For a small town, Calne packs in a lot of history. It’s where the traditional English technique of curing ham and bacon – the Wiltshire Cure – was invented, where Joseph Priestley also discovered oxygen in 1774 while working at nearby Bowood House and Dutchman Jan Ingenhousz discovered photosynthesis a few years later!
The town’s story also incorporates drovers’ trails and coach roads, the rise and fall of canal and rail travel and the legacy of woollen broadcloth. Evidence of Calne’s woollen broadcloth industry can still be seen around the triangular green by the parish church, where 24 listed buildings remain, five at Grade II including the Tounson almshouses and Georgian era clothiers' houses.
Calne is at the heart of the Great West Way – a new tourism route approximately 125 miles in length which is joining up many of England’s iconic destinations and attractions along a corridor west of London through to Bristol.
Much of the original Calne is located along the River Marden where many of the historic buildings still remain. Calne Heritage Quarter featuring The Green and the Grade I Listed St Mary’s Church, is an area of the town celebrated for its historic character and charm. There is Castlefields with nature trails, outdoor gym equipment and access to the National Cycle Network route 403 easily accessible from the town centre.
Visit Calne Heritage Centre for the story of Calne in a series of wall panels complemented by interactive digital display and a varied programme of exhibitions throughout the year.
Motor enthusiasts shouldn’t miss the Atwell-Wilson Motor Museum with a range of cars from the 1920s onwards plus motorbikes, mopeds and bicycles. The Calne Library and Hub sits alongside Beach Terrace on the bank of the River Marden which was rerouted to create an informal outdoor space. Why not take the opportunity to explore the public art in the town centre.
Events & Entertainment
The town has a thriving arts and cultural scene with events taking place throughout the year.
Wordfest literacy event (March), Lions Duck Race (May), Summer Festival & Carnival, internationally renowned Bike Meet (July), Heritage Week (September), Music & Arts Festival (October) and Winter Festival and the Heddington & Stockey Steam Rally (July) and GOATFEST in Goatacre.
Retail Therapy, Good Food & Places to Stay
Calne boasts a great selection of independent shops, bars and cafes.
The Landsdowne Strand Hotel is a good location to enjoy great food in a Grade II Listed building which was also home to the local brewery for a time.
Other places to eat include Antica Roma Italian Restaurant on the Strand, Fay’s Bistro on Beach Terrace, Divine on the Green and Infusions Tea Room on the High Street.
The Old Bankhouse is the place to go to enjoy cocktails and fine wine and the Phillippines-inspired Sampaguita Café offers a range of Asian dishes in the historic setting of Calne’s Heritage Quarter.
Heritage Bed and Breakfast is a Grade II Listed building in the Heritage Quarter of Calne offering a beautiful place to stay. It has a lovely area for walking as it connects to the old railway line path and cycle way, providing an easy seven miles walk/cycle through mostly open countryside to Chippenham.
Highway Hill is a haven of natural beauty and outdoor experiences. Offering quirky accommodation that maintains the connection to the outdoors, a taste of rural life.
Buttle Farm also offers luxury self-catering accommodation in The Chalk Barn, a conversion done to the highest standard.
Calne is easily reached by car, being just south of the M4 junction 16 or 17 and east of Chippenham on the A4. There are two hours free parking in the Heritage Quarter – Church Street Car Park.
The stunning Bowood House and Garden set in a Capability Brown park is open seven days a week from April to November. It is the magnificent family home of the Marquis and Marchioness of Landsdowne.
Avebury Stone Circle and Avebury Manor & Gardens is only a short distance from Calne and worth a visit, as it forms part of the Stonehenge and Avebury UNESCO World Heritage site.
The second oldest of Wiltshire’s white horses, the Cherhill White Horse is also nearby, as is the Royal Electrical and Mechanical Engineers Museum with a unique collection including an extensive weapons display.