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Bradford on Avon town bridge

Bradford on Avon, Wiltshire

I fell in love with Bradford on Avon the moment I saw it. This pretty Wiltshire town, 20 minutes south west of Bath, is now my home, so I’ve spent hours exploring it. Here are my favourite things to do in Bradford on Avon:

Enjoy the view from the town bridge

Bradford on Avon view from the bridge

The best way to see Bradford on Avon is on foot, as many of the sights are not accessible by car, and the best place to start is at our 13th century town bridge. The town originally grew up around a ford across the river Avon (hence the origin of its name, Broad-ford) and the bridge still has its Norman arches and a tiny building which is thought to originally have been a chapel and then a lock up for local drunks! From here you will see the old mill buildings, dating back to the 17th century when Bradford on Avon had a thriving textiles industry. If you are here in spring, you might be lucky enough to see our resident swans nesting at the foot of the bridge, or their young cygnets going for a swim down the river.

Browse our fabulous independent shops and farmers markets

Bradford on Avon Wiltshire independent shops

Have a good nose around all of our wonderful independent shops including a vintage clothes shop, a sustainable supermarket, an incredibly chic bridal shop with the most beautiful window displays, greengrocers, and even a shop selling only products made in Bradford on Avon. There is a farmers market every Thursday morning in Westbury Gardens, and a Farmers & Artisan Market on the last Sunday of the month, which is well worth a visit. You’ll also find lovely homewares and local arts shops at Barton Farm.

Explore our architecture

Bradford on Avon Wiltshire Georgian architecture

Bradford on Avon is steeped in history and many of the buildings here are listed. Stroll along Church Street, past beautiful Georgian houses, along to Holy Trinity Church, the parish church dating back to Norman times, then up the hill to the Saxon church dating back to 705AD. Further up is a maze of terraces called Newtown, Middle Rank and Tory Terraces where you can spot quaint 17th century weavers cottages. Cars can’t get up here so stamina is required!

Picnic at Barton Farm

Bradford on Avon Wiltshire tithe barn

From the Tory Terraces, find your way to Barton Orchard, which was the ancient packhorse way linking Winsley, Barton Farm and Bath. This lane will take you down to the train track (please be careful as you cross over!) and on to Barton Farm Country Park. Explore the 180-foot-long 14th century Tithe Barn, as well as gifts and homewares shops, an artists’ complex, tearoom and two playgrounds. This is the place to go in the summer for a leisurely riverside picnic.

Stroll along the river to Avoncliff

Bradford on Avon Wiltshire riverside walk

Barton Farm is the starting point for a lovely riverside walk to the hamlet of Avoncliff, where the Kennet & Avon canal passes over the river Avon and the railway line, on the Avoncliff Aqueduct. There is a little cafe at Avoncliff which is ok for a rest and a drink, but unfortunately I can’t recommend the Cross Guns pub, even though it has a lovely riverside location. There is a new cafe in a barge on the canal between Bradford on Avon and Avoncliff though, which I will be reviewing shortly (if you go there, do let me know what it’s like!). When you head back to Bradford on Avon, instead of retracing your steps along the river, you can walk back along the canal – my daughter loves looking at all the canal boats and watching them go through the lock back in Bradford on Avon.

Take a boat trip on the canal

Bradford on Avon Wiltshire canal boats on Kennet and Avon canal

For a leisurely afternoon on the water, you can go up the canal from the lock to Avoncliff Aqueduct on the Barbara McLellan canal boat. Trips are at 2.30pm every Wednesday, Saturday, Sunday and bank holiday from April to October, and take around 2 hours. Board from the lock 20 mins before departure. The cost is £6 for adults, £4 for children (5-15yrs), and under 5s go free. As well as short trips to Avoncliff, they do Bath day trips, jazz evenings, cream tea trips, ‘Autumn Colours’ trips and even Santa trips at Christmas. You can also charter the boat, which seats 40 comfortably, for a private event. Call 0750 344 5393 or email barbaramac@katrust.org.uk for details.

If you fancy taking the helm yourself, you can charter the Dorothy May (seats 10) from Sally Narrowboats; weekdays £80 (half day) or £140 (full day), £170 for a full day at weekends and bank holidays. Call 01225 864923.

Explore on two wheels (or two paddles!)

Bradford on Avon Wiltshire bike hire

For a more active way to explore the canal and river, you can hire a canoe or bike from Towpath Trail. Canoes fit up to two adults and two children, and child life jackets and helmets are free of charge. Bikes can be hired with child trailers, trailer bikes and child seats, making them great for families too. Call 01225 867187.

Practical details about Bradford on Avon

Tourist information website: www.bradfordonavon.co.uk

The tourist information centre is in Westbury Gardens (by the bridge)

By Emma Holcombe

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