The Old Bell

Malmesbury, Wiltshire, United Kingdom Book from Book from £79 per night

England's oldest hotel, this Grade-1 listed bolthole is steeped in history and packed with period features, yet still feels fresh and stylish
In the early 13th century, The Old Bell was a modest inn where dignitaries visiting Malmesbury Abbey could lay their head after a long journey. Today, it holds the accolade of being the oldest hotel in England, and remains fiercely proud of its historical roots. But don’t be fooled by the name - The Old Bell isn’t living in the past. An extensive renovation, completed in February 2018, has rewarded this beguiling hotel with a new lease of life. Contemporary interiors complement the period features to provide a sumptuous and stylish sojourn, all without a hint of stuffiness. Think deep velvet furniture, vividly painted walls and roaring open fires in winter.

Relaxed and welcoming, we were seriously tempted to while away our stay reclining in the cosy lounges. But if you can tear yourself away from the hotel, you're perfectly located for exploring the wider countryside, especially the Cotswolds; plus there's a year-round Wiltshire calendar of festivals and events, including WOMAD (July) and the Badminton Horse Trials (May). After a day's exploring, return home for some hearty seasonal fare at the Refectory where, in the summer months, you can dine out on the terrace while drinking in the glorious view of the abbey next door.

Highs

  • The Old Bell holds genuine historical interest; some of the period features date back to the 13th century
  • The hotel bar is popular with guests and locals, so there's a lively buzz at the weekends
  • Great service and the warmest of welcomes from the staff
  • You're slap in the middle of attractive Malmesbury, an old-fashioned market town that's listed in the Domesday Book
  • The M4 is 15 minutes down the road - perfect for exploring the Wiltshire countryside

Lows

  • Of the 34 bedrooms, 15 are located in the Coach House, which lacks the period features of the main hotel (Cosy and Master Cosy rooms)
  • Some chatter from the bar carries to the main hotel rooms, and front-facing bedrooms may experience traffic noise at weekends
  • This is a Grade-I listed building so there's no lift. Disabled-friendly rooms are in the pipeline
  • Some guests have reported patchy WiFi, but we had no problems during our stay

Best time to go

This is a deeply romantic hotel for a winter weekend break. Take a stroll around the Abbey House Gardens before returning for a restorative cocktail in the bar; or curl up on a velvet sofa by the open fire with a good book. In the summer months there’s walks galore in the Wiltshire countryside.

Our top tips

The entire town is steeped in history, so spend time getting to know its fascinating past. A visit to the abbey is essential, and we recommend a trip to the volunteer-run Athelstan Museum at the town hall, where you can also pick up a souvenir at the gift shop.

Great for...

Family
Foodie
Great Outdoors
  • Boutique Hotel
  • 34
  • Restaurant & bar (open daily)
  • All ages welcome
  • Open all year
  • Pool
  • Spa Treatments
  • WiFi
  • Pet Friendly
  • Disabled Access
  • Beach Nearby
  • Off-street Parking
  • Restaurants Nearby
  • Air Conditioning
  • Guest Lounge
  • Terrace
  • Garden
  • Gym
Room:

Rooms

For the pick of the rooms, opt for those in the main building. The huge Master bedrooms are a real treat, and we slept like babies in the splendorous four-poster with its Hypnos mattress. We loved the Character rooms, too – smaller, but with lovely period features like exposed stonework and huge original beams that really immerse you in the history of the hotel. For knockout views of the rolling Wiltshire countryside, go for the George Moore orHarry Breakspear classic rooms on the upper floors.

It’s worth noting that almost half the rooms are located in the adjoining Coach House towards the back of the hotel, which was built in the early 2000s. While the rooms here (Cosy and Master Cosy) share all the comforts of the main house, they lack the period features. If this is unimportant, these rooms are a good size, and those with adjoining sitting rooms and sofabeds should appeal to families.

All rooms have a bathtub and shower, and Noble Isle toiletries.

Features include:

  • Central heating
  • Coffee / tea making
  • Hairdryer
  • Phone
  • Radio
  • Satellite TV
  • Toiletries
  • TV
  • WiFi

Eating

The rosette-winning food is fresh and seasonal, and portions are generous. Meals are served in the cosy Refectory or, in the summer months, on the terrace which overlooks the commanding abbey.

