We try to visit England as often as we can and each time we do we select a different region or city. Hubby remembered visiting Bath once when he was a child. So, Bath it is! From the moment we arrived, I knew I was going to love England’s only World Heritage City. It might sound strange to describe a city this way, but, for me, it had gravitas.
We chose a small, older hotel, centrally located, directly across the street from the train station. It couldn’t be more perfect. Bath is a ‘walking city’ and we were able to do just that … with quick stops back to the room to refresh and relax for a moment before eagerly conquering our next destination.
Before our visit, I had no idea the reason the city is called “Bath” is simply because of the natural mineral springs around which the Romans built not only a massive temple but an entire city, over 2000 years ago. This magnificent structure rivals anything I had seen in Italy. It took over 4 centuries to complete this work of art. After falling into disrepair over the years, thankfully, it has been meticulously restored by the generous donations of countless organizations.
There are four main areas that comprise the Great Bath: the Sacred Spring, the Temple, the Bath House and the Museum. From the moment you descend the steps into the Great Bath, you start to imagine yourself part of the privileged class who would have indulged in the ritualistic bathing that was so important to the Romans. With your attendant in tow, you would pay your entrance fee, leave your clothing, don a toga and enter the palaestra or gymnasium for some exercising. From there you would enter the tepidarium, or warm bath room, where you would be scrubbed clean before entering the caldarium, or hot bath room (sort of like a sauna). You would then have another attendant massage you with oils. After your massage, it’s time to cool down in the frigidarium and then off you’d go to socialize around the swimming pool.
A visit to the Bath Abbey has to be on your list of places to visit. This imposing Gothic structure was built in 1499 on the site of two previous Abbeys, both of which had been destroyed in battles. This is actually one of the last medieval cathedrals to be built in England, and one of the most unique. Of course, you can marvel at the resplendent architecture and enjoy the relaxing atmosphere, but for a real treat take the tour up to the Bell Tower. Although there are areas where you can stop and rest, this memorable trek is not for the faint-of-heart or vertigo-afflicted. The steep 212 steps will take you behind the clock face, stand on top of the vaulted ceiling and visit the bell chamber room. Bring your camera, because the views are simply amazing.
Where do you go after visiting the Abbey? Well, Sally Lunn’s, of course!! If you aren’t familiar with Sally Lunn, Sally was a young refugee coming from France in 1680. Finding work was almost impossible, but Sally (originally Solange Luyon) did have one skill, she knew how to make rich, French brioche rolls. A small bakery on Lilliput Alley (the oldest house in Bath) hired her to make these buns and sell them on the street corner. The buns became so popular, customers would visit the bakery to buy them fresh from the oven.
The bakery, now known as the Sally Lunn House, is part tea room and part museum. Although it is said to be built in 1482 the excavations on display in the north cellar show that the house actually existed during the Roman occupation. Because it is conveniently located close to the Roman Baths, it is believed this site could have been an inn for Roman travelers. Again, put this bakery/tea room/museum on your MUST visit list. It is a unique and wonderful place to enjoy one of Sally Lunn’s rich buttery buns and a hearty cuppa.
There is so much to see and do in this World Heritage City. I’ve just touched on a few. From the Roman Baths to the Jane Austen Centre, the Bath Abbey and Sally Lunn’s Tea Room to name just a few, Bath has to be one of my most favorite cities in England. I can’t wait to come back!