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We love Malmesbury… Here’s why we think you will too!

Posted: Wed, 6th May 2020
Malmesbury Abbey

Malmesbury’s vibrant history as England’s oldest borough gives this ancient hilltop town bags of character, including plenty of interesting relics, landmarks and buildings. Malmesbury Abbey is a must-see for history buffs and architecture lovers; the town’s iconic 12th Century abbey sits at its heart, and is home to the tomb of Athelstan the Glorious, the first King of England. Alongside the Abbey are the vibrant Abbey House Gardens, straddling the River Avon across five acres and housing over 2,000 different roses, 100,000 tulips and 10,000 different plant species that burst to life from March to November each year. Malmesbury is also the home to the vibrant and multi-national WOMAD music festival.

Malmesbury is a haven for independent boutiques, including French Grey, Hobb House Bakery, Malmesbury Abbey Book Shop, Mistral, Capers Deli, Dolly Bobbins, David Brooks Antiques, The Wild Food Company and Cherry Tree. Plus, there’s the weekly Farmers’ & Artisan Market held at the Market Cross every Friday. Malmesbury’s winding streets are worth exploring too, you can follow the River Walk to really get to know the town.

Sightseeing & Activities

Below is a selection of things to do and places to visit while staying in Malmesbury. The best sources of up-to-date information about local events can be found at Malmesbury and Wiltshire Information.

Malmesbury Abbey

Malmesbury Abbey ruinsThe current Malmesbury Abbey was built in the 12th century and is the third abbey to stand on the site. The abbey dates from 1180 and has been added to over the years. A great spire used to sit atop it, and made the abbey the tallest building in England for a while, until the late 15th century when it fell, followed by the tower 100 years later. Only the nave of this once huge abbey remains.

Abbey House Gardens

Abbey House Garden at Malmesbury

Abbey House Gardens, Malmesbury © Sarah Smith

The Abbey House Gardens sit right next to the iconic Malmesbury Abbey and are over 1300 years old. The first King of England is buried somewhere in the garden, and two saints were thrown down the well – it has as much history as mystery! It is a truly spectacular garden that has been the location for TV programmes, weddings, garden yoga, and until 2019 was known for the Naked Gardener, Ian Douglas Pollard, who transformed the garden with fellow gardener Martin Roberts from a formal garden to today’s stunning naturalistic riverside garden.

Cotswold Water Park

13 miles from Malmesbury

Practicing yoga at Cotswold Water Park

Practicing yoga at Cotswold Water Park

An adventure paradise for all ages to enjoy, Cotswold Water Park is an extensive wetland area where a host of outdoor activities such as sailing, rowing, horse riding, shooting and even a purpose-built beach. All ages will be entertained, no matter what the weather.

Chavenage House

7 miles from Malmesbury

You may recognise this unique Elizabethan manor house thanks to its on-screen appearances in several BBC dramas, including Poldark, The Pale Horse, Tess of the D’Urbervilles, Lark Rise to Candleford and Grace and Favour, all having been filmed here. Visitors can take a tour of this 400-year-old Cotswold manor with the current owner, David Lowsley-Williams, and walk in the footsteps of Oscar-winning Eddie Redmayne, Jamie Dornan, and Poldark’s Aidan Turner as well as Oliver Cromwell and possibly a few ghosts too!

Time To Relax

Calcot Spa at Calcot Manor

9 miles from Malmesbury

The wonderful outdoor hot tub at Calcot Spa

© Calcot Manor

Arguably one of the finest spas in the south-west, if not the UK, Calcot Spa offers all you need for a day of R&R with more than a slice of luxury. Housed at the luxurious Calcot Manor hotel, Calcot Spa boasts a beautiful outdoor hot tub with roaring fire pit, a large indoor pool, tranquil relaxation areas and an extensive treatment menu. We can assure you you’ll want to spend the day here… and probably won’t want to leave!

Whatley Manor Hotel & Spa

2.5 miles from centre of Malmesbury

The Aquarius Spa at Whatley Manor is a place to reset and recharge, with an indoor/outdoor hydrotherapy pool, heated stone recliners, salt scrub showers and thermal suite, plus a pampering menu of treatments to enjoy. There’s even a gym, should you want to energise before unwinding. 

The Vaulted Spa at the Kings Head Hotel

13 miles from Malmesbury

This unique subterranean spa can be found in the vaults of the boutique Kings Head Hotel, just off Cirencester’s main Market Square. With four treatment rooms, a relaxation room and thermal suite complete with hot tub, infra-red sauna, steam room and experience shower, this is the ideal spot to unwind away from the hubbub of the town centre. Indulge with one of the spa’s pampering treatments, with everything from therapeutic massages and beautifying facials on offer.

For Nature Lovers

Westonbirt Arboretum

7 miles from Malmesbury

Westonbirt aerial walkway

Westonbirt aerial walkway

This spectacular 600-acre arboretum offers nature lovers of all ages a memorable day-out destination whatever the weather. Filled with over 15,000 trees from around the world, visitors can keep eyes peeled for specific species using the Arboretum’s Tree Spotter’s Guide, wander amidst the treetops on the award-winning STIHL Treetop Walkway or head off on one of the guided walks. Visitors in Autumn are in for a treat, as the trees put on an incredible leaf-changing display which carpets the area in red and golden hues.

Highgrove Gardens

7 miles from Malmesbury

The spectacular gardens of Prince Charles’ own Highgrove Estate are open to the public between March and September, making it the perfect opportunity to discover the spectacular gardens which His Royal Highness has worked passionately to create over the past 30+ years. The gardens themselves are a series of interlinked spaces, each with their own character and purpose, bursting to life with a stunning display of colours throughout the seasons. After exploring the gardens, be sure to head to The Orchard Restaurant for a bite to eat, offering up delicious daily dishes created using the finest in organic ingredients.

