answer your questions and provide details on many of the objects on display.
It is amazing to be standing in such a historic house filled with family portraits, antique furniture, porcelain, and other grand collectables. Do not miss Raleigh’s original kitchen and archaeological discoveries from the old castle (held in the castle cellars).
Due to the no photography rule, we couldn’t to take any photos of the interior of Sherborne Castle.
Sherborne Castle Gardens
Sherborne Castle Gardens are Grade 1 listed in the National Register of Historic Parks and Gardens and one of the best examples of Capability Brown you will see.
When Edward the VI Lord Digby moved into the castle after his father’s (William V Lord Digby) death in 1752, he commissioned Lancelot Capability Brown to landscape the gardens. He created the 50-acre lake with magnificent specimen trees, herbaceous borders, and green lawns.
The views from the gardens are beautiful with the old castle ruins adding to its charm.
Sherborne Castle Garden Centre
Castle Gardens Garden Centre is in Sherborne Castle’s original walled kitchen garden. Mike and Louise Burks set this garden centre up in 1987 and has earnt many awards since.
|Monday – Saturday
|9:00 am to 6:00 pm
|10:00 am to 4:30 pm
Sherborne Castle Events
A variety of events are hosted at Sherborne Castle throughout the year, including concerts, shows, and fireworks.
Sherborne Castle Car Show
The next Classic and Supercar show will be on Sunday 16th July 2023.
Sherborne Castle Country Fair
The popular Country Fair highlights traditional rural skills and activities with market stalls, fun attractions, and entertainment – a wonderful day out for the whole family.
The Fair is open from 9.00 am to 5.00 pm (dogs are welcome).
Sherborne Castle Fireworks
The fireworks at Sherborne Castle have been postponed until 2023.
Sherborne Castle Opening Times
The Castle is open from April to September from Midday to 4 pm (last admission is 3 pm).
The Gardens open from April to October.
Check opening times direct in case of any changes.
How much is it to get into Sherborne Castle?
Sherborne Castle tickets that include the house tour and gardens are the most expensive option but provide the best value.
Admission Prices 2022
|CHILD (UNDER 5)
|Castle and Gardens
10% discount when purchasing tickets 48 hours in advance
Getting to Sherborne Castle
The address is: Sherborne Castle, New Road, Sherborne, Dorset DT9 5NR
From North: Leave the M5 at Junction 25, follow signs for Yeovil and then Sherborne.
From East: By the A303 signposted Sherborne (via Wincanton) or A30.
From West: By the A30 from Exeter and Honiton and follow signs to Yeovil then Sherborne.
From South: By Blandford or Dorchester (A352).
The entrance gate into Sherborne Castle is on New Road, adjacent to Castle Gardens Garden Centre.
Parking charges apply to non-members, but is free for members. The car park has space for about ten cars and there is free roadside parking along Castleton Road.
The Castle is a 10-minute walk from Sherborne railway station or there’s a local taxi company outside the station.
Trains run from London Waterloo to Exeter St. David’s stopping at Sherborne. The journey time is about 2 hours 15 minutes.
There’s a bus stop outside the main gate where routes from Yeovil and Shaftsbury stop.
Sherborne Castle & Gardens Map
You can view a larger copy of the Sherborne Castle and Gardens map here.
Blue Badge parking is a 6-minute walk to the front of the castle.
Unfortunately, there are four flights of stairs leading to the three floors and only the ground floor is accessible to wheelchairs. However, there is still quite a bit to see here, and photos show items on display in the non-accessible rooms.
The garden paths are smooth allowing wheelchair users to enjoy the lake and park views, although individual circumstances may not allow full access to the whole 42 acres.
Castle Courtyard Toilets are accessible, and the garden cubicles have wheelchair access.
Carers are admitted free when the registered disability person pays full adult price.
Food & Drink
The Walled Garden Restaurant in the Sherborne Castle Garden Centre offers castle visitors a 5% discount with every ticket purchased. They are open from Monday to Saturday 9 am to 5 pm and Sunday 10 am to 4 pm serving drinks and food.
The Ticket Box in the car park sells cold drinks and ice creams plus Sherborne Castle Estate Wine and souvenirs.
Picnics are allowed in the castle gardens.
Is Sherborne Castle worth visiting?
Living in Australia for so long, I have a new appreciation of my English heritage and history. I enjoyed touring the house and imagining Sir Walter Raleigh living there. It was fascinating to see the paintings, furniture, and other objects.
The gardens are spectacular, with gorgeous views and access to the Old Sherborne Castle. I wouldn’t visit the gardens on their own, but I thought the entry to the house and gardens was worth the money.
How old is Sherborne Castle?
Old Sherborne Castle was built about 1122–35 and the New Castle was built in 1594.
Who owns Sherborne Castle?
The Wingfield Digby Family own Sherborne New Castle but the Old Castle was leased by English Heritage.
Is Sherborne Old Castle dog friendly?
Dogs are allowed on a short lead in the Sherborne Castle Gardens. Dogs (except for guide or assistance dogs) are not permitted inside the Castle.