Rumoured to be England’s oldest hotel, The Old Bell Hotel first opened its doors over 800 years ago in 1220. Set in the charming hilltop town of Malmesbury, it was originally erected by Abbot Loring for visiting dignitaries to Malmesbury Abbey, then an important and powerful seat of learning. A historic Grade I listed hotel with traces of every century throughout the hotel, including a hooded stone fireplace in the Bar which dates from 1220, it underwent a top-to-toe refurbishment in 2021 by its owners Kim Hanks and her husband, renowned antiques dealer and collector, Whit Hanks.
The Old Bell Hotel retains plenty of original character and is filled to the brim with quirky curiosities, collected from the owners travels around the world, the walls adorned with wallpapers by Lewis and Wood, Melissa White, Thibaut and Zardi and Zardi, providing eccentric yet beautiful sophisticated interiors that I had me snapping away endlessly on my camera. There are three cosy and inviting lounges furnished with plush sofas and armchairs, each with its own fireplace, which I can imagine to be the ideal spot to retreat to in the colder months ahead. For the rainy days, guests are also able to make use of their welly wall, equipped with matching umbrellas.
Standing the test of time, it was recently awarded the title of ‘Best Independent UK Hotel 2023’ in Muddy Stiletto National Awards, renowned for celebrating the ‘best of the best’; with over 77,000 businesses considered throughout the awards, this is undoubtedly an incredible accolade for the hotel.
The hotel boasts 34 exquisite bedrooms, each individually designed and furnished, and we were lucky enough to stay in one of their two Master Suites, the Athelstan Suite, which was extremely spacious, complete with a sumptuous Superking bed; the perfect haven of relaxation with stunning views over their gardens and the ancient town of Malmesbury. There was an large stone fireplace which gave the room a bit of character, and the walls have been beautifully plastered with whimsical Mythical Lands wallpaper featuring pears and trees that take cue from American folk art; a collaboration between Andrew Martin and renowned designers Kit Kemp Design Studio and artist Melissa White. The bathroom had a lovely shower and bathtub in which I enjoyed a relaxing bubblebath later that evening, kitted out with a range of Bramley toiletries, made in the British countryside using natural ingredients. There was vintage dressing table with a modern-day Dyson hairdryer and flat screen TV attached to the wall next to it, as well as a wardrobe with plenty of storage space which contained a safe, small fridge, and complimentary Teapig teas, Wiltshire roasted coffee, and homemade biscuits.
Being a dog-friendly hotel, Charlotte also received VIP treatment, provided with her own luxury four-poster bed, fit for a princess, food/drink bowls and delicious treats to snack on throughout our stay.
Shortly after we checked in and freshened up in our room, we relaxed in one of their lounges with welcome glasses of prosecco before being treated to their quintessentially British afternoon tea experience. We enjoyed a generous selection of breads and spreads, as well as a mouthwatering variety of sweet and savoury delights, alongside some freshly baked buttermilk scones served with clotted cream & homemade seasonal jam.
Whilst Charlotte retired to the bedroom for the evening, we headed back downstairs for an intimate dinner at their restaurant, Abbey Row, which has been recently awarded two AA Rosettes, headed up by their ever-talented and multi-award-winning Executive Chef, Leigh Evans. The menus are seasonal and inspired by local ingredients, and Chef Leigh has the privilege of working directly with The Old Bell Hotel’s gardeners who grow much of the kitchen’s produce from their stunning kitchen garden at Abbey House Manor. The menu changes regularly, offering a 7-course tasting menu on Fridays and Saturday evenings. Some highlights of the meal included seared Scottish scallop with smoked ham hock, plaice fillet with Thai green sauce and sticky coconut rice, and their twist on strawberries & cream.
The next morning, we were served breakfast in the lounge, where we helped ourselves to the continental buffet alongside freshly cooked breakfast dishes such as Turkish eggs and poached Clarence Court eggs on toasted bagel.
A word of thanks to The Old Bell Hotel for hosting us over the weekend.
- My experience at The Old Bell Hotel was complimentary – views and photos are my own.