pulteney bridge bath england
Travel

The Historic Town of Bath, England

Where is Bath?

Have you been to Bath? Can anyone guess why it’s called Bath? Ten points if you get it right! And we’re not talking about the one next to your toilet either. It’s in England, and it’s something of a historical marvel, in case you didn’t know!

Bath is a town of historical importance situated almost 100 miles west of London in the English county of Somerset.

Moreover, UNESCO listed Bath as a World Heritage Site in 1987. UNESCO’s organization identifies World Heritage Sites as “places of outstanding value to the whole of humanity.” And Bath certainly withholds features that suit the classification to a tee.

By the same token, the town is world-renowned for its Roman Baths, (did you guess correctly?) hot springs, and neo-classical 18th Century architecture.

I was fortunate enough to visit England and the town of Bath many years ago. This town has stayed with me ever since.

I think that makes me well overdue for a fresh sojourn. As I can’t recall another city I have ever frequented like it.

Bath History

Bath is the oldest top tourist destination in England.

roman baths evening
Roman Baths photo by David Skinner is licensed under CC BY 2.0

The Creation of The Roman Baths

Outside of Italy, The Aquae Sulis (from the Latin Waters of Sulis. Sulis being the Celtic goddess – aka Sul, or Sulis) is the most complex and highly sought after of Roman Bath systems. The Baths were in high demand and incredibly popular between the first and fifth centuries, during the time of Roman ruling there.

Evidence shows that locals first put the hot springs to use as far ago as 10,000 years. Thanks to scant archaeological records that are still intact, we can learn of the site’s transformation at the Romans’ hand.

But let’s go back to 700 BC when the Celts were in the region, and the springs were something of a local worship place to their deity, Sulis. The Celts saw the hot spring as a very sacred place. They communicated with Sulis there, as evidenced by Celtic coins that have been found in the area.

And around the year 43, once the Romans had marked their territory in Bath, they appropriated the Celtic hot springs, and The Aquae Sulis was formed.

The Aquae Sulis is the result of combining Rome’s religion and tradition with that of the Ancient Celts.

sulis minerva artefact in bath
Photo by Paul Arps is licensed under CC BY 2.0

Sulis became Sulis Minerva (Minerva being the Roman goddess of wisdom, medicine, the arts, poetry, commerce, handicrafts, and later, war). The two goddesses became one.

Such was the dominating wisdom and foresight of the Romans.

They managed to make their mark in Bath and embellish the town’s natural resources.

But furthermore, embrace, and dominate them. Make them their own. Yet, in doing so, still acknowledge the Celts, keeping the ones remaining in Bath happy.

The Romans withdrew from Bath, England, by around the Fifth century. But they left behind evidence of their dominion in the Bath temple, in the sculptures of Sulis Minerva, coins, and impressive architecture.

I think this must have played some small part in the town remaining a popular destination.

The Roman Baths were still incredibly popular and something of a hotspot (literally and metaphorically) with visitors coming to this part of England for hundreds of years to follow.

Aside from the Baths, the town relied on its wool trade to stay active.

Visiting Roman Baths Today

The Roman Baths are now officially open to visitors again. They are accredited by Visit England and are eagerly awaiting your patronage! Check their website for specifics, and learn more about how they are managing Covid restrictions to keep their visitors and staff safe and happy.

You can even have your wedding or host that unforgettable event here!

Besides, the Pump Room Restaurant is also now open again. What a perfect way to start or cap off your Roman Baths visit than with a wonderful meal at the Pumphouse.

Check out the Pump Room by Candlelight offerings on the website also. What sounds more delightful than an atmospheric evening accompanied by a little piano and cocktails surrounded by all of this sumptuous history?

Take me there now please!

brown concrete building near river during daytime
Photo by Hulki Okan Taba via Unsplash

John Wood the Elder in Bath

Bath didn’t really come into its own until the late 1700’s when John Wood put forward plans to create a town center. These plans included notable landmarks in Bath, such as The Circus, Prior Park, and Queen’s Square, to name but a few.

