A Weekend in Bath


“In Britain are hot springs adorned with sumptuous splendour for the use of mortals.  Minerva is patron goddess of these,” wrote a third century Roman visitor to Bath.  From their scale as well as their splendour we know the baths, like the city itself, were built for visitors.


Into the sacred spring they threw jewellery, coins and messages inscribed on lead sheets imploring Minerva to main or blind their enemies.  All of these are displayed beside the reconstructed facades and mosaics at the Roman Baths, a starting point for any visit today.  The statues around the Great Bath are Victorian, but the lead lining built by the Romans remains watertight, and you can see their drainage system, still working after 2000 years.


In the Georgian pump room you can sample the water with its delicate flavour of petrol, take tea with entertainment from a string trio and imagine the city in its heyday as the social centre of England.


The last spa closed in 1978, but this year, thanks to £8m from the Lottery, the new Thermae Spa will open for those with £19 to spare for a two-hour dip.


Pulteney Bridge is one of only four bridges lined with shops in the world.  Its opening in 1773 enabled the city to expand across the River Avon into the new town of Bathwick.  Jane Austen, who moved here in 1801, would still recognise many of the places she described in Northanger Abbey and Persuasion.  Royal Crescent and Great Pulteney Street are classic examples of the Palladian architectural style, with its grand facades and Corinthian columns. 


Bath’s days of grandeur were shortlived.  When George IV decided he preferred the seaside at Brighton, Bath went out of favour.  Its economic decline left one positive legacy.  Much of the surrounding countryside survived until the 1960s when the National Trust acquired nearly 500 acres.  This has given Bath something quite unique for a city of its size.  200 yards down Bathwick Hill from the hostel, less than a mile from the city centre, you step off the main road into a valley of roe deer and woodpeckers, stone barns and apple blossom.  Below you unfolds a panorama of hilltops and spires, Georgian terraces and the late gothic abbey – pure magic.


Further round this ‘Skyline Walk’ lies Prior Park Landscape Garden, the most spectacular of Bath’s many parks.  Names and dates elegantly carved on its famous Palladian Bridge date back to 1809, when the city clearly hosted a better class of vandal.  Leaving the park you descend through Widcombe, which still feels like a Georgian village, until you reach the Kennet and Avon canal and realise you have never left the city.


In Jane Austen’s day Bath was becoming a place for genteel widows, “a dreadful multitude of ugly women” as Sir Walter Elliot complained.  Today, with over 17,000 students swelling its term-time population, Bath has become once again, a young city.  It has 6 nightclubs, scores of pubs and restaurants offering cuisine from all over the world, and every May, the City is host to one of the largest fringe festivals in the country.  Now is the best time to visit, as the city prepares for Britain in Bloom, people return to the café and restaurant terraces, and the hordes of mid summer have yet to arrive.


Pick of the Pubs


Pulp, Monmouth Street 01225 466411


Chic latin-american bar, specialising in cocktails made with cachaça made from their own sugar plantation in Brazil.


The Star Inn, The Paragon, 01225 425072


Traditional pub, licensed 1759, with wood-panelled nooks and real ale served from jugs.


The Raven, Queen Street, 01225 425210


Tucked down a sidestreet with a tiny main bar and smoke-free upper bar


White Hart, Widcombe Hill, 01225 313985


Pub/restaurant with lovely enclosed courtyard.  Also good for teas/coffees at lunchtime.




Las Iguanas, Seven Dials Centre, 01225 336666


Latin American and Spanish cuisine with a covered terrace in an old courtyard.


Demuths, North Parade Passage,01225 319940


Vegetarian, mainly organic, meals from around the world.  Believed to be haunted by a monk - see the cross carved on the basement wall,


ZaZa, Walcot Street, 01225 471371


Italian restaurant in a beautifully converted old chapel.  Very smart and surprisingly reasonable prices.


Cultural High Spots


Roman Baths and Pump Room, Stall Street, 01225 477 785 www.romanbaths.co.uk


Prior Park Landscape Garden, Ralph Allen Drive, 01225 833422


www.nationaltrust.org.uk has information about the park and the Bath Skyline walk.


Bath Abbey, Cheap Street, 01225 429990 www.bathabbey.org


Begun in 1499, one of the last great gothic churches in England, with 52 windows, one for each week of the year.


Theatre Royal, Sawclose, 01225 448844 www.theatreroyal.org.uk


One of the country’s most beautiful old theatres, celebrated its 200th anniversary last year


Jane Austen Centre, Gay Street, 01225 443000 www.janeausten.co.uk


All about Austen and her connections with Bath.  “Live” talks from knowledgeable guides, and small museum.  Centre also organises the annual Jane Austen Festival in September.


Museum of Costume, Bennett Street, 01225 477752


Fashion through the ages, and the chance to try on a corset…


Forthcoming Events


Bath Literature Festival: 4th – 12th March

Various Venues, Tel: 01225 463362 www.bathlitfest.org.uk


Annual Bath Spring Flower Show: 29th April – 1st May

In Victoria Park, Organised by Royal Bath & North East Somerset Council 01225 477010, www.visitbath.co.uk


Bath International Music Festival: 19th May – 4th June


01225 463362 www.bathfringe.co.uk


Bath Fringe Festival: 26th May – 11th June


01225 463362 www.bathfringe.co.uk


Good Days Out


Two picturesque and flat cycle routes link Bath to Bristol (13 miles) along an old railway line, and to Bradford-on-Avon (8 miles) along the Kennet and Avon canal.  Bikes of different types and sizes are available for hire at the hostel.  A good rail service links Bath to both towns if you don’t feel like riding back.  Alternatively you can hire a boat or take a boat trip along the Avon.  Cheddar Gorge, Glastonbury and Wells with its famous cathedral are all within easy reach.


The Youth Hostel


This nineteenth century Italianate mansion in its own grounds on Bathwick Hill sleeps 121.  It offers meals, a bar and internet access.