Melksham Town Hall Square
There are lots of lovely historic towns in Wiltshire for visitors to explore, but none more so than the historic town of Melksham.
Half Timbered House
Hundreds of years ago the area was part of a huge royal forest - a favourite hunting ground for Tudor Kings. Melksham started out as a clearing in this forest, on the site of a ford across the River Avon.
Melksham appeared in the Domesday Book, and grew in size and importance thanks to its main industry of making cloth from the wool supplied by the local sheep farmers - such as 15th Century Woolmore Farm in nearby Bowerhill.
Of course wool had to be transported by horses, and you can still see the Packhorse Bridge over the River Avon between Whaddon and Broughton Gifford - notice the design features low parapets which allowed horses with heavily laden panniers to cross the bridge.
In Victorian times, Melksham became a popular Spa town to rival the much larger town of Bath nearby. You can still see the Pump Room at the Spa, and a crescent of Lodging Houses that date from this time.
If you'd like to know more about the history of Melksham and surrounding area, the Well House Collection is sure to be of interest. The museum contains some local artefacts, (many canal related) and pictures, as well as local information accessible via computer.
As the museum is located within Well House Manor, you can even enjoy a Cream Tea from the cafe during your visit.
Things to do in Melksham
St Michael and All Angels Church
Melksham and the beautiful countryside that surrounds it are best explored on foot: There is a lovely riverside walk along the River Avon.
Why not visit the Conigre Mead Nature Reserve, managed by local volunteers with support from the Wiltshire Wildlife Trust.
You can see butterflies, dragonflies - and if you're very lucky you might catch a glimpse of a neon blue Kingfisher hunting for its dinner in the river.
There are lots of rights of way to explore in the area, so look out for the information boards in the town which will show you where they are, and highlight some of the plants and animals to look out for.
A walking map of Melksham is also available from the Tourist Information Centre.
If you want to cover a bit more ground, there's lots to see by bike as well: The Kennet and Avon Canal runs close to Melksham, and you could ride from Bath or Bradford on Avon in the west, up to the famous Caen Hill Locks in the east:
Caen Hill Locks
Caen Hill is a flight of 16 locks in a row, which were needed to allow the canal to navigate the steep hill. You'll probably see a narrowboat working its way up or down the series of locks - it's quite a challenge for even the fittest of crews!
If you prefer to walk, there is a circular walk along footpaths which includes part of the canal - and there's a picnic area maintained by local residents.
Canon Square Houses
The walk passes the famous Melksham Oak - an ancient oak tree, perhaps part of that original Tudor forest - it's thought to be at least 700 years old - and the site where Cromwell's men hanged four Royalists during the English Civil War.
Town Hall Square
If you're travelling with young children they'll want to try out the children's playground in King George V Park in the town - a large recreation area which is also home to the local canoe club.
If you're staying longer in the area, local facilities also include a gym, swimming pool, library, and there's a 9 hole golf course nearby at Whitley.
If you're visiting in the summer, you'll be able to enjoy the many floral displays that are part of the annual "Melksham in Bloom" competition.
Melksham In Bloom
Summer is also when the Party in the Park and Melksham Carnival take place. There's even a Melksham Comic Convention.
The Melksham Food and River Festival takes place in the Autumn, and features live music, activities on the river and more than 60 stalls, many featuring delicious local produce.
Towards the end of the year, the annual Melksham Christmas Fayre features Christmas lights display, put on by local volunteers, highlighting the town's wonderful community spirit.
Melksham hosts a market every Tuesday throughout the year.
Places to Stay and Eat
Beechfield House is a 23 bedroom country house hotel, set in beautiful grounds and offering a heated outdoor swimming pool and a spa. Families are welcome (even those with a dog).
Beechfield House has 4 AA Red Stars for quality and an AA Red Rosette for its food. If you're not staying, Beechfield House offers an excellent cream tea.
The historic and picturesque Pear Tree Inn is a stone-built 17th Century farmhouse serving a lovely menu made from locally-sourced ingredients throughout the day. You can also stay in one of the 10 comfortable rooms. Pets are welcome by arrangement.
If you'd prefer to stay in a B&B, why not try Honeysuckle Cottage in the nearby village of Broughton Gifford? Owners Sue and Darius will welcome you to their beautiful 18th Century stone cottage. Enjoying a peaceful location overlooking the village common, with a studio flat or twin bedroom to choose from, and WiFi included, you're sure to enjoy your stay.
Places to Visit Nearby
The National Trust properties Great Chalfield Manor and Lacock Abbey are nearby, and both well worth a visit.
Keen gardeners will want to visit Whitehall Garden Centre in Lacock, and the nearby towns of Bradford on Avon
and lovely Castle Combe
should be on everyone's itinerary.
For lots more ideas check out the right-hand column of this page where we highlight many of the interesting things to do and places to visit in the Melksham area.
For more information about things to see and do in Melksham check out:
* Distances shown are in a direct line. Distances by road will be longer.