Among many and varied lifetime achievements, John Wood the Elder is credited with bringing the Neo-Classical 18th Century and Georgian architecture to Bath.

Comparatively, along with numerous other architects, Wood followed Palladian principles to give Bath its symmetrical and uniformly scaled buildings and truly give Bath its own unique identity.

Not to mention, these monuments owe their distinguished design in part to the local quarry of Combes Down. And the now-famous Bath Stone (it is called oolitic limestone) gives Bath its instantly recognizable look.

Sadly, John Wood, the Elder, died just months after the first stones were laid, beginning the building of The Circus. But his son, John Wood, the Younger, took the reigns. He carried on and further created the Royal Crescent and the Assembly Rooms.

How to get to Bath?

Air

If you’re visiting from overseas, chances are you will fly into London Heathrow, Gatwick or Stansted airports.

Perhaps you should consider flying into the smaller and far less frenzied Bristol Airport from more than a dozen European destinations, depending on your plans, of course.

Easyjet seems to be the most common airline to fly into Bristol from all over Europe. So check out their website for further details and make plans.

From Bristol Airport, Bath is just 22 miles away. From there, your best public transport options are to take the Airdecker Bus or a Taxi, which will set you back around £55 – £60.

Train

Take the train from London directly to Bath Spa, the Victorian train station in Bath’s city center, via Great Western Trains.

The journey takes around 1 hour 20 minutes.

Bath Spa also has regular inter-city and regional trains from many cities. Consult the National Rail Planner to plan your visit from wherever you may find yourself within England.

Bath Train Station. Photo by Pedro Szekely licensed under CC BY-SA 2.0

It is worth noting that there is a left luggage facility at the internet cafe on Manvers Street, opposite Bath Spa Railway Station.

So if you arrive by public transport and have hours to spare before your accommodation is available for you, store your luggage and do some wandering in the meantime.

Coach

National Express Coach offers tickets to Bath from all over England. To find out exact booking details, check on their National Express website for the latest information. Direct coach journeys from Heathrow to Bath are available.

Bike

Alternatively, for those with a little more time on their hands, the Bristol to Bath Railway line offers The Railway Path. This is a well-developed bike path that takes you all the way from Bristol to Bath, roughly about 13 miles distance.

Once you’re in Bath, it’s a straightforward city to traverse on foot. And you never know what you might miss when you’re ambling by in a motor vehicle.

Car

If you’re after the freedom that car rental can provide, Expedia can find you deals among competitor car rental companies. Check out their best offers here.

However, if you’re looking for more of a sight-seeing, touristy experience, check out all that the City Sightseeing Hop-On Hop-Off Bus Tour has to offer.

Taxi

Local taxi drivers will also show you the sights and get you to your destination if this suits your plans. Cabbies often are knowledgeable and informative locals with unique personalities. You never know quite what you’ll learn from the local cabbies!

Must-See Places in Bath

Bath Abbey

Bath Abbey is rich and colorful in its history.

After all, something of the earliest record of a Saxon convent in Bath’s town dates back almost 1500 years to 675 AD.

In the site’s history, the buildings of Bath Abbey have been torn down, re-built, torn down, bombed in a world war, rebuilt, time and again. And they say history never repeats?

Indeed, and in 1948, a committee called the Friends of Bath Abbey was formed. It aimed to create funds to put towards the ongoing restoration and preservation of the Abbey.

Finally, in 2010, The Footprint Project was created to assist with repair costs and fund preservation of the Abbey’s vast history. And also to help provide education to further generations about the Abbey.

By all means, no matter how long or short your trip allows you at Bath Abbey, no visit to the area is complete without viewing the beauty of this historically significant place.

See if you can identify the different ages of the architecture. Try to spot some of the additions that have been made in recent decades and centuries.

