The underrated Wiltshire town that looks like it’s out of a fairy tale

In the midst of the rolling Wiltshire countryside, just over the border from Somerset and a mere fifteen-minute drive from Bath, Bradford on Avon feels like it belongs in a storybook. 

On the edge of the Cotswolds, it has a distinct beauty and charm that is so typical of this part of the country – but it sees none of the crowds of places like Bourton on Water and Bibury.

Plus, it’s just 15 minutes on the train from Bath!

A Town Steeped in History

Bradford on Avon, historic building

Situated on the River Avon, as its name suggests, Bradford on Avon has been inhabited since Roman times. The town was built up around its ford (the name ‘Bradford’ was derived from the town’s original broad ford). 

Despite its long history, my first encounter with Bradford on Avon was far from idyllic. 

At 18, I crashed and wrote off my first car on a country road leading to the town. The first time I heard the town’s name was when the police located me at the scene.

A Second Chance Encounter

Fast forward two and a half years, and I found myself driving to a job interview in Beckington, a tiny village in Somerset. 

On an unexpectedly warm April day, as I cruised along the country roads, a patch of grass triggered a memory – I had entered Bradford on Avon again. 

This time, I made it to the town centre, and I’m so glad I did!

Bradford on Avon feels like walking right into a postcard, a quintessentially English setting that quickly won my heart.

The Bridge Tea Rooms

One of my favourite spots in Bradford on Avon is The Bridge Tea Rooms. 

Described by a waitress as “the building that looks like it’s falling down,” it’s located in a blacksmith’s house dating from 1502. 

All the waitresses are dressed in Victorian outfits, the cakes are absolutely massive, and there are even a few gluten-free options. My choice, the gluten-free chocolate log cake, was the size of my head! 

The variety of teas is extensive too.

The Bradford on Avon Museum

Another must-visit is the Bradford on Avon Museum, a fantastic freebie (although donations are welcome). 

It offers a fascinating history of the town throughout the centuries. 

One intriguing fact is that the small hut-like structure on the Norman Bridge was once a tiny chapel and later used to lock up town drunks!

After touring the museum, you find yourself in an old-school pharmacy, a re-creation of the Christopher Pharmacy that dates back to 1863.

Exploring the Kennet and Avon Canal

The Kennet and Avon Canal is one of the most beautiful in the country. I’ve along half of the Bath-Bradford on Avon stretch, and the other side is just as gorgeous. 

You can cycle the entire eight-mile route from Bath or simply enjoy a leisurely walk along the canal at either end.

Architectural Marvels

Bradford on Avon, Somerset, England, UK - The Town Bridge over the River Avon, the icon of the town.

One of the top things to do in Bradford on Avon is simply walking around and appreciating the town’s architecture. 

The buildings, many dating from the 17th century, were built from the profits of the booming textile industry. 

Highlights include the Norman Bridge with its historical lock-up and numerous structures that harken back to even older eras.

The Barge Inn

After a day of sightseeing, head to The Barge Inn, an 18th-century public house and hotel that retains many of its original features. 

You can stay here, or just pop in for local drinks, food and a great atmosphere. It’s a perfect spot to chat with locals and soak in the spirit of rural West Country – without the masses of tourists that you’ll find elsewhere!

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