Breakfast is a real highlight. Choose from the Continental buffet or a range of cooked-to-order hot options – we loved the Eggs Benedict and generous Full English – with specific vegetarian and vegan options. Wash it all down with a cafetière of excellent coffee, or a glass of fresh juice.

If you haven’t filled up on the delicious afternoon tea (served in the bar from noon-6pm), dinner is traditional British fare with a European touch. Steaks, veal pie and Lamb Wellington sit aside ratatouille and risotto. There’s also an extensive wine list with a selection of choices to complement each dish.

If you fancy venturing out for the evening, Malmesbury’s high street is a stone's throw away. Several decent pub-grub options and a couple of good independent Italian restaurants can be found.

Features include:

  • Bar
  • Children's meals
  • Coffee / tea making
  • Restaurant
  • Restaurants nearby
  • Room service
  • Vegetarian menu
Eating:
Activity:

Activities

  • Visit the striking 12th-century Malmesbury Abbey adjacent to the hotel and view the tomb of Athelstan, the first king of England
  • Stroll around the Abbey House Gardens (entrance beside the abbey)
  • Catch the latest releases at the small cinema in the town hall
  • Learn about Malmesbury’s fascinating history at the Athelstan Museum
  • Visit Westonbirt Arboretum, a 15-minute drive away, and marvel at the collection of over 2,500 tree species. Kids will love the Treetop Walkway with its canopy-height view
  • Take a day trip to Bath, Stonehenge or Salisbury – tours can be arranged by the hotel
  • You’re spoilt for choice with nearby festivals and events – Badminton Horse Trials, WOMAD and The Festival of British Eventing all take place in the area, and Malmesbury itself holds an annual late summer carnival
  • The Royal Gardens at Highgrove in nearby Tetbury are open to the public on select dates between April and October. Tours must be booked in advance

Activities on site or nearby include:

  • Birdwatching
  • Cycling
  • Golf
  • Hiking
  • Historical sites
  • Horse riding
  • Museums / galleries
  • Nightlife
  • Shopping / markets

Kids

Children of all ages are welcome. The Refectory provides a kids menu, and staff are happy to accommodate earlier meal times for younger children if desired. Family-friendly attractions such as the Westonbirt Arboretum are a short drive away.

Best for:

All ages

Family friendly accommodation:

All rooms except Singles can accommodate 1-2 extra beds for children up to 14, or baby cots, both at an extra charge. We found the rooms in the Coach House to be the most family-friendly, with adjoining sitting rooms containing sofabeds for kids to sleep on.

Children's meals:

Kids menu

Kids Activities on site:

  • Board games

Kids Activities nearby:

  • World-famous Longleat (1hr 10mins)
  • Petting farms
  • Studley Grange Butterfly World & Craft Village (20 mins)
  • Cotswold Wildlife Park & Gardens (1 hr)
  • STEAM – Museum of the Great Western Railway (30 mins)
  • English Heritage’s Old Sarum and Old Wardour Castle
  • Stonehenge

Families Should Know:

The Old Bell Hotel is situated on a busy road, there's a steep hill to the rear beyond the carpark leading to the River Avon

Distances:

  • Airport: 90 minutes (Heathrow)
  • Hospital: 25 minutes (Swindon)
  • Shops: 3 minutes
Kid Friendly:

Location

The Old Bell is located in Malmesbury, a historic market town in Wiltshire.

By Air and Car:
Heathrow Airport is a 1-hour drive away and Bristol Airport is 45 minutes. Hire a car from the airport; Malmesbury is a 15-minute drive from Junction 17 of the M4.

By Train
The nearest train station is Kemble (6km). It's 70 minutes from London Paddington Station. See Seat 61 for more details.

Detailed directions will be sent when you book through i-escape.


Airports:

  • Bristol Airport 65.0 km BRS
  • Heathrow Airport 138.0 km LHR

Other:

  • Beach 70.0 km
  • Shops 0.2 km
  • Restaurant 0.2 km

Our guests' ratings...

Based on 1 independent review from i-escape guests

10/10
Room
10/10
Food
10/10
Service
10/10
Value
10/10
Overall

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