For instance, one such very new addition is underfloor heating in Bath Abbey. The source of the heating is the hot spring water that Bath is synonymous with. Incredible!

Royal Crescent

Royal Crescent is John Wood, the Younger’s most iconic contributions to Bath.

In fact, it took almost a decade to be completed. It was built between 1767 and 1775 and features a massive lawn outside its impressive curvature overlooking Royal Victoria Park.

At No. 1 Royal Crescent is the Georgian Museum, and also located within the prime Bath real estate address, is the Royal Crescent Hotel and Spa.

royal crescent building bath england
Royal Crescent. Photo by Liv Cashman via Unsplash

An entertaining anecdote of the landmark revolves around resident Miss Annabel Wellesley-Colley. Upon moving into No. 22, in the 1970s, decided to paint her front door (primrose) yellow.

This, of course, was incredibly controversial and broke with the stiff tradition of a white front door for all properties under the Grade 1 listed landmark.

However, to this day, that very door at No. 22 remains an eye-catching primrose yellow!

Royal Victoria Park

Coupled with the Royal Crescent is the picturesque (to keep in step with the rest of the town!) Royal Victoria Park.

Spread over a 57-acre vista, the Royal Victoria Park truly has something for everyone. Architect Edward Davis designed the park in 1830. It was originally built to house an arboretum, but mainly to function as a leisure park for its visitors.

Whereas today visitors can play tennis, zipline, play mini-golf, enjoy the skateboard park. Or relax in the expanse of parkland.

There is still a beautiful botanical gardens on site to enjoy.

Even so, come winter months, an open-air ice-rink is available for patrons to enjoy. It sounds like the perfect backdrop for a winter wonderland to me!

The Pulteney Bridge and Weir

The Pulteney Bridge is undoubtedly one of the most identifiable structures of Bath. Designed in 1769 by a fellow named Robert Adam.

What causes the bridge to stand out is it’s featuring small shops on the overpass. Adam’s design for the bridge is unquestionably reminiscent of and certainly inspired by both the Rialto Bridge in Venice and the Ponte Vecchio, Florence.

By today’s measures, it is very narrow and seems quite small. When it was opened 200 years ago, the bridge was quite the sensation!

The Circus

King’s Circus was the original name of The Circus. As we mentioned earlier, this was one of John Wood, the Elder’s passion projects of his life. And it would be his final.

The Circus is comprised of three curved Grade I listed Georgian structures. When you visit, keep an eye out for the plentiful carvings of emblems and symbols dotted all over the sandstone.

Wood was an avid Druid follower and applied their design methods that followed both proportion and structure laws.

His studies of Stonehenge and the Stanton Drew Stone Circles may have inspired him as the diameter of The Circus echoes that of Stonehenge.

Also, artist William Gainsborough resided within The Circus back in 1759. And more recently, actor Nichols Cage has frequented the landmark address.

green tree surround by buildings
The Circus by Alex Atudosie via Unsplash

Prior Park Landscape Garden

The striking Prior Park Palladian Bridge is one of only four of its kind worldwide. And certainly the only one Bath, in fact, all four are located in England.

Together with all that 2020 has presented us, a massive restoration effort is underway to strengthen the park’s 300-year-old dams. They have suffered long-term damage at the hands of time and the introduced American crayfish.

By the same token, visits to the Prior Park Landscape Garden are by booking only. If you’re planning on visiting, check for available times here on the National Trust website.

prior park bath palladian bridge
Prior Park Palladian Bridge by Daderot is marked with CC0 1.0

Great Pulteney Street

The widest street in Bath, at 1000 feet long and 100 feet wide. This thoroughfare is worthy of seeing for yourself. And it also withholds the shortest street. As, off it runs a street with just one house address, Sunderland Street!

Similarly, on both sides of this prestigious road, you’ll find the whole row lined with Georgian terraces that make up some of the most highly sought after real estate of the town.

