The Good Family Hotel Guide: The Old Bell Hotel, Malmesbury, Wilts

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A Grade I-listed building, in the centre of a classic Cotswolds town, it claims to be England's oldest inn. The Old Bell actively woos families, so children are warmly welcomed. However, the facilities provided are mostly for very young children; those over about eight will find that there is less to entertain them. Accommodation

Of the 31 rooms, a few in the main building are in period style. All the family rooms and suites are in the converted coach house, and fashioned on a Japanese theme, with minimalist décor. The hotel also boasts a telephone child-listening service.

In the area

The 12th-century Malmesbury Abbey is right next door and Westonbirt Arboretum, Bowood House (which has a huge adventure playground), and Lacock National Trust village are all within a 20-minute drive.

Activities

"The Den" playroom and nursery is supervised by nannies, free of charge, between 10am and 6pm daily and is stuffed with toys and games. There is also a small "Cyber Room", which has computers and a Nintendo to keep older children happy, and an outdoor playground with swings and a sandpit.

Refuelling

A supervised 12 o'clock lunch and five o'clock tea are provided in "the Den", along with a good selection of snacks and light meals at other times. The restaurant lets parents dine in some style, but is not suitable for small children.

Fellow guests

At weekends, they are mainly young families from London, plus a few grandpas and grannies taking the little ones for a treat. It's less family-orientated during the week, when the hotel is a popular business venue.

Sample price

Small double rooms from £95; capacious deluxes for £150, including breakfast. There is no further charge for children sharing; cots and extra beds are provided.

Address

The Old Bell Hotel is in Abbey Row, Malmesbury, Wiltshire, BA15 1YX (tel 01666 822344, fax: 01666 825145).

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