Bath and the
Royal Crescent, some of the city's striking 18thC neo-classical
Bath is a spacious and elegant city that makes an excellent short holiday, offering the tourist fine museums,
an interesting Abbey, varied old building styles and genuine Roman Baths that are still functioning for those who care to dip into history or those who want a literal dip in
mineral-rich, spring-fed waters must head for the sophisticated Thermae Bath Complex, a place to enjoy a warm bath on a cold day, much as the Romans did 2,000 years ago.
Bath is not the best place for kids though the Canal Visitor Centre offers bike and boat hire in spectacular countryside and Bath Narrowboats something similar except the boats are very narrow!
• Roman Baths (no bathing, but a fascinating museum-style experience).
• Take a thermal bath in
the Thermae Bath Complex.
• Beautiful layout and Georgian buildings.
• History all around (Jane Austen too!).
• Fine museums.
• Good eating and drinking.
• Hop-on, hop-off open top bus tours
• Bath Skyline Walk (by the National Trust)
• River rides, Canal walks and free guided walking tours.
Prior Park near Bath.
Photo by W-Loyd-Mackenzie
Best season in Bath
Early and late summer, May-June and September are the best months for a shot at good weather without the penalty of conga lines of tourist buses unleashing herds of wandering wallies onto your chosen attraction. Then again summer weather is always a pleasure and July-August offers more chance of sunshine.
If you absolutely have to visit in winter then you might luck into some sunshine but the museums, baths and fun pubs will offer good indoor action when the rain hits.
The Roman Baths museum.
Accommodation: Fridays and Saturdays are busy times - especially if Bath rugby team are playing at home on Saturday - and consequently pricey, so tourists would do well to take a short break here between Sunday and Thursday when crowds and prices will be down and availability up. There is a good number of hotels, guest houses and B&Bs though they often insist on a two-night minimum at weekends.
Shopping and Eating: Bath hosts a good range of interesting independent shops along with the new indoor South Gate shopping mall, while the selection of quality eating establishments has risen dramatically recently, with gastropubs booming and fine restaurant chains moving into the area, such as Japanese Wagamama and Jamie's Italians.
Bridge, a fine Palladian bridge over a weir and lined
Photo by Christophe Finot
Pulteney Bridge crossing the Avon river and designed by Robert Adams, is one
of only four worldwide with shops on both sides. Built in 1773,
Adams was influenced by Italy's Ponte Vecchio and Ponte di Rialto
shopping bridges, but suffered various unfortunate extensions
and facade changes over the years. The final renovation, commonly
considered to be successful, was in 1975.
A little History
in the county of Somerset and a couple of hours drive directly
west of London, had two great eras. The first was in Roman times when the invaders loved to build home comforts like long,
straight roads (now you've got the less eco-friendly M4 motorway)
and fine baths with complex heating and watering systems utilising
local hot springs, hence the name.
second great period was in the 18thC when people began to realise that bathing more than once a year
was a good thing and the town became known for its
spa facilities which were reconstructed by order of affluent
refugees from the filth and smog of London. These same rich
bathers also paid for grandiose construction projects favouring
neo-classical designs in sandstone by the architect John Wood.
Neo-classical was one of the styles within Georgian architecture (there was
a succession of English kings named George at this time, from
1780-1840) emphasising the regularity and grand simplicity of
Roman and Greek architecture.
Photo by Christophe Finot
excellent hiking route offering some terrific views is the Cotswold
Way, a 103 mile (165 kms) footpath that runs from Bath to
Getting to Bath
can be tough in Bath so avoid the rush hours 8-9am and 5-6pm,
while on-street parking is expensive and may be hard to find.
The M4 from London followed by the A4 is the fastest route here though the A4 gets jammed early on weekday mornings.
Trains: This is a better idea, with a good train service from London's Paddington Station taking 90 minutes. Book well ahead with First Great Western to get best prices. There is also a service from Waterloo Station in London. Travelers coming from a northerly direction should take a train to Bristol's Temple Meads station and change there to Bath.
Buses: Buses are cheap and ubiquitous, coming from every direction so if you find yourself out of the rail loop - such as travelling from the south of England's Dorset - hop on a National Express bus.
Plane: the nearest airport is in Bristol, 45 minutes away by taxi and much more by bus. Not recommended.
Bath official tourist office
Pictures: Stonehenge | Dorset | London
Guide | UK Walks | England