They were a nifty lots, those Romans, especially when it came to their presence in Britain a couple of thousand years back. Not only did they build forts, garrison towns and Hadrian’s Wall, they also left behind some very cool mosaics and established an entire town as a spa. Called Bath. We’ll not claim they were the most literarily enhanced race that ever lived, but we’ll let them off on general principle.
Bath is of course famous for its, well, baths, being an ancient spa town established around 43 AD by those invading ancients and later becoming quite the getaway of choice for well-to-do Victorians during the summers. It’s also a World Heritage Site, which is pretty impressive for an entire city, and was a favourite spot of Jane Austen, who set Northanger Abbey there. It’s a literary city overall – the 2004 version of Vanity Fair was filmed there, and it was also the setting for Roald Dahl’s very creepy story The Landlady.
Over four million people visit Bath each year, and there are loads of things to see and do, baths and otherwise. Start your trip off at The Roman Baths in Stall Street, built by the Romans and later rediscovered by the Victorians, and the must-see tourist attraction in Bath. The baths are fuelled by England's only mineral hot springs, which pump out over a million litres of hot water each day to the large open air Great Bath and others, all set around Roman, medieval and Georgian architecture. Just a few minutes’ walk from the baths is Bath Abbey, the last Gothic church in England, and started in 1499 on the ruins of the former Norman cathedral. Take a walk up to the Abbey tower to see a great view of Bath with its many historic buildings, including plenty of Georgian architecture and neo-classical public buildings.
Also nearby is the Bath at Work Museum, the Fashion Museum and Sally Lunn’s Museum (she of the famous Bath Sally Lunn bun, which is also a must for a trip to the city). As you’d expect for such an historic city, Bath has plenty of museums to browse around – as well as these three you can check out the very popular No.1 Royal Crescent*, a Georgian townhouse restored to how it would have looked at its heyday, the Holburne Museum of Arts* with a picture gallery including works by Turner, and portraits of Bath society by Thomas Gainsborough. Or there’s the world famous Museum of Costume* with its collections of contemporary and historical dress, the Hershel Museum of Astronomy* (self-explanatory), the Museum of East Asian Art* (also) and for Austen fans, the Jane Austen Centre on Gay Street.
Museums and galleries are among our favourite things to do in any city, but sometimes you just want to get out of doors for a while. Bath is the place to do it, with plenty of public parks within walking distance of the city centre. The main park is the Royal Victoria*, which has a 12 and an 18 hole golf course, tennis courts, skateboard ramp, children’s play area and open air concerts in the summer. There’s also Alexandra Park* on a hill overlooking the city, Parade Gardens* in front of the Abbey and along the riverfront, and Sydney Gardens*, which again was a favourite of Ms Austen in the nineteenth century. And if you’d like to combine getting some fresh air with some sightseeing, flex those arm muscles and take a punt Boating on the River Avon from the Victorian Boating Station. If you’d prefer a sit down, head to the Bath Rugby Club* grounds to take in a game, go to Bath Cricket Club*, or watch some footie at Twerton Park*, home of Bath City FC.
Tired? For a city of its size, Bath has plenty of places to stay – over three hundred at last count. Before you crash, take in a show at one of the city’s five theatres including the Bath Theatre Royal*, all of which put on internationally acclaimed tours and performances. Then get up refreshed the next day to take in one of the many tours around Bath – if your feet are too sore, there are open-top bus tours available as well.
Visiting Bath and got a question? Visited Bath and got a favourite spot? Drop us a line here or on our Facebook or Twitter pages, or let us know your best Bathtimes in the forums.