Bath Street

Of course, as its name may lead you to suggest, this street leads its visitors right to the Roman Baths. It is incredibly picturesque and highly photographed, with its cobblestone paving. Following Palladian principles, Colonnades line Bath Street.

Thomas Baldwin built Bath Street in 1791 in the Georgian style atypical of Bath’s architecture.

gray concrete building during daytime
Bath Street. Photo by Eryk Fudala via Unsplash

Aside from the Baths at one end of the street, you can also walk a short distance to Thermae Bath Spa (Britain’s only natural thermal spa) and the Cross Bath at the other end.

It was Thomas Baldwin who also built the Cross Bath and utilized the underground natural thermal water for a steamy 46°C at the baths.

Museums in Bath

At the time of publishing, a significant number of notable Bath museums are, in fact, closed due to current Covid restrictions in England. Most are likely to open again in 2021. So if I have not mentioned your favorite museum, that is likely the reason.

Let’s revisit closer to that time!

Holburne Museum

Great Pulteney Street is where you’ll find the Holburne Museum.

By all means, it is known as one of the most beautiful buildings in Bath. The artworks that it holds inside range from local historical artists from England, including Gainsborough.

It also features works of the Renaissance and various collections that change with the seasons. The museum is open. Check the website for booking details here.

Herschel Museum of Astronomy

The Herschel Museum exists because of the Herschel family. And just in case you didn’t know, they lived right here in Bath, England. The Herschels were very skilled musicians, to add to their astronomical accomplishments. Literally!

Similarly, at the very site that the Herschel Museum stands today, in 1781, William Herschel, via a telescope of his very own construction, viewed and discovered the planet Uranus.

Did you know that? I sure didn’t.

What a remarkable family. The Herschel Museum is open again for bookings. So please take a look at the Herschel Museum of Astronomy website for details and to make bookings.

Best Time to Visit Bath

According to the Weather and Climate website, the best time of year to visit Bath is in July. It is worth bearing in mind that this is the hottest time of year, right in the middle of the English summer. So you’ll also have the most sunshine and daylight (hopefully!)

Chances are, you will see a bit of rain while you’re in Bath, so take a raincoat. You are in England, after all!

I visited at the tail end of summer, but it was actually not too warm. It also didn’t feel terribly overcrowded.

And even though the Abbey and the Roman Baths were certainly active, the crowds were far from unpleasant.

According to statistics, July also sees the biggest crowds for Bath, so my advice would be to brave the slightly cooler weather and visit in the height of springtime.

Then, this would see you booking a visit between March and May. Other advantages include fewer people, more affordable accommodations. And the flowers are in bloom!!!

Of course, it may rain more frequently, but that would be my pick for my next visit to Bath, England.

What to Do in Bath

Bath from the Air

Without a doubt, one of the most unique and memorable ways of witnessing Bath would, without question, be from above.

So why not jump in a hot air balloon and do it in style?

Photo by Kevin Botto is licensed under CC BY-ND 2.0

After all, it might be the only way to truly appreciate Bath’s grandeur and design elements as a whole. Check out Bath Balloons for schedules and flight types.

The Beazer Maze

I’m busting to add Beazer Maze to my list of places to visit in Bath, England. I am fascinated by labyrinths and mazes. And while this one is strictly a labyrinth (one path to follow), it’s probably more for the young kids of the group.

It’s still a fun site to check out and remains loyal to the aesthetics of the Georgian architecture we have come to identify with Bath. Nice spot for a picnic, as well.

The Theatre Royal

I’m delighted to share that the grand Theatre Royal is open for business. Following strict safety measures for patrons and staff alike, an evening here will no doubt round out your cultural experience of Bath perfectly.

It is definitely worth consulting the Theatre Royal website for schedules and showtimes.

Some shows have changed their schedule entirely, so be sure to have the latest info via their website. And support the arts while you’re in town, for sure!

In particular, if you’re feeling generous at heart, take a minute to donate to this organization, that at Covid-related capacity, can only operate at 40% of house seats being full. I hope they make it through!

