Visit Bath and the surrounding villages and stay in bed & breakfast accommodation:
Bath, Somerset, is the county's largest town and the most celebrated of English spas. The Roman city, called Aquae Sulis, grew up around the baths establishment, one of the foremost of its kind in the western empire. Its remains form an impressive monument to Roman Britain. The main pool is below the modern street level and open to the sky. Its lead floor and some of the paving around are original. Parts of the hypocaust remain in another section and a Roman outflow pipe is still in use. Judicious reconstruction gives a good idea of how it all looked in Roman days, and a museum displays finds from the site and elsewhere in the district.
The Roman baths were only rediscovered in 1879. They fell into ruins or were destroyed at some date between the departure of the legions and the capture of the place by the West Saxons in 577. The latter gave the city its present name, but knowledge of the Roman baths seems to have been lost during the medieval period and they were built over. In about 800 a monastery was founded; Edgar, of the house of Wessex, was crowned King of all England in its church in 973.
The Norman abbey on this site was replaced by the present structure, begun in 1499. Restoration work in about 1603 made good the damage suffered at the Dissolution. Further restoration in 1860-83 included the stone vaulting of the nave. The original vaulting of the choir is notable and the church has the fine large windows characteristic of Perpendicular building.
The mineral waters have continued in use for much of the city's history; Bath is still a centre for the treatment of rheumatic diseases. Conditions in medieval, Tudor and Stuart times were squalid, but this changed in the 18th centuries when Bath became a resort for fashionable society, presided over by Beau Nash. (The Information Bureau near the abbey supplies, among other things, a list of the famous people associated with Bath, and the places where they lived.) The work of providing a suitably elegant environment began, notably under the patronage of Ralph Allen who owned the quarries at Combe Down, whence came the warm-toned Bath stone for the new schemes. John Wood the Elder designed Queen Square (1728) and the Circus (begun in 1754) as architectural entities. He also built Prior Park on a hill overlooking the city for his patron in 1735. This Palladian house, now a Roman Catholic school, is opened to the public at times. John Wood the Younger was responsible for Royal Crescent, an open design of 30 houses in a sweeping semi-ellipse facing a sloping lawn. The next great improver was William Pulteney. Robert Adams designed the Florentine and shop-lined Pulteney Bridge (c. 1777) for him, and Thomas Baldwin built the Guildhall (1775), with its fine banqueting hall, and the colonnaded Bath Street. Baldwin was also responsible for PuDency Street (1785), held by some to be the loveliest street in Europe. The Pump Room, near the Abbey, rebuilt in 1795, is still a favoured meeting place where the waters can still be taken; a visit here can be combined with a tour of the Roman baths.
These men, and others, gave the central area the character it has largely kept: a planned town of Georgian terraces, crescents and squares with subtly varying architectural detail, the whole unified by l8th century canons of proportion and taste and by the use of Bath stone, and in harmony with the Avon valley setting. Later building has been mainly plain and in keeping; only a large Victorian hotel near the abbey, occupied by the Admiralty, might be wished elsewhere. The approach of the railway to Bath from the east - Brunel's old Great Western - is worth looking at for its excellent landscaping.
An abundance of parks and gardens sets off the formality of the Georgian architecture. Victoria Park west of Royal Crescent has good trees, a children's playground, parking space and a notable botanical garden. A pavilion built for Sydney Gardens in 1796-7, called the Holbourne of Menstrie, now contains a good collection of china, glass and paintings. The Assembly Rooms, built in 1771 and bombed in 1942, have now been admirably restored with interior decoration by Oliver Messel. They house what must be one of the world's finest costume museums; the collection is well presented, partly against period backgrounds. The Art Gallery displays, besides its paintings, pre-Conquest coins from the local mint. Claverton Manor, 2 ½ miles east of the city, is now the American Museum in Britain, concerned with American domestic life from the 17th to 19th centuries which it illustrates with furniture, furnishings, household equipment and period rooms. Paintings by American primitives complete a well-thought-out exhibition, open in the summer.
Bath streets deserve to be toured on foot. For a general view over the city walk or drive to Beechen Cliff (turn E. off the A367 just S. of the river) or climb to the Sham Castle, a folly on a hill to the E. The tow-path of the Kennet and Avon Canal, which starts on the eastern edge of the city, is good for walks.
The Bath Festival is held in June. It is particularly associated with Yehudi Menuhin, who directed it until 1968. The emphasis is on music, but there are also plays, exhibitions, lectures, ballets and other events.
Nearby cities: Bristol
Nearby Towns: Bradford-on-Avon, Chippenham, Chipping Sodbury, Frome, Trowbridge, Melksham, Stanton Drew
Nearby Villages: Bathampton, Batheaston, Bathford, Bitton, Box, Camerton, Cold Ashton, Colerne, Corston, Freshford, Hinton Charterhouse, Kelston, Kilmersdon, Lacock, Limpley Stoke, Midford, Norton St Philip, Priston, Saltford, Swainswick, Timsbury, Twerton, Wellow, Weston, Westwood, Wick, Wilmington, Woolley
Have you decided to visit Bath or the surrounding villages? Please look above for somewhere to stay in:
- a Bath bed and breakfast (a Bath B&B or Bath b and b)
- a Bath guesthouse
- a Bath hotel (or motel)
- a Bath self-catering establishment, or
- other Bath accommodation