A thriving university town, its nightlife may not be as famous as that of neighbouring Bristol, but its bars and restaurants more than hold their own.
Get your bearings
While the majority of the city’s attractions can be found within a bend or two of the Avon River, the easiest way to get your bearings is to keep your eye on Bath Abbey, which is across from the Roman baths and can be spotted from almost anywhere in the city.
The Roman baths
The Romans were the first to become besotted with Bath’s mineral water and subsequently built their town, Auquae Sulis, around the three hot springs in about AD44. When the Anglo-Saxons arrived in AD577 – well after the Romans had left – they discovered what was left of the baths. In the 18th century, the baths were rejuvenated thanks to Ralph Allen and Richard Nash, who made them fashionable among aristocrats. But, as the 18th century passed, sea bathing took over and the city and its baths slowly went out of fashion. Despite occasional demolition – some as recent as the 1960s – the baths’ grand architecture has mostly been preserved. You can find all this history in Stall Street (01225-477 785; www.romanbaths.co.uk).
Bath’s history is almost as long and rich as that of England itself. The first king of a united England was crowned in a church in Abbey Courtyard in AD973, and the present Bath Abbey was erected between 1499 and 1616, making it the last great medieval church raised in England. Among those buried at the abbey are the above- mentioned Richard Nash, and Sir Isaac Pitman, who is credited with devising the Pitman method of shorthand.
Bath Fringe Festival
It ain’t no Edinburgh, but the Bath Fringe Festival still manages to sits proudly on England’s cultural calendar, with streets and stages coming to life from May 27-June 12 with artistic pursuits of all kinds and colours. The festival’s press people will no doubt be at pains to remind all and sundry that the city has hosted artists and travelling performers since the Georgian era, with the origins of the fringe festival itself thought to date back to the sideshows which sprang up during Roman occupation. No matter, it’s worth checking out www.bathfringe.co.uk to see what’s in store.
A place to lay your head
Bath is some 106 miles (170km) west of London. Trains leave for the city from London Paddington every half hour or so, while there is also a regular and reliable bus service from London Victoria, which takes between three and four hours. While the city can make a perfect day trip from the capital, it’s more than worth spending a night or two.
Finding somewhere to lay your head during busy periods can be a hard, so book early. If you get stuck, the Tourist Information Centre (Abbey Chambers, Abbey Church Yard; 0870-420 1278) can help. The Bath YHA Hostel (Bathwick Hill; 0870-770 5688; firstname.lastname@example.org), a short bus trip from the city centre, is popular but it’s not open all year. Try also the Bath Backpackers hostel (13 Pierrepont St; (01225-446 787), which is centrally located, just around the corner from the TIC and abbey. You can find B&Bs and hotels scattered throughout the city.