Bath has always been one of those places that I ‘sort of’ knew. Of course I knew about the world famous baths used by the Romans, and I could recognise Bath architecture from its distinctive honey coloured stone, but my infrequent business trips to the city didn’t allow me scratch beneath the surface. So, this weekend, family in tow, we visited as tourists to come clean about Bath.
This university city is centred around the World Heritage Site of the Roman Baths. The baths were built in 60-70 AD and developed over the next 300 years. Today, the site is a significant site of historical interest, receiving about a million visitors a year.
There are four main areas to walk through – the Sacred Spring, The main Roman Baths, the Museum with artefacts found from the Roman Baths and the Roman Temple.
The Sacred Spring is the place where water heated by geothermal energy, bubbles up into the Spring at a rate of about 1.170,000 million litres a day (240,000 gallons) at a temperature of 46 degrees. Obviously today, we’re able to understand the geology that makes this possible, but back in the Roman days, this natural spring was seen as sacred – the work of the gods. Hence the reason to establish a Temple and the subsequent attractions of visitors from around the Roman Empire.
The Romans built a Temple to the goddess Sulis Minerva, a name which was created to help the local Celts accept Roman culture by linking their goddess Sulis with the Roman goddess Minerva the Goddess of water.
The spring water is fed into a fantastic bathing complex which allowed visitors to bathe, sauna, plunge into a cold pool, enjoy a massage, socialise, conduct business, worship, eat, drink and relax within the walls of the bathing complex.
We were struck by how vast the complex is and how much has been preserved. The audio tour added an extra layer of insight and everything was well presented and I highly recommend a visit. One word of caution – the spring water you can sample at the end of the tour really doesn’t taste or smell that nice!
Of course, Bath has so much more to offer and standing proudly just outside the Baths, is the beautiful Bath Abbey.
Founded in the 8th Century, Bath Abbey was created as a Benedictine Monastery before being transformed into a Norman Cathedral. But in 1539 the Abbey was dissolved by Henry VIII, before being restored from the 17th Century until today.
After all this history and culture, we were all feeling in need of some sustenance, thankfully found at the most fabulous Gin Bar – (not for the children, of course!)
Refreshment swiftly followed by lunch at the Thoughtful Bread Company, for fantastic organic, home cooked food, with Bath Buns topping our list of favourites!
Fully refreshed with gin and delicious local produce, there was only one more thing for us to do – shop! And the good news is that Bath has some fantastic local boutique shops which make a lovely change from all the usual high street stores – there’s plenty of those as well, but fancied discovering the independent stores.
My absolute favourite was a small secondhand jewellery shop in the Victorian Guildhall Market. It was run by a lovely lady, full of character who has amassed an huge array of costume jewellery from the past 7 decades. I could have spent a lot longer in here!
As Bath is quite a compact city, many of the shops are close within easy walking distance, here’s some more of my favourites.
No visit to Bath could be complete without a walk up to the beautiful Royal Crescent, but sadly time wasn’t on our side as we had stopped off at Stonehenge on the way down (but that’s another blog for another day)! Thank you to Geograph.org for the use of this image of the Royal Crescent.