Milsom Street

You can’t be a tourist anywhere in the world without doing even the tiniest bit of shopping. Well, Milsom Street is where you’ll want to partake.

It’s a lovely stroll window shopping down Milsom, and be sure to make it to Milsom Place, and also Green Street, for some of the most picturesque shop fronts you may see.

Kennet and Avon Canal

This picturesque waterway links London with the Bristol Channel. It follows the natural course of the River Avon from Bristol to Bath.

It’s worth taking a stroll or bike ride alongside to get some fresh, English country air.

Jane Austen Centre

The Jane Austen Centre in Bath is currently open on trial hours of 10-5 Thursdays to Sundays.

Step inside and step back in time to the Regency era, when Austen lived in Bath, England. Learn just what an effect and impact the town had on her writings.

River and Walking Tours

To be sure, check out the variety of tours offered by Bath Adventures and see the town from the comfort of the Lady Pamela with canapes and prosecco if that’s your cup of tea!

Bath Adventures also offer combination boat/walking tours as well. Get the best of both perspectives. And knock off many of the tourist spots in one go.

They are also recognized and fully accredited by the Visit England board. Check their website for more details and tour times.

Where to Stay

By all means, there is no shortage of luxury hotels in exquisite 1800’s buildings at which to stay in Bath.

Bath YHA

I stayed in the Bath YHA, which may come as a surprise. My stay there was a delightful surprise, indeed.

In fact, at the time, I think it was an appealing £25/night with a YHA membership card.

It’s important to realize that contrary to your looming thoughts about hostels, it was immaculate, the staff was wonderful, and we had the entire floor to ourselves.

Since my stay, the entire place has had a massive refurbishment, so it’s even cleaner, more efficient, more appealing than ever before.

bath yha england
Bath YHA. Photo by Sam Wilson is licensed under CC BY-SA 2.0

It was really a very pleasant stay in the same fashion, and I highly recommend it for the more budget-conscious traveler.

Accordingly, to the present day, rooms start at around the USD$60/night mark currently.

Gainsborough Bath Spa

At the other end of the scale is the Gainsborough Bath Spa. Sleep right in the heart of Bath in the sumptuous and oh, so luxurious furnishings of the Gainsborough.

Needless to say, the Gainsborough has also been awarded a spot in the highly prestigious Conde Nastè World’s Top 100 Traveller Awards.

A stay here would not be complete without, at the very least, passing by the Spa Village and witnessing this incredible place with your own eyes. So why not indulge and treat yourself to some relaxation while you’re here?

Honestly, there is no shortage of accommodation, both in town and on the outskirts of Bath. Whether you are looking for a quaint B & B, a cute boutique hotel, or a luxurious, high-end experience, do some searching, and I’m sure very quickly you will find something that suits your needs.

Thermae Bath Spa

Equally important is the mentioning of the Thermae Bath Spa. This is Bath’s only true natural thermal spa that you can go and visit today.

The Thermae Bath Spa is currently open, but you must make an appointment first. The rooftop spa is a must and while you’re at it, savor the new architecture of the exterior that blends seamlessly with its historical surrounds. A must-see destination in England, if ever there was one!

Where to Eat

Sally Lunn’s Historic Eating House

Sally Lunn’s may be one of the oldest eateries in Bath, as expressed on their sign – Est 1680!

But that certainly doesn’t mean their bakery serves anything shy of the freshest buns in town!

In fact, she is notorious for having created the world’s first Sally Lunn Bunn. Now world-famous!

However, Sally Lunn’s is significant for more than just her buns!

sally lunns shopfront bath england
Sally Lunn’s shopfront. Photo by Liv Cashman via Unsplash

Notably, the house is vital as it serves as a reminder of pre-Georgian architecture in Bath, England.

Solange Luyon escaped France as a young refugee in 1680. And brought with her exceptional french baking skills.

