Out of all the places that I’ve traveled in England, Bath is by far my favorite one. If I could only choose one place in the UK to go back to, Bath would definitely be it. If you’re like most travelers however, you know that your time in any given place is short and you want to know what the best things are to see and do. Hopefully, this guide will help you out.
The Roman Baths
One must-see attraction, and the place that gives Bath its name, is the Roman Baths. The site dates to the occupation of England by the Romans some two thousand years ago. The baths themselves are sulfur springs that are heated naturally. The ruins of the baths were rediscovered in the eighteenth century and reconstructed.
There are multiple rooms to see, including the sacred spring, the spring overflow, the main bath and the east and west baths. The main spring is what you’ll see in many pictures advertising the baths. It is a rather large square pool with columns that run all the way around it. The spring overflow is also interesting to see. Apparently most of the Roman plumbing is still functioning and this is where the excess water not used in the baths is drained away.
The Pump Room is a restaurant located on the property. It is about two hundred years old and its architecture is in the neo-Classical style. This is where you can buy a cup of the spring water to drink. It’s a bit weird drinking sulfur water and I don’t suggest it unless you just want to say you’ve done it. I honestly didn’t like it at all. And there is of course a gift shop, where you can buy trinkets to send to your friends or to remind yourself of what a fantastic time you had in Bath.
A cathedral with flying buttresses, Bath Abbey is the most beautiful cathedral I have ever been in. It has the most striking stained glass windows and because of them, if it’s a bright day outside, the entire place is full of colored light.
You can take pictures inside although inquire as to whether you have to pay a fee or not. It was free when I was there, but some of the cathedrals are not and require payment if you wish to take pictures.
The Abbey is currently an active church in the Church of England and there are services still held there. Like many other cathedrals, there is more to it than just the main area of worship. There are rooms where the monks would have studied and there are grave markers where people of the town were buried inside the church. Some of the graves are ostentatious, to the say the least, and include life size statues, cut out of marble or other stone, of the people who are buried there.
Located in the “oldest house in Bath,” you have to go to Sally Lunn’s, especially if you like pastries. They have the best cinnamon buns and are a famous attraction for visitors to the town. The house where they are located dates to c. 1483 according to the sign out front. Legend has it that a poor French girl came to Bath three hundred years ago and started baking pastries for the village. It became a popular place and continued on after her death and still continues to operate to this day. Sally Lunn’s is a sit down restaurant and they serve brunch and dinner. They are open from 10am to 10pm with dinner starting at 6pm.
Day Trip-Stone Henge
Besides the town itself, Bath is in a prime location to see other great things that are nearby, such as Stone Henge. If you stop in the Tourist Info center, you can get all kinds of information on tours that are offered. My favorite tour is the Mad Max Tour that operates out of Bath. The tour is really cheap considering how many places they take you and that it lasts all day, it costs about £25. They offer a few other tours as well, including the full day tour that I took. I suggest that you pay at the Tourist Information center in advance, the day before the tour is probably best. You could pay the morning of the tour but it is so popular that it is often full. When I took the tour, there were people who were trying to get a spot on it, but it was already fully booked from the day before.
The tour starts around 8am and lasts until 4pm. There are about fifteen or so other people on the tour with you if the tour is full. It’s kind of nice not to be in a huge group. They take you on a mini-bus, first to Stonehenge. Admission to Stonehenge is extra. You get to spend about an hour at the site and then you get back in the bus and they take you to Avebury.
Avebury is an awesome place. The tour stays here for about an hour as well. It has these massive stones that form a really big circle that surround the village. You can follow the guide here and he’ll tell you all about the place or you can wander off on your own like I did. There’s a medieval church here that is really nice, I went inside and found it to be just gorgeous. There are also houses that have thatched roofs, much to my surprise. I hadn’t realized that people still lived in houses like that. And like most villages in England, there is a tavern in the middle of the village called the Red Lion Inn that serves drinks.
Next on the stop is the village of Lacock. There is a nine hundred year old pub that the guide takes everyone to for lunch. Lunch is not included in the price of the tour. The coolest thing about the pub is that there is a pillory outside where you can have a friend take one of those silly tourist pictures that you show to everyone back home. The village also has a church and some other medieval buildings.
Also, while you are traveling between places, the guide will point out important landmarks, like burial mounds and a large figure of a white horse that was carved into a hillside. The guide also made this tour just wonderful, because he was witty and knew everything about the countryside that we were traveling through.
The next place is Castle Combe. It is a gorgeous little town; I felt that after what I had just seen though, that there wasn’t much to the place. I walked around and snapped pictures of the charming little houses that looked to be hundreds of years old. Even though there wasn’t anything super exciting in the village, it was incredibly pretty. There’s a river that runs by the town and there’s a lot of stone work by it. There’s also a market cross that dates to the medieval period in the middle of the village.
Of course this isn’t an exhaustive list of the things you can do in Bath. There is actually a whole lot more that you can do there. But if you have a limited amount of time to spend in Bath, these seem to be the best things to do during your stay. They are the things that stand out the most in my mind from my trip.