Bath: A weekend away
Quintessential English charm can be felt no where more than Bath. A place so packed with historic buildings that the whole city has been declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Home to the world’s best preserved Roman bathhouse and some of the grandest Georgian architecture, the small city of Bath is one of the prettiest in all of Britain. Set in the rolling countryside of the southwest of England, on top of natural hot springs, and just an hour and a half from London, makes Bath perfect for a relaxing weekend getaway.
Among many other things, Bath has a special connection to Jane Austen. This was never more apparent than on the weekend that I visited when ‘Jane Austen Day’ coincided with the 200th year since her death, resulting in the whole town being dressed like characters from Jane Austen novels. Sadly, this memo wasn’t received in time to look the part, so we were left to watch and admire as the city was transported back to the 18th century.
In the heart of the city, The Gainsborough Bath Spa Hotel is the only hotel in Britain to have access to natural thermal waters. Blending the traditional and the contemporary, care has been taken to build on the hotels Georgian characteristics, while incorporating a Romanesque feel into it’s impressive Spa Village. Replica mosaics on the floors and columns lining the baths where guests are encouraged to complete the traditional ‘Bath House Circuit’ before treatments. The air of calm provides a perfect spot to relax and unwind after taking in the city’s impressive historical sites, while the impeccable rooms and exceptional staff service is second to none.
In the heart of the old town, the Roman Baths tell a great history of the city of Bath and is a great spot from which to kick off your visit. Entering on the Terrace of the 'Great Bath', adorned with statues and shadowed by the great Abbey behind, as you wander through the different rooms that made up the Roman Baths you gain a great insight into how the grand bathing and social complex worked. The whole site has been so well kept that you’re easily whisked back in time to Roman Britain. Make sure to taste the “bath” water that is served at the end of the tour, utterly disgusting but supposedly health-giving.
The impressive large church located next door to the Roman Baths is an iconic sight in Bath. Looming over the city centre, it's the last great medieval church in England with striking facades and impressive windows. Climb to the top of the tower for a spectacular view over the city.
The Royal Crescent
The most impressive of Baths seven Georgian crescents forms a semi-elliptical crescent of houses made from the distinctive honey-coloured Bath Stone. You can visit one of the houses at 1 Royal Crescent which has been redecorated to resemble what it would have been like at the end of the 18th century.
Wander along Brock Street to another iconic Georgian crescent where three curved segments of Grade I listed townhouses are arranged in a circular shape, making up another impressive rounded landmark.
Taking influence from the Ponte Vecchio in Florence and the Rialto in Venice, the Grade I listed bridge crossing the River Avon in the eastern part of the city is another Georgian masterpiece. It leads onto Great Pulteney Street, the widest and grandest of Baths streets, which creates strong feelings of being back in Georgian England.
The Holborne Museum at the top of Great Pulteney Street was once built as a hotel, but is now home to a collection of fine art. Set within the Sydney Gardens, a Grade II listed garden steeped in Royal history making it an attraction of its own.
The Star Inn
Looking for a truly authentic pub experience? Look no further. The same now as it was 100 years ago, the small rooms, wooden benches and brewery tap of Abbey Ales, offer a genuine historic experience. No game machines, no music and no food, just a 16th century pub that is still going about its business serving locals.
Hidden away in the lanes of Bath is the stone-walled, wood-laden whisky den, The Hideout. Originally a meeting place where lawless reprobates from all around would come to tell stories and share drinks. Buried away back when the Georgians brought law and order to the town, the bar has now been returned to it’s glory days with a slightly more modern twist, catering to whiskey connoisseurs as well as non-whiskey drinkers. Dark and dimly lit, it’s a great spot to relax and taste the exceptional skills of the bartenders.
Bath is a city that can easily be experienced in a weekend. I spent my first day on foot with my camera in hand and my second day enjoying the spa in full relax mode. And I already can’t wait to go back and do it all again.