“To them I may have owed another gift, Of aspect more sublime; that blessed mood, In which the burthen of the mystery, In which the heavy and the weary weight Of all this unintelligible world, Is lightened”
The words of the legendary poet William Wordsworth ring true in the narrative of the Old Bell Hotel, the oldest purpose built hotel in England. Situated near the famous Malmesbury Abbey in Wiltshire market town, the beauty of this property fortifies our belief in fairy tales. Built in 1220, this hidden gem of the Cotswolds with its romantic setting, subtle luxury and fine hospitality is a great getaway for anyone with an ancient soul.
History of this erstwhile inn notes that it was built by Abbot Loring in 1220 as a hostelry for visiting monks and dignitaries to the Malmesbury Abbey ,thereafter used for some time as weaver’s lodging and later transformed into a hotel encompassing Medieval to Edwardian styles in the main building and a Japanese touch to the coach house .Though ever evolving, with an extensive renovation completed in February 2018 this place exudes character and exquisiteness in the test of time.
The restoration project was headed by new General Manager Christophe Dumeige, who said, “We are thrilled with the refurbishment, which has returned The Old Bell Hotel to its former glory and introduced a new level of luxury. When guests come to The Old Bell Hotel it is an event not a visit. This is a place for visitors and local residents to enjoy drinks, dine, unwind and spend time with friends and family”.
There are reminiscences of several eras throughout the building, including a stone fireplace in the Brasserie which dates back to 1220 – believed to be the first ever flue chimney in England – and original fireplaces and windows in the rooms. Tranquil log fires, cosy sofas and beds, epicurean delights and fine wine makes the place ideal for frayed urban nerves.
The Country House hotel has 34 rooms– individually designed and named after local historical figures and previous owners of this hotel. Each room is equipped with luxury bathrobes, Noble Isle toiletries, 24 hour room service and free Wi-Fi. Interestingly there are a number of dog friendly rooms too.
Mykel Collins,Creative Director was instrumental in the refurbishment of the rooms, enabling elegant experiences for the guests with contemporary comforts. The hotel also offers free membership to a gym facility just two minutes’ walk away from the hotel – this membership includes a cardio room, sauna and Jacuzzi.
Some rooms are located in the traditional stone building, whilst others are located in the more modern coach house. The rooms at the front of the hotel offer views across the Cotswolds, as well as period features. Modern interiors harmonise with these historical features to provide a classy sojourn for travel enthusiasts, food connoisseurs, cultureatti and honeymooners.
Gourmet and Brew:
Talented Head Chef, JP Mc Auley has curated seasonal menus of Modern British food and Classic European (predominanatly French cuisine) for King size breakfast, relaxed lunches, Afternoon Tea and remarkable dinners at the the Refectory restaurant . The wild sea bass ,chicken pie, vegetable crumble ,gingerbread and wasabi icecream are signature dishes on the menu. The breakfast menu is extensive with typical British delicacies in tasty preparations, making it delightful to the palate .
British style afternoon tea with home-made pastries, delicious scones, cream and jam buns and finger sandwiches with freshly brewed coffee, selection of teas and Prosecco made the Old Bell experience truly blissful.
I really relished the desserts like roasted golden pear with Tonka Bean syrup and home-made salted caramel ice cream.The Rum baba pudding with fresh seasonal fruit and Madagascar vanilla crème’ Chantilly is one of the signature items on this place. The pastries, cakes and homemade macaroons are a favourite among the people in the neighbourhood and visitors of this place.
The Bar also provides an extensive range of wines, cult wines by the glass, cocktails, gins and drinks.
As I stepped into the streets of this lovely town I took a stroll into the irresistibly pretty village nearby. The Malmesbury Abbey and the gardens,St Paul’s bell tower,Market cross ,Athelstan museum ,all places worth seeing for its historical significance and aesthetic splendour. The quaint shops and boutique stores in this countryside sell local and handmade clothes, home ware and gifts that I took home for loved ones.
Private dining and Events:
Guests here enjoy spending time in the grand library, cosy lounges in front of a roaring fire or the fragrant rose garden on the terrace, enjoying the dramatic views of the Abbey.
This hotel is also an iconic place for Weddings, business meetings and conferences. The library or garden room is perfect for meetings with seated layouts. The famous north wing of the Old Bell Hotel with indoor and outdoor venues for weddings hold true the adage ‘Marriages are made in heaven’.
The Bell insignia of the hotel is inspired by the Bell from the great Bell in a peel of ten that once hung in Malmesbury Abbey. Being an avid collector of coffee mugs as I place my eyes on the red and white vintage bell mug souvenir I picked up from the place it brims with stories worth hundred years to tell.