Take a bath in Bath
Mmmm … the smell of cinnamon and nutmeg wafts through the air before you turn the corner and discover Bath’s much-loved Christmas markets.
Every year Bath – known as one of the UK’s Christmas capitals – is transformed, with beautiful Christmas decorations and 170 stalls or “chalets” selling hand-made decorations, personalised gifts, handmade toys, designer jewellery and local artwork. It’s the biggest Christmas shopping event in the South West of England and the perfect excuse to nibble on freshly baked mince pies and sip hot mulled wine as you shop. The annual Christmas markets are set up on the cobbled streets between Bath Abbey and the historic Roman Baths. Thousands visit during the lead up to Christmas and the markets grow in popularity each year. It’s a fabulous sight with fairy lights twinkling and choirs singing time-honoured carols in the heart of the UNESCO World Heritage site.
Shoppers can also enjoy heart-warming food in The Lodge or visit Bath Abbey for a Christmas carol service and there’s also glow in the dark mini-golf and an ice rink nearby.
There’s so much to see in this beautiful city that is known for its stunning architecture, top restaurants and the UK’s only natural thermal spa that you can bathe in. No visit to Bath is complete without wandering through the amazing Roman Baths that sit in the heart of the city and remains one of the finest preserved spas of the past.
Highlights include the bath-house where people bathed nearly 2000 years ago and the ruins of the Temple of Minerva. It is fascinating walking around the ruins that have been so well preserved over the years.
Museum displays show how the baths were built as well as treasures found on site including the recently discovered Beau Street hoard of 17,577 silver Roman coins.
In summer the baths are often until late in the evenings.
History of the Roman Baths
The Roman Baths date back to 70 AD and were built as a community bathing centre. Every day 1,170,000 litres of steaming spring water reaching 46 °C fills the bathing site supplied from natural hot springs. The Romans believed that this was the mystical work of the Gods but the water source comes from King’s Spring.
The Great Bath that lies below street level can also be viewed from the Terrace, which is adorned with statues and shadowed by the great Abbey. The remains of ancient heated rooms and changing rooms as well as plunge pools are also preserved. The Romans built a temple high over the courtyard in honour of the goddess Sulis Minerva. Don’t be surprised if you run into Roman costumed characters who relate ancient stories from 10am – 5pm every day.
Don’t leave without taking a sip of the spa water in the Pump Room, which is included in the admission price. It contains 42 minerals and is believed to have healing powers.
Take a bath
You can experience the mineral-rich waters for yourself at Thermae Bath Spa, with fabulous views of the city from its rooftop pool. More than 40 spa treatments and packages are available.
The elegant Pump Room is the place to go for a delicious afternoon tea with a selection of fine teas, coffee, delicate sandwiches and mouth-watering cakes and scones. The art of taking tea in these beautiful rooms is still as popular today as it was in Georgian times. Guests are also serenaded by the Pump Room Trio playing classical music. The beautifully decorated building dates back to 1795 and was a very fashionable place to be seen and still is.
Jane Austen Festival
Jane Austen was Bath’s most famous resident and the city features in some of her novels. The annual 10-day Jane Austen Festival is held in September and kicks off each year with the Grand Regency Costumed Promenade. Other events include walks, talks, minibus tours, musical recitals, Regency dancing and bonnet-making workshops. The Jane Austen Centre offers a snapshot of what it would be like to live in the Regency times – the fashion, food, society – everything that would have inspired Austen’s timeless novels.
The Royal Crescent is one of Bath’s most iconic landmarks and the most impressive of its seven Georgian crescents. It’s a great place to walk and soak up the atmosphere. The row of terraced houses is laid out in a sweeping curved shape.
A great base is Halcyon Apartments in the heart of Bath that is within walking distance of most attractions including the Abbey and Roman Baths. It is located next to its sister property, The Porter and feature the hospitality and comfort of the hotel and the other group property, Halcyon Hotel. Guests can enjoy the best of worlds, the space and privacy of your own city pad with hotel services you wish you had at home.
The luxury apartments are spacious with beautifully decorated reflecting their Georgian heritage with elegant high ceilings, large sash windows and a neutral decor furnished with statement pieces. There’s a French Rattan bed, feature fireplace and a kitchen table that seats eight as well as eclectic artwork from acclaimed artist Ben Lowe and Julian Chichester furniture. Breakfast is served downstairs at Clayton’s Kitchen – it’s a hard choice – healthy or decadent. We settled for the full English with Old English sausages, smoked bacon, free range eggs, chestnut mushrooms, black pudding, roast tomato, baked beans and toast. A Jane Austen special – no doubt.
The low down:
What to do
Free Walking Tours of Bath- every day of the year. Meet in the Abbey Church Yard near the entrance to the Roman Baths and the Pump Room Restaurant.The tour lasts two hours and includes the main historical and architectural sights. www.bathguides.org.uk
Clayton’s Kitchen www.theporter.co.uk/claytons-kitchen
Colonna & Small’s for good coffee prepared by expert baristas.www.colonnaandsmalls.co.uk
The Chequers gastro pub has served visitors and locals since 1776. These days, its award-winning, inventive British menu is complimented by fine wines and local ales, and its Sunday roast is legendary. www.thechequersbath.com
The Wild Cafe, an excellent brunch spot serving up mouth-watering options from bacon pancake stacks to avocado on toast, using fresh local ingredients. www.wildcafe.co.uk
Sally Lunn’s – Bath’s oldest house serves meals and snacks and is the home of the world famous Sally Lunn Bath bun.
Sally Lunn was a young French refugee who arrived in England more than 300 years ago.
She baked a rich bread now called the Sally Lunn bun.www.sallylunns.co.uk
How to get to Bath:
Bath is a 90-minute train-ride from London.
Where to stay:
16 George St, Bath
Phone 01225 444100