I finally did what I had wanted to do for ages; I spent a few wonderful hours in the beautiful Somerset city of Bath. Setting out in beautiful sunny weather from my cosy country cottage in Wiltshire I drove to the Warminster Railway Station, parked my trusty Yaris and paid £2 for a day's parking and after forking out £11 for a return ticket to Bath the day began.
Not driving meant I could take in the view. Unfortunately, whenever I tried to take a photo it appeared the carriage window upset the phone-camera's focus and every one I took was a blur. Not to worry, I still have the memories; especially when I saw canal boats motoring along a canal higher up than the train.
My intention was to visit the shopping centre called Southgate at the end of the day for a rest and refreshment but, as it turned out, I went there first. Southgate is a huge shopping precinct, not a building as I had assumed, and I walked around it as I made my way through to the Roman Baths. I forgot to take a photo but, I can assure you, if you like shopping in a wide variety of stores carrying all types of merchandise then try Southgate.
Just up from Southgate, through some rain showers, I found the Roman Baths where I forked out the £15.50 entry fee which included a listening device. When I was being issued with the device I was asked, 'Do you speak English?' I tried being funny and replied, 'Yes, but only in Strine' and being way smarter than me the gentleman replied, 'Well you'll have to hold the earpiece up-side-down.'
Being well and truly out-done in the comedy department I set out on the well-marked tour route through the baths.
Too good to be true; the Roman Baths has my favourite author, Bill Bryson, speaking on the listening device at clearly marked positions during the tour. Bill doesn't just explain what you're looking at, he paints word-pictures of the scenes and history as you stand there and take it all in. It was brilliant to listen to the master.
On the upper level you look down at the main bath before going down to that level. My photography is not good at the best of times (ergo, the carriage window) so it was difficult to get good shots of the Baths as it is pretty dark down there.
What can I say about this tour? One word – fantastic. It's real history, walking in the footsteps of people who walked there a thousand years ago; I saw their lead pipes, stone benches and heating systems – incredible. There are several backdrops where videos give the allusion of how people lived in that exact spot during the Roman settlement of Bath.
Note the screen in the background showing the rich Roman woman enjoying her mosaic
The Baths are a most wonderful historical testament.
When I finally emerged I found the showers had increased to rain so I made a beeline to nearby Bath Abbey. Not as old as the Baths, but every bit as historical, the present Abbey was built around 1499 replacing other churches on the site since around 676AD and, coincidentally, built over the top of parts of the Roman Baths. The Abbey has a wonderful stained glass window and very distinctive sculptures on the back wall. It is worth the £4 entry fee for its beautiful windows, medieval tombs, chapels and other historical and religious features.
An amateur's attempt at a photo of a beautiful window and statue
The rain had eased and my next stop was the Jane Austen Centre. The usual entry fee of £11 was reduced to £9.50 in consideration of my advancing years (over 60). The Centre provides some short talks about Jane Austen, her family and Bath at the time she lived there. There is a multitude of knick-knacks, curios and other ornaments on display and the tour takes you through the house and past various displays. It was an excellent show, especially if you like Jane Austen. I love history so it held my interest. Of special interest to the ladies, Mr Darcy memorabilia is hot stuff. My dear wife is now the proud owner of a Mr Darcy coffee mug!
Once back on the street the sun shone as I climbed the hill all the way to the Circus. This huge roundabout surrounded by big houses all with lovely carvings above the doors was most impressive. Oh, to be part of such a neighbourhood!
Further upwards and, finally, I arrived at my ultimate goal – the Royal Crescent and the view therefrom. I always wanted to see this structure and I was not disappointed. I can't imagine how magnificent it would be to live in one of the houses.
The Crescent Weir is just below the bridge and is a must-see whenever in Bath. It was most impressive and I was surprised at the volume of water. In pictures it looks serene but, when I was there, it appeared to be very deep with a strong current.
Around the corner was the famous Sally Lunn's. I intended to take refreshment here but saw a very crowded seating area and decided it might be better to look elsewhere. In Bath there is no shortage of eating establishments. It was very noticeable so, if you miss out on one, just move on to the next.
Bath is truly amazing, especially if you enjoy history, as you become part of that history and feel as though you're sharing places with ancient ancestors. It is not only beautiful but inspiring. Don't miss it if you're in the area.
As an aside; according to my phone's pedometer I walked further in Bath than anywhere else in England and had one of the really good days of my trip. It was a most exhausting but rewarding day.