History buffs, Jane Austen fans, wannabe archaeologists, cream tea enthusiasts: if you’re planning a day trip to Bath, England, these tips will come in handy. And if you are none of these things but would love to visit a city with ancient roots and Georgian refinement, also take note.
This is our day trip to Bath
The Roman Baths go back to Celtic times. The Celts built a shrine to the goddess Sulis, which the Roman later identified with their goddess Minerva. Then, the Romans gradually built the complex around the temple to Sulis/Minerva in and around 70 AD. You can still see parts of it and Minerva’s statue. In the following centuries, the baths have been used for their health benefits and have been modified or added to.
As soon as we entered, we went to the terrace overlooking the Great Bath. We walked around with our audioguides. You realise that the complex extends quite a bit under the street and is a lot larger than it seems. We learned where the spring water comes from, and we saw the changing rooms and sauna, and the heated rooms and plunge pools. Each place comes alive with the film projections that show what Romans did in each room. I loved the Roman ladies (or, rather, impersonators) chatting next to the Great Bath.
We came here in May, and there weren’t big crowds. I’m not sure how early you need to arrive to be able to see everything in relative peace during peak times. My rule of thumb is the earlier, the better.
For ticket info, address, opening times, etc. click on this link.
Cream tea at Sally Lunn’s
I’m a sucker for cream tea, especially if the tea house is ancient. Sally Lunn’s is in one of Bath’s oldest houses, from the 1482, and is famous for its buns. It’s said that Jane Austen liked them too. Good enough for Jane, good enough for me! Sally Lunn, a Huguenot (French Protestant) refugee, set up bakery in 1680. She became famous for her buns, a cross between a brioche and a tea cake.
Narrow rooms and stairs, uneven creaky floors and a low ceiling create a unique atmosphere. I ordered the Sally Lunn cream tea: one half of a bun bigger as big as my hand, clotted cream, strawberry jam, and tea. Sean had the Queen Victoria cream tea with lemon curd. It was rather good and filling. Bear this in mind if you have dinner plans. The two teas and a bottle of water set us back £19.14.
There is a small museum in the basement. It’s the original kitchen with the Georgian cooking range that Sally used.
4, North Parade Passage
This Georgian gem dates from 1769 and is lined with shops on both sides. It doesn’t feel like you’re crossing a bridge, rather, like you’re walking down the street. The bridge straddles the River Avon.
The bridge was used as setting for Javert’s suicide scene, played by Russell Crowe in the 2012 film version of Les Misérables*.
The Circus (1734-69)
A lovely example of Georgian architecture, The Circus consists of three curved segments of townhouses. The architect admired the Druids, so he designed the Circus with the same diameter as Stonehenge. Look out for ornamental details related to the Druids, like serpents or acorns.
The Circus, Bath, BA1 2EW
The Royal Crescent
The Royal Crescent is up Brock Street from The Circus. 30 grad I listed townhouses are arranged in a semicircle overlooking Royal Victoria Park. They are all private residences, but you can walk around the street. The words that come to mind are luxury, wealth, precise design, beauty.
You’ll see that all front doors are white except one, No. 22. The owner went to court in the 1970s to fight for her right to paint her door yellow. She won and it’s been like this since then.
Bath city centre
We strolled around the pretty streets, which we like doing. Towards evening, we noted that there were many hen and stag parties. It seems to become a party town on Saturday nights!
- Bath is 1.5 hours from London by train, so coming for the day is doable.
- Bath is synonymous with Jane Austen. Austenites will be in heaven visiting the places she knew or wrote about. We didn’t have the time to do everything, though.
- Bath is a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
There is a lot more to do in Bath, we just didn’t have the time!
- Javert’s suicide scene