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The Circus - Historic Site in Bath

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by Tom Fieldhouse (subscribe)
I am a freelance writer, living in Bath with my wife and son. I love my city, and love to live here. I write about Bath a lot, and sometimes about travels in Ireland and France.
Published July 4th 2017
A Night (Or Day) At The Circus
No trip to Bath is complete without a visit to 'The Circus'. This Georgian landmark looks and feels like being in an Amphitheatre if you stand in its centre, among a grove of immense trees. Built over a fourteen-year labour of love which began in 1754, architect John Wood designed the Circus to act as the heart of fashionable Bath, with its three exit roads acting like arteries for the rich and famous to go about in the town. It is a five storey circle of flats and houses, all maintained to an immaculate standard. Located at the top of Gay street, from the air, the Circus resembles part of a key, completed by the grandiose Royal Crescent which is slightly to the left. I love going to see the Circus, if only to daydream that I live there.

Street sign
Circus time

The Circus is wonderful at any time, but I recommend visiting in the early morning or at sunset, when it is quiet and bathed in sunlight. Bath stone comes alive when the sun strikes it and genuinely appears to glow. Early morning Bath looks a misty honey colour, and sunset Bath stone has an amber look which is enhanced by evening shadows. If you can go at this times, then you will also avoid the droves of tour groups and coaches that visit the landmark. I love sitting on the benches at the top of Gay street, watching people go about their business. Bath is full of subterranean vaults and cellars, and this adds even more intrigue to the place for me. It feels magical.

Georgian House
A fine residence- once owned by Nicolas Cage

A walk around the buildings reveals all manner of lovely features and adornments. As in so many places in Bath, stone murals and carvings pay homage to the city, and even the lampposts and streetlights are bedecked in black and gold finery, as if dressing up for the occasion. Bath's strict council laws demand that all doors and windows must be painted white, yet despite this uniformity, there is a subtle variety of decoration on the walls of each house. It is easy to see which houses have been 'cleaned' of their 19th and 20th Century pollution, as the Bath stone of old would have looked sooty and streaked with pollution, due to the thousands of coal-fueled kitchens and chimneys.

The Arts, Wine and Medicine, all important parts of Bath History

One of the most wonderful parts of the circle is often overlooked (or simply not seen). At the centre of the green that forms the hub of the Circus, there is a grove of immensely tall trees. Arrayed around an immense flagstone that has been worn shiny and smooth by the feet of visitors, they tower above the surrounding houses. Looking up into their leaves and branches is an ethereal experience, but a memorable one. It also offers a unique perspective of the place, as if standing in a huge building with a roof of leaves.

Circus poles
A leafy haven

The images below do not do this special place justice, because it is nigh on impossible to capture the scale of the street. The curves of the building are magnificent, and even the paving stones are carefully placed to create a symmetry. With a plethora of shopping streets, eateries and museums within a five-minute walk, one could even begin a trip to Bath at this magical place and fan out from there.

PRACTICALITIES: Parking is very, VERY strict and sparse in this part of Bath. Far better to leave the car in town. To locate the Circus, go to Queen's Square and head uphill for 300 meters. Once there, turn left for the Royal Crescent, right for the Assembly Rooms and straight on for a lovely view.

Tall and elegant

Round the houses

Circus streets
One of the exits

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Why? Bath at its Best: Breathtaking architecture
When: Any time of day or night
Phone: The Circus Restaurant- 01225 466020
Where: Heart of the City- look for the trees
Cost: Free
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