Last Updated on 29/04/2021
The pretty market town of Malmesbury, Wiltshire is your quintessential English country town. Complete with historic market cross, grand Abbey and sprawling gardens, it is well worth a visit to admire Malmesbury’s charm.
In this guide I’ll share what to do in Malmesbury on your visit, where to stay, and what to do near Malmesbury if you want to extend your time in the area.
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About Malmesbury, United Kingdom
If you are looking for a charming and historic town with lots of character, Malmesbury, England is the place for you! This pretty town might be small in size, but it is crammed with things to do.
Malmesbury is the ideal place to visit as part of a Cotswolds break, or a great day trip from Bath. No matter where you are visiting in the region, keep reading to discover all of the reasons why you don’t want to miss Malmesbury off your itinerary.
What is the Malmesbury population?
The 2011 census recorded the Malmesbury population at under 5,400. So if you’re looking for a quiet town for a relaxing escape, you are in the right place! A significant proportion of the population of Malmesbury work at the Dyson headquarters, which is located on the edge of town.
What is Malmesbury famous for?
Despite its small size, Malmesbury has some pretty big claims! Firstly, Malmesbury is famous for being England’s oldest borough. It has a Guinness World Record to prove it! Malmesbury was given royal ‘borough’ status by Alfred the Great, around 880AD.
Malmesbury’s famous association with King Alfred the Great is what it is best known for. But the beautiful Malmesbury Abbey, the historic market cross, and the Old Bell Hotel are all famous attractions in their own rights. You can read more about these sights below.
Top parking location in Malmesbury: Malmesbury Long Stay Car Park, SN16 9JT.
Things to do in Malmesbury
For a small town, there are a lot of things to do in Malmesbury! Here is a list of my top recommendations.
You will want to allow 2 hours minimum for your Malmesbury visit, but you could easily fill half a day. If you wanted to check everything off this list, you’d need a full day to take it all in!
Discover Malmesbury Town Centre
One of my favourite things to do in Malmesbury was to simply take a stroll around the town centre. This picturesque town is calm and quiet in the morning, but definitely has that bustling market town feel by midday. Simply soaking up the charming streets and life in the town is a great way to enjoy Malmesbury.
Admire Malmesbury Market Place
The historic market cross in Malmesbury was built in c. 1490. Located in the centre of town, this ornate icon is hard to miss! There are benches inside which make the ideal place to sit and admire the market place and surrounding buildings.
Location: Market Cross, SN16 9AS.
On a stroll through the centre of Malmesbury, you will encounter a number of independent boutique stores. They sell a range of wares from clothing to home accessories and unique gifts.
You will want to set aside some time on your visit to browse the shops in Malmesbury. It is worth noting that if you visit on a Sunday or a bank holiday, the stores are unlikely to be open.
Best shopping location: High Street, SN16 9AU.
The Athelstan Museum is a small museum dedicated to celebrating the history of Malmesbury and the local area. The collection was donated by Malmesbury residents when the museum was established in 1931 and it continues to grow.
With collections dedicated to how people lives, agriculture and industry, art and much more, Athelstan Museum is the ideal place to learn more about the rich history of Malmesbury.
Location: Town Hall, Cross Hayes, SN16 9BZ.
Malmesbury Abbey was built in the 12th century. It has been an important place of worship throughout its history and, at one point, housed the second largest library in Europe. The Abbey that stands today is the third to be built on this site and dates from 1180.
Worship continues in the nave today, while the rest of the Abbey stands in ruin. It is free to visit the Abbey but visitors are encouraged to make a donation to support the maintainance of this incredible building. You can also stroll around the building and admire what remains.
Location: Gloucester St, SN16 0AA.
Abbey House Malmesbury
Abbey House is a country house located adjacent to Malmesbury Abbey. It dates from the 16th century, but it is believed that a building has been here since around the 11th century. It was possibly built as a dormitory for the neighbouring Abbey.
Abbey house is privately owned so you cannot visit inside it. However, you can catch a glimpse of the exterior when you visit Abbey House Gardens.
Location: Abbey House, Market Cross, SN16 9AS.
