Known as one of England’s finest cities, Bath, inspired Jane Austen and has inspired many visitors since.
When wealthy people in 18th century England wanted a weekend of R&R, they headed for a spa town.
So, instead of wearing themselves out on exercise bikes, drinking carrot juice, and slathering themselves in mud, they kept it simple and went to Bath to “take the water”. Spa water, from a mineral spring, was thought to cure all manner of ills; from simple over-indulgence to more serious health setbacks.
And Bath became the go-to spa town of Britain’s Georgian era (between 1714 and 1837), and beyond.
The wealth that funnelled into the city made possible the imposing and splendid Palladian architecture for which it’s also renowned.
In fact, there are moments you can imagine being ensconced in a plush carriage as you pass by the sublime streetscapes that have stood the test of time and which continue to impress visitors.
It’s no wonder that Jane Austen chose to make her home here (from 1801-06), where she could observe and be inspired by fashionable society.
But it’s also an ancient city, and one that was commandeered by the Romans in around 65AD. Bath is in the south-west of England, in the county of Somerset, and sits in the valley of the River Avon, about 100 miles west of London. It’s also the only British city to have been designated as a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
It’s an enchanting city, and one that punches well above its weight in cultural and
This is the place to come to for going back in time and enjoying a slice of the Britain you’ve seen in countless films and TV dramas.
My favourite- place Royal Crescent, which has been a favourite spot of movie location scouts since film first clicked through a projector. The 30 terraced houses were built between 1767 and 1774, and the first one to be built, No.1, is now a museum. There’s probably no better place to witness the luxurious lifestyle of 18th century British aristocrats – and the drudgery of their servants. It’s an authentic treasure trove of majestic art, exquisite textiles, lush carpets, and baronial furniture. The dining table has been set for pudding, while afternoon tea beckons in the drawing room. Upstairs are two bedrooms (one for him; the other for her) with original fixtures and fittings. Below stairs is the spartan working environment of the servants: the original kitchen, scullery, coal holes, and living quarters. Enthusiastic guides bring the whole history, warts-and-all; to life.
Highlights- The Roman Baths were built when the Romans invaded ‘Britannia’ in around AD65. For some perspective on how Romans kept clean it’s hard to beat. And they were way ahead of their time: the heating systems to the original hot and cold rooms are impressive enough but the Great Bath, naturally heated from the city’s thermal springs, was clearly a hot tub for a former age. You can’t use the baths as the water is too dirty – but, for that Roman experience, head to the Thermae Bath Spa. It offers a thoroughly modern spa experience, and a swim in its open-air roof-top pool offers fantastic views over the city. Some of the best views can also be had from a visit to Bath Abbey, which lies at the city’s heart. It’s a gorgeous, Gothic, honey-coloured edifice that, once again, encapsulates the best of British when it comes to architectural eye-candy.
Souvenirs- Bath really does both the voracious shopper and the meticulous browser proud; from its SouthGate mall offering all the usual high-street brands to its array of antique shops in the Upper Town along George Street. Here, you can find some wonderful old maps, books, antiquities, and vintage jewellery. For things you definitely won’t find at home, head to the Artisan Quarter, which is packed with an eclectic array of independent shops offering retro clothing, antiques, art, designer homeware, and hand-made furniture.
Getting there- It’s a flight from Muscat to London’s Heathrow. From there, take the Heathrow Express train (a 15-minute ride) to London’s Paddington Station. At Paddington, trains to Bath take two hours on average and run every 45 minutes.
Where to stay- You’ll find all the major hotel chains represented here, which you can view online via Trivago, Expedia, Kayak, or Booking.com. But why not seek out one of the boutique hotels that have been converted from one of the grand Georgian houses, such as Duke’s, or The Queensberry Hotel?
1. Visit the Jane Austen Centre for a window on her world.
2. Take afternoon tea at Sally Lunn’s Historic Eating House.
3. Try on some yesteryear gear at the Fashion Museum.
4. Blow a bauble with glassmakers in the Artisan Quarter.
5. Stroll, and shop along the beautiful Pulteney Bridge.