This weekend I went on my first U.K. adventure - and only a month after arriving, not too shabby! While living in London I plan to make the most of my new vicinity to so many exciting destinations, but I'm determined not to go home having seen loads of the European continent but barely any of the U.K. There's so much culture, history and beauty in this country, I want to experience as much of it as possible. I got started on this new venture of mine in Bath, and what a start!
The beautiful city of Bath as seen from the top of the city's abbey
Bath is an ancient English town full to the brim of things worth seeing. Only staying for the weekend, we were limited in our options, but found even just an overnight stay was a good chance to explore and get a feel for the culture of the place. Simply strolling around Bath's gorgeous limestone-lined streets is enough to soak up the charming atmosphere, but below are a couple of my recommendations. If you have a chance to visit, even just for the day, don't give it a miss! It's a truly beautiful spot, and one of the world's only two cities that is a UNESCO World Heriatge site (the other is Venice). Swoon!
First of all, let's talk costs...
Train fare from London: £70 return for two of us (90 minute journey one way)
Accommodation: £115 for one night (worth mentioning, we booked this trip only a week out, so missed a lot of good accommodation deals. If you get in early, there's some great options around on booking.com and Air BnB).
Attractions worth a visit
1. Bath Abbey
This is a truly beautiful church and my favourite I have been to yet. For £6, the Tower Tour is well worth doing, with an all access, guided look around including a stop in the bell room right up top in time for the chimes on the hour (warning: it will make you jump), a walk through a tiny corridor to take you right behind the impressive clock face, and a look into the ceiling chamber to see the centre stone which holds the whole abbey in place (eek). The guides are informative and engaging, and a stunning 360° view of the city of Bath awaits you at the top. Plus you can get a cheesy touristy shot taken with what is, in my opinion, a pretty stellar backdrop.
What I love most about this church is the plaques which cover every inch of the walls and floors. They load the place with a history far more personal than that which most churches offer. How wicked to be able to read about and conjure up in your mind's eye those individuals who sat in these pews hundreds of years ago? Even the great tenor bell in the tower makes visitors smile at the glimpse into its personal history by an inscription which reads "All you of Bathe that hear me sound, thank Lady Hopton's hundred pound." Very cool.
Plaques on the walls and floors load the church with a much more personal history than most
2. The Roman Baths
You're looking at £14 for entry into the Roman Baths, but if there is one thing you pay to do here, this should be it. Going to Bath and not visiting this site is like going to New York and not visiting the Statue of Liberty - it's essential. This comes with an audio tour so you can explore at your own pace. While the steaming hot baths are no longer open for use, it is very cool to walk around a site that is 2,000 years old and see the incredibly well-preserved ruins, given they were buried and lost for so many years.
See Bath on a Budget
Free walking tours of the city depart daily from right outside the entrance to the Roman Baths in the central city. These are organised by the Mayor's Office and led by locals, so are very much official, well-informed and well-organised tours. No booking is necessary for individuals and they last about two hours.
There is a lot of standing around just listening, so I wouldn't recommend this to those who are easily bored or don't do well on their feet. For those of us that like looking at a building and appreciate what we are seeing and knowing the story behind it, it is fantastic. The tour was informative, entertaining and a bargain - I felt like I should be paying for it! Thanks Bath for doing that for free. Check out this pic of me and our awesome guide. His name is Andy and he's part of the local tennis club. Too cute.
Where to eat
Lunch at The Raven pub
With a pub downstairs and eating area upstairs, this place specialises in delicious hearty pies for £9-10. The Free Ranger comes highly recommended from my end! (right)
Dinner at Gascoyne Place Pub
With meals startngs at £10, this place has seriously good food. Actually, for any amount of cash this place has seriously good food. We went in not knowing the place and not expecting too much but 3 courses, 2 full stomachs and some seriously big grins later, we would recommend this place to anyone in need of a good feed! The atmosphere is very cosy and staff were awesome too. I suggest you give the garlic and parmesan bread a try. TAKE ME BACK.
Afternoon Tea at Sally Lunn's
Bath's oldest surviving building and one of its oldest teahouses, this place is charming to the core, from its tiny doors (were people really that short in 1482?) to its ancient creaking wooden beams. Here you are presented with an impressive menu of hot and cold food, but you'd be mad not to try one the famous Sally Lunn Buns - a light, fluffy bun with your choice of topping. In my case, cinnamon butter with clotted cream. Behold.
I'm almost always a coffee-before-tea kinda girl but if ever it is appropriate, nay necessary to drink tea, it is here. We tried the Sally Lunn house tea which tastes much like English Breakfast. The only downfall of this charming spot was the plain white and metal tea gear. I expected old school porcelain cups and saucers with dainty silver spoons, would have been so cute and the perfect final touch! Other than that, this place is well worth stopping by.
Coffee and Brownie from Café Au Lait
Worth a mention, this wee café is right opposite the train station, so if you are embarking on a stroll around the city straight away, I recommend picking up a coffee and one of the most delicious brownies I have ever tasted. Gooey chocolate and praline anyone?
Cocktails at The Canary Gin Bar
This very cosy dark wood bar has an exceptional menu. For £7.50 I experienced one of the most delicious alcoholic concoctions I have ever tasted. For those of you not big on gin, there is a martini bar upstairs.
Pulteney Bridge is one of only 3 bridges in the world with commercial shops along it (Venice and Florence contain the others) and is well worth stroll over, if not just to say you've done it! If you continue on down Great Pulteney Street, the Holbourne Museum sits at the end which houses an impressive collection of art, silverware and jewellery from the private collection of ex-resident, Sir William Holbourne. Admission is free and it's well worth a look.
Having stayed only for the weekend, there is loads I didn't get to do which I would have loved too. The Jane Austen Museum, for one (!!!) and the rooftop Therme Spa if I was feeling rich. Being limited in time doesn't mean you are limited in enjoyment though. This is a beautiful city I am so pleased to have seen, and I would highly recommend to anyone who has the chance! Because I got a bit trigger happy with my camera, below are some of my shots from around the place. Sigh... I do hope I go back one day!