No sooner had I arrived back from my Tour de Peak District that we jumped in the car and drove for about three and a half hours down south to this gorgeous 1st Century town. Built by the Romans in 60A.D., Bath features, as you would expect, an elegant Roman style Bath-house with Georgian architecture. Of course, these Roman baths are now only available to view as part of a museum but there is however a more modern take on this historic attraction known as the Thermae Bath Spa, very popular with the locals and visitors alike.
We stayed in a lovely small boutique hotel called The Boathouse, about 10 mins drive outside Bath city centre. It’s just gorgeous, set amongst bushland overlooking the River Avon. There were roaring log fires, sumptuous food and smooth ales. The rooms are superb with large comfy beds and soft, modern furnishings throughout. Of course, a must have for any notable hotel in this district is of course, a bath – perfect for soaking away those aching muscles from the previous cycling excursion. 3 nights including breakfast, dinner, beer and wine cost just under £500 for the two of us.
On our first day we wandered around town, poking our heads here and there and sussing out what we needed to do to see the many attractions this city had to offer. It may be small but it’s incredibly busy with hundreds of visitors queuing up to see the Roman baths…and an even longer queue to soak in the thousand year old natural spring water at the modern bath-house.
Dating back over a thousand years, the city’s cathedral, The Abbey has seen many transformations and changes during this time including the rise and fall of many monarchs, survived two world wars plus many architectural and religious reforms. The striking feature of the Abbey is the abundance and intricacy of its’ stained glass. Incredible!
We ate lunch at the West Gate hotel, polishing off a pint of their local and very potent cider – West Gate Wobbler at just over 8% alcohol. The West Gate is one of the original coaching inns dating back to the early 17th century. The original stagecoach took travelers 2 days to travel from Bath to London. Full of lunch and cider, we literally wobbled our way back to the hotel.
The following day, Easter Sunday was my partners birthday (yes, I’ll never forget it being on 1 April…April Fools Day). We arose early so we could enjoy an early breakfast and get to the modern take of the Roman Baths, Thermae Bath Spa.
Tip: Book online and avoid the queue. We purchased a saver ticket which gave us entry into the Roman Baths, the Victorian Art Gallery and the Assembly Rooms where there was an exhibition of period and modern day fashion, showcasing the work of British and French designers and showcased gloves, shoes, corsets, dresses, suits and more. Well worth a visit and the extra few pounds.
Tickets are £22.50 each.
When we arrived at 9am, there was already a queue. Over an hour we waited until we finally had our chance to experience a luxurious couple of hours bathing in the naturally heated mineral enriched spring water. The bath-house is fully equipped with 2 heated pools including one on the rooftop with view overlooking The Abbey and the city. There were herbal aromatherapy steam rooms, a sauna and even an ice room spraying menthol-infused mist. Of course, you can always pay a handsome extra for various massages but booking well in advance is advisable to avoid disappointment.
The water used for this bath-house (and the Roman Baths) fell as rain around 10,000 years ago, sinking to a depth of up to 4000 metres below the earth’s surface. Here it is heated to a temperature of around 69C before rising back up through one of the 3 springs in the centre of the city at a rate of one million litres per day, cooling off slightly making it a perfect temperature for bathing. A modernised computer system tests the water weekly and is considered to be consistently biologically hygienic so no treatment or chlorination is required. It is the only natural hot spring of it’s kind in the whole of Britain.
Tip: Thermae Bath-house opens at 9am daily but on weekends there is a queue by this time, so its advisable to get there at least 30 minutes before it opens. Wait times vary but can be up to 3 hours later in the day. Entry is £40pp.
For more info and to make a booking, check out Thermae Bath Spa Note: You can only book treatments in advance but not general entry into the bath house.
Feeling relaxed after our soak and steam we walked 50 yards down the street to the ancient Roman Baths. Entering the museum felt like I was like stepping back in time. The stone infrastructure and medieval architecture is nothing short of amazing.
The temple was built around the same time as the city was established and the bath-house was built up over the course of the next 300 years. The buildings above street level were built at the beginning of the 19th century.
Following this amazing history tour…and a good 3 hours later, we ventured to the Victoria Art Gallery and Assembly Rooms.
The Assembly Rooms were built in the early 18th century as Bath was becoming quite a popular city for balls, concerts and gambling. These venues became the hub of fashionable society, being frequented by Jane Austen and Charles Dickens along with the various nobility of the time.
The Victoria Art Gallery is a an art gallery open to the general public. It was built to commemorate Queen Victoria’s Diamond Jubilee. It houses over 1500 works from British artists including a collection of oil paintings dating back to the early 1700’s. For me, the most interesting display was the glass collection, showcasing centuries of cut and blown glass products.
Nearly exhausted from our visits, we shouted ourselves one last treat before heading back to our hotel – High Tea at Patisserie Valerie. £25 seemed a reasonable price to pay for all this food plus a pot of Earl Grey.
And that brings to an end our Easter holiday in 2018 in one of the prettiest cities we’ve visited to date. Next month we’re off to the Scottish capital – Edinburgh.