From sharing her brioche bun in Bath’s markets, to eventually selling them to a baker in Bath. As her reputation by the name of Sally Lunn grew (as no one could pronounce her name correctly!), the demand for her baking exploded!

Subsequently, to this very day, the Sally Lunn bun has been copied, homaged, replicated way outside of the little town of Bath, England. As far as New Zealand!

But nobody can do it justice without her secret recipe.

With a long-running and complex history at Sally Lunn’s, one standout anecdote involves Sally’s original recipes found hidden in a secret wood panel. They were uncovered when the building was in-midst of restoration in the 1940s. How phenomenal! England’s very own Soup Nazi!

Green Park Brasserie

The Green Park Brasserie is officially open once again.

Drop-in for a coffee, a quiet drink, a quick bite, or a meal. And if it’s Thursday, Friday, or Saturday night, stay and soak up the live music while you’re there!

While the Brasserie doesn’t have the centuries-old history behind it, it does provide a lovely atmosphere and fine food that comes to you from the Bath Farmers Market, which is within earshot of the place.

With this in mind, you’ll find the Green Park Brasserie located at the Green Park Station, along with its sister company the Green Park Pizza Co.

Check out the Green Park Brasserie website if you have specific Covid related queries and check out their opening hours, fine fares and offerings.

The Boater Pub

Nothing screams traditional English pub like The Boater. And if that’s what takes your fancy, then this place is a must-see stop for your patronage while you’re visiting Bath.

After all, with a spectacular view of the river and a prime location virtually on the Pulteney Bridge, why not stop by after you walk the bridge for an afternoon? Sounds perfect to me!

With this in mind, the best news is that The Boater is now officially open and back in business these days.

Again, check their website for details, but get amongst it. Nothing beats a pub lunch in England. Well, maybe a Bath pub lunch overlooking the River Avon, but that’s about it!

Real Estate in Bath

According to the UK Land Registry, in August 2020, the average price for any house in Bath and North East Somerset was £352,986 (approximately USD$460,000).

The average price for a detached house in Bath and North East Somerset was £586,949 (approximately USD$764,000).

Notably, these prices are well above national averages for England.

As you can imagine, those gorgeous Georgian Terrace lined streets hold their value very, very well indeed. A property on Royal Crescent was for sale as recently as April with a tidy asking price of around £6.5 million.

I couldn’t find any information on it’s sale price, so one can only assume a sale was not made.

In essence, it would be difficult to leave such a unique and special place, I suspect.

What do you think?

Resources

Bath Abbey

Unesco

Bath World Heritage

History of Bath Research Group

Ancient Origins

Bath History Tours

The Oxford Reference Library

John Wood The Elder

UK Land Registry

Featured Image by David Skinner

You may also like...

Popular Articles...

8 Comments

  1. I am not sure why but it has been my dream to visit Bath since I was about 9! This post has made me want to go even more now!

    1. That’s lovely! Bath is a fairy-tale worthy town, and is definitely the stuff of dreams! Hope you make it there soon, Katie!

  2. I’ve heard so many great things about Bath already and I’m hoping to go there soon. This is such a great, detailed post 🙂

    1. I hope you get to visit soon. Thank you so much for saying so. It was a little tricky as quite a few of the museums in Bath are still closed at this time. I hope they can re-open soon and you get the opportunity to visit. It’s a very special town.

  3. Taylor says:

    Ah I love Bath! I visited a little over a year ago and it was so adorable. I would totally go back! This is such a great and detailed guide to this wonderful city. 🙂

    1. I would return in a heartbeat as well. It’s so picturesque and packed with such history. Thank you so much for your kind words, Taylor!

  4. Francesca says:

    The history nerd in me LOVED visiting Bath. I thought it was so cool to see the Ancient Roman bathhouses. I feel like I hardly saw anything and now I need to go back! Sally Lunn’s Historic Eating House sounds delicious and I would love to do the maze!

    1. Me too! I feel like I’ve forgotten just how beautiful it is there. Can’t wait to return!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.