High five to the Romans and High five to the Georgians because their powers combined have made Bath one of the most beautiful cities in England. The Georgians are responsible for some bloody lovely buildings and quite dramatic neighbourhoods such as The Circus, a circular street of town houses with three entrances and a green in the middle. Then of course, the most famous ‘street’ in bath is the Royal Crescent, 30 terraced town houses in the shape of a crescent. They are grade 1 listed and therefore cannot be altered in any way. When they were built in the late 1700’s they were the home to prominent writers, politicians and noble men and the houses in the road behind were often lived in by the ‘staff’. As the noblemen wanted a nice view from their gardens the back of the staff houses incredibly ornate despite being fairly incongruous from the front, a hidden gem that only some residence of Bath get to see!
Jane Austen loved a bit of Bath. She was a frequent visitor and then lived there permanently for about three years. The Jane Austen Centre is definite tourist spot in Bath but in my humble opinion a bit underwhelming. There are a few paintings that are ‘perhaps by Jane’, a short film to watch on filming Jane Austen, costumes to try on if you really want and a ‘tour guide’ dressed ready to walk into Pride and Prejudice who to be fair was very enthusiastic on her topic. For avid Jane Austen fans, I’m sure there’s excitement to be had here but for the mildly curious you could probably do better.
The Fashion Museum was a bit more fun, there are regularly changing exhibitions so check out if it takes your fancy. If you’re a bit Austen fan I think they’re giving a talk on her this week (she gets around). The core exhibition is interesting with an audio guide to take you through fashions of the ages and even Jamie was still conscious by the end so it must have been mildly interesting! It’s £9.00 to get in but look out for deals and check out their website https://www.fashionmuseum.co.uk/
You can wander around Bath for hours taking in the sites, exploring the parks, doing a spot of shopping and an awful lot of eating and drinking as the choices are varied in terms of price and fare. It is a University city so it has a great atmosphere and cheap student nights if you fancy a beverage or two without selling your kidneys. (needs must). There are too many places to mention but one bar that we did enjoy was Barton Street Wine Bar, it had a chilled atmosphere with great wine without the grand performance that goes with it and we sat, sipped and supped to our hearts content! http://bartonstreetwinebarcafe.com/
Enough about wine, I’m getting a thirst on, back to the culture. The Bath Abbey is well worth a look, you can’t miss it as it stands dramatically in the middle of the city and is pretty breathtaking from the inside. It’s been through the mill a bit and there have been three churches on the site since 757AD. The fact of the day is that the very first King of England, King Edgar was crowned on the site in 973. Now I bet you didn’t know that… Today’s Abbey was built at the beginning of the 1600’s, and got an internal make over at the end of the 1800’s. It is free to get into although a donation of £4 is encouraged. http://www.bathabbey.org/
Now I’ve saved the best till last here. You can’t go to Bath without going to… The Baths. This is why it was yay Romans. They liked a good scrub and built themselves quite a complex leisure facility all under today’s street level from the natural hot springs originating in the Mendip hills. If you head to the the Roman Baths (and be warned there is often quite a queue) you get to see everything that has been uncovered so far including saunas, cold baths and rooms for massages. It’s basically the Roman David Lloyd… There is an audio guide with bits from Bill Bryson and a comprehensive overview of the history of the baths. I won’t ruin it and tell you everything but… Did you know that the baths are a world heritage site, over 300 years old and 45 ºC (113 º Fahrenheit). Although you can’t swim in the main Roman baths, you can drink them! It’s pretty gagworthy to be honest as it it warm very minerally water but you’ve got to try these things! https://www.romanbaths.co.uk/
If all the looking around baths has made you want to take the plunge then you fear not, the Thermae Bath spa is where you need to head next. The New Royal is the main part of the modern spa and situated on the roof of the spa complex offering views over the city. There is another really fab part of the spa called The Cross Bath which is on street level and a private building that you can hire to hang with your friends, it really is beautiful and as you float around in the thermal waters you can see why the Romans had gone to all the trouble, it’s peaceful, relaxing and another reason to love Bath! https://www.thermaebathspa.com
Where to stay
As you would expect there are many places to stay in Bath at all ends of the budgets. I can tell you about two places that we have stayed and I would recommend them both. The first was a pub called The Thief (1 Monmouth Pl, Bath) more than just a room above a pub it is a boutique hotel with trendily decorated rooms. Prices from £59-£120 depending on the day and the month. http://www.the-thief.co.uk
The second hotel is a bit outside of Bath and an experience all in itself. The Pig Hotel is a 20 minute car ride from the centre of Bath, beautifully decorated with spacious grounds with deer and chickens. The breakfasts are a delight with much of the food coming from the land and the eggs straight from the chickens. (Hunstrete, Hensford, Near Bath, BS39 4NS) Prices range from £175-£225 a night. https://www.thepighotel.com
Getting to Bath
Train Station: Bath Spa Only 1 hour direct from London Paddington, Bath Spa is in the centre of town
Car: Circa 2 hours from London. Parking limited in town to two big car parks but there is a park and ride just outside of town
Air: Bristol airport is 45 minutes by car from the centre of Bath
Bus: The bus station is the centre of town and National Express Coaches stop there. Rumour is (and on their website) you can get a single ticket to Bath from London for £1 if you can be flexible with your times.