No sooner was I off the plane from Australia than I was on the train to Bath Spa. It seemed like a good idea when I booked the tickets a few weeks ago, and I’m still not entirely sure why I thought I was jetlag-invincible. However, if there was one place beautiful enough to keep my eyes propped open through the jetlaggiest of jetlag, it was Bath.
I have always had a desire to visit Bath. This fascination possibly stems from my sister and I obsessively watching Keira Knightley’s Pride and Prejudice, and thus being intrigued by Jane Austen. The warm Bath stone and stunning Georgian architecture, all on a backdrop of rolling hills and thriving rivers is quintessential England — and it’s hard not to fall in love.
From central London the train was a quick hour and a half journey through relaxed country scenery. I spent the majority of the journey trying to wish the rain away, which had mixed efficacy. Eventually, the train pulled into Bath and the beauty of the city was immediately evident. From the window, the Bath stone terraces and Pulteney Bridge came into view, and that was the moment when the excitement really hit.
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Arriving at around 10:00am meant there was plenty of time to explore before needing lunch. Although the weather was doing its best to dampen Bath, it wasn’t going to dampen my attempts to explore it. The first thing I like to do in a new city is to walk around and get my bearings, and that is exactly what happened. Wandering amongst the warm-coloured stone through meandering alleyways unfortunately ended up being quite disorienting, until I reached the River Avon.
Pulteney Bridge crosses the River Avon and is undeniably one of the most breathtaking sites in Bath. The bridge is one of only four bridges in the world with shops lining both sides, so it is a unique place to wander along. In front of the bridge is the characteristic weir which shapes the flow and movement of the Avon. The best time to admire Pulteney Bridge is when it is bathed in sunlight, which is usually mid-late morning – and there are plenty of viewpoints!
The Roman Baths are the must-see attraction in the city, and the springs themselves are the reason the township exists where it does. As a place to both cleanse and be social, the Roman bath complex was first constructed on the site in 70AD. Although the tickets to the Roman Baths are expensive (between £16 to £22 depending on the time of week and year), the experience is an enjoyable two hours of history and beautiful architecture.
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There are plenty of places to stop for lunch in Bath so you won’t be short of options. Given the setting, and the fact that it was absolutely freezing, it felt appropriate to seek out some pub food. In the centre of Bath Spa, the best option was The Raven. The Raven’s famous pies took proved too difficult to resist, and a half-pint of their own brand ale was the perfect accompaniment.
If you’re after other pub lunch venues of choice, there are plenty of fantastic options including The Huntsman and Hare and Hounds.
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Pie and ale’d to within an inch of my life, it was time to leave the Raven and see more of what Bath had to offer before my evening train back to London. There were a few iconic spots to explore and a couple of view-points in mind.
Aside from the Roman Baths, one of the first images that comes to mind when thinking of the city is Royal Crescent. The famous curved row of terraced houses is an iconic piece of Georgian architecture. A mix of residences and museums, the thirty houses are spectacular to behold with sweeping views from the rolling green in front.
To the side of the Royal Crescent there are some beautiful houses climbing the hillside as well. On your way from the town centre is The Circus, which also has spectacular curved terraces which are worth admiring during your walk up. There is beautiful architecture throughout Bath (in case I haven’t rambled about it enough), but these couple of spots were my favourites.
Bathwick Hill Skyline Walk
Crossing Pulteney Bridge and towards Bathwick Hill commences the Bathwick Hill Skyline Walk. Doing the full walk itself takes several hours, however the views look spectacular and if I had more than a day in Bath it would be number one on the list! With only a short time left in my afternoon, I opted for an abridged version following the track up Sham Castle Lane and North Road until it was time to turn back. The views over the city even from this lower altitude were gorgeous.
Despite being one of the most outstanding buildings in the Bath skyline, Bath Abbey was my final stop. As it was Sunday, the Abbey was closed until later in the afternoon so it had to wait until the end. Although there were no Tower Tours operating that day, exploring the Abbey itself was more than enough.
The beginnings of The Abbey were around 600AD, although it has had significant reconstructions and additions over the years. The Abbey has beautiful fan vaults which make up the ceiling, dramatic stained-glass windows, and an impressive organ.
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Although Bath is often relegated to a quick stop on tour to Stonehenge, it deserves a lot more of your attention. Whether you opt for a Bath day trip, or to stay a little longer, your journey will be rewarded. This picturesque city is quintessentially English and is a haven for lovers of history and architecture. Only a quick train or coach journey from the hustle and bustle of London, a quieter pace of life can be found here. Whether you wish to wander the Georgian streets, learn about Austen, or marvel at the Roman Baths, there is an abundance to explore in Bath at any time of year.
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- Avoid visiting Bath on a Sunday if you are interested in taking part in an Abbey Tower Tour
- Coming to Bath during the week rather than the weekend results in lower ticket prices for entering the Roman Baths
- Always come prepared for any weather (I had sun, rain, and hail all in one day!)
- If you are travelling by train, download the Train Line app and book your tickets through their site. The tickets download to your phone and you just have to scan them at the gates to get on your train – super simple!
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