The Bathurst Estate & Cirencester Park

13 miles from Malmesbury 

This historic 3,000-acre estate owned by the Bathurst Family boasts a beautiful 19th Century parkland designed by Alexander Pope, which the general public are free to enjoy at their leisure. Accessible via entrance gates on Cecily Hill, little ones will love stretching their legs here, whilst older visitors will enjoy taking in the stunning landscapes. Dogs are welcome, too, just take care to stick to the designated walking areas.

Local Events

WOMAD – The World’s Festival

The World of Music Arts and Dance – WOMAD – festival has been held in Charlton Park in Malmesbury since 2007. It features a fabulous diversity of sound, split over six stages and featuring bands and musicians from over 50 countries! There are also workshops, a spa, fantastic food, and just a brilliant family-friendly feel.

Malmesbury Artisan & Farmers’ Market

The Market is held at the historic Market Cross every Friday from 9am to 3pm. Selling an enticing array of local, fresh and organic produce together with artisan products and gifts at great prices, the market is well supported by visitors and residents alike.

Woolsack Festival (May)

Woolsack Festival

5.5 miles from Malmesbury

Every year, the second May Bank Holiday plays host to Tetbury’s iconic Woolsack Races; an unusual local festival dating back to the 17th Century, which sees runners tackle Tetbury’s steepest hill (Gumstool Hill) with a very heavy woolsack on their back. With plenty of merriment, fun and food on offer throughout the event, as well as the spectacle itself, it’s a fantastic sight to behold if you’re lucky enough to be in the area at the time.

Badminton Horse Trials (May)

11 miles from Malmesbury

Every year in May, one of the biggest events in the world’s equestrian calendar comes to the spectacular Badminton Estate for three days of thrilling competitions, amazing horse displays and over 500 stands dedicated to food, drink and country pursuits. A great day out for all ages, dogs are welcome to come along, too. Keep your eyes peeled for a royal or two, known to frequent the horse trials every year.

Gatcombe Horse Trials (August)

10 miles from Malmesbury

Another for the horse-lovers among us, August plays host to the annual Festival of British Eventing at Gatcombe Park, HRH The Princess Royal’s personal home. Watch riders test their mettle in many different events over the course of the weekend, discover the fantastic food and shopping village or be sure to be enthralled with the equestrian entertainment on offer in the main ring. Again, dogs are welcome too, making this a fantastic option for the whole family.

Royal International Air Tattoo (July)

22 miles from Malmesbury

Royal International Air Tatoo

Every year in July, the skies above Fairford come alive with the world-renowned Air Tattoo; arguably one of the greatest airshows in the world. Drawing in over 185,000 people every year, The Air Tattoo welcomes over 300 aircraft from 30 nations around the world, with a thrilling programme of flying air displays taking place over the course of the event. An absolute must-visit for flying fans and adrenaline-junkies, with plenty on offer to keep others entertained, too.

Tetbury Music Festival (Autumn)

5.5 miles from Malmesbury

A celebration of everything from classic to contemporary music, the Tetbury Music Festival offers a wonderful programme of concerts, talks and interviews throughout the town every year, the perfect antidote to nights drawing in. Be sure to visit the website for details of what’s on and how to get tickets.

A family at a music festival

Forest Live at Westonbirt

The National Arboretum plays host to national and international stars playing outdoor concerts during the summer. It’s a magical setting with music lovers enjoying picnics before the concerts start. Recent bands have includes Paloma Faith, Madness, Keane and Jools Holland.

For Bigger Kids

Minchinhampton Golf Club

9 miles from Malmesbury Minchinhampton Old Course

Boasting no fewer than three courses, Minchinhampton is one of the finest golf courses in the Cotswolds, including two Championship courses and the original ‘old course’. Renowned for their immaculate presentation and excellent drainage, all three courses are open to visitors year-round, with tee bookings available to be made two weeks in advance by calling the dedicated Tee Bookings Line (found on website). Proper golf attire is required to be worn, along with golf shoes and socks.

Stroud Brewery

15 miles from Malmesbury

Man holding up a pint of beer from a Cotswold brewery

The result of owner Greg Pilley’s dedication to his vision to create a sustainable, organic beer which actively contributes to its local community, Stroud Brewery has gone from strength to strength since its conception in 2006. Now a thriving brewery with a fantastic selection of organic craft beers, the Brewery itself boasts its own bar, shop and offers Brewery Tours; the perfect day out for beer enthusiasts.

Local Walks

We recommend the Malmesbury River Walk, a fantastic circular walk. Following the River Avon as it meanders its way around the outskirts of the town, this gentle 2-mile stroll through Malmesbury’s streets and picturesque fields takes in a host of the town’s ancient landmarks, including Daniel’s Well, Malmesbury’s 19th Century Silk Mills, The Old Courthouse and the pretty Abbey House Gardens, as well as giving you the opportunity to experience the beauty of the riverbanks and the wildlife it attracts.  The perfect way to discover this Saxon hilltop town’s rich history whilst enjoying as much fresh Cotswold air as you can.

For more information about each point of interest along the walk visit and click the link Malmesbury River Walk.

The Food Scene

Malmesbury, and nearby Crudwell, has a wide range of pubs, cafes and restaurants. Here’s 10 local favourites:


If you’re inspired to come and stay in Malmesbury, enjoy a virtual visit to one of our cottages

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