Abbey House Gardens Malmesbury
If there is one thing you don’t want to miss on your visit, it is the Malmesbury Abbey Gardens. The gardens make up 5 acres of grounds belonging to Abbey House. They are open to the public from late March until late October every year.
Abbey House Gardens are made up of a diverse combination of curated formal gardens, neat lawns and riverside glades.
The best way to soak up the gardens is simply to take a stroll and thoroughly investigate the archways, steps and terraces and see what you discover. You’re likely to be surprised around each turn, particularly if you stumble upon the weekly yoga class on the lawn, or Brutus the resident tortoise!
The garden plays host to a number of events during the year. At the time of our visit, they were home to the Creating Spaces Sculpture Exhibition. There were almost 100 sculptures dotted throughout the gardens, which visitors could admire and purchase.
If you want to visit the gardens, there is no need to pre-book. Tickets can be purchased on the day and are priced at £8 per adult, £4 per child (5-15 yrs), £7 per consession or £20 for a family ticket.
Malmesbury Abbey Gardens open from 11am each day. You will want to allow at least an hour for a gentle stroll through the gardens. You can spend longer here by finding a spot to sit and unwind, or enjoying some delicious food from the cafe by the koi pond.
Location: Abbey House, Market Cross, SN16 9AS.
If you want to spend more time in Malmesbury and really get to know the place, there are a number of walks that you can enjoy. Explore Malmesbury is a great resource which has the town’s highlights plotted on a map.
You can also select one of the themed trails which will take you on a guided tour. You can choose everything from a family quiz or arts and crafts trail to a river walk, pub trail or a tour of the Malmesbury highlights.
Where to stay in Malmesbury – The Old Bell Hotel
If you want to extend your stay in the area, there is nowhere better to stay than The Old Bell Hotel Malmesbury. The Old Bell Hotel claims to be the oldest hotel in England. They have been welcoming guests from as early as 1220!
The Old Bell Hotel in Malmesbury is definitely a little slice of luxury. They have 34 rooms that make the most of the historic character of the building, while combining it with all of the modern comforts you would expect. It is the ideal way to fully immerse yourself in the extensive Malmesbury history on your visit!
Location: Abbey Row, SN16 0BW.
Things to do near Malmesbury
If you are planning to visit Malmesbury as part of a longer stay in the region, here are some great things to do near Malmesbury to add to your itinerary.
Castle Combe is often referred to as the ‘prettiest village in England.’ This quintessential Cotswold village is certainly charming and the ideal place for a stroll to soak up the quiet village life.
It is located a short 25-minute drive south of Malmesbury. There is free car parking available just outside the village (SN14 7HH) but it does get busy. Arrive early to avoid disappointment.
Westonbirt the National Arboretum
Westonbirt Arboretum is one of the most important plant collections in the world. Its expansive collection of trees from around the world is dedicated to research and conservation. You can take a stroll through the woods, or enjoy them from a greater vantage point on the Treetop Walkway.
Tickets to Westonbirt currently need to be pre-booked. You can book your tickets and see the entry prices here.
Location: Westonbirt, Tetbury GL8 8QS.
Dyrham Park, owned by the National Trust, is a 30-minute drive southwest of Malmesbury. This baroque country house is set in an ancient deer park. It is a beautiful place to wander the grounds and admire the house exterior. The interior is currently undergoing extensive restoration work.
Parking is available onsite. There is an entry fee of £8 per adult, £4 per child, or £20 per family. National Trust members can visit for free – get your National Trust membership here.
Pre-booking is currently required. Find out more here.
Location: Dyrham, Bath, Chippenham SN14 8HY.
Bath to Malmesbury
Malmesbury is an ideal day trip from Bath if you are visiting and want to extend your visit to other places in the area. To get from Bath to Malmesbury, you can enjoy a scenic 45-minute drive through the Cotswolds. Or you can get a train from Bath Spa to Chippenham, then catch the 92 bus service to Malmesbury which will take approximately 1h15 to 1hr30.
Before you go
So if you are visiting Malmesbury, be sure to bookmark this page or pin it using the pin below so you can visit these top sights on your trip!
Have you visited Malmesbury? I’d love to hear about your visit! Let’s connect on Instagram and send me a DM and tell me what you loved most about this pretty market town!
Until our next adventure,