Published: 14:30, 18 January 2018
Awkward Silence No.1
“So let me get this right. You lived in Bath for ten years?”
“And in all that time you never visited the Roman Baths? You never went inside Bath Abbey? You never even knew Jane Austen – one of literary’s greatest figures – had links to Bath?”
“Err, also correct”
Awkward Silence No.2
“Ok you cultural heathen, we are going to sort this out.”
And that is how, after more than 20 years away, I found myself wandering around the Royal Crescent at 10pm on a Friday evening once again marvelling at the golden stone and timeless architecture which make Bath such an exceptional city.
To be fair, I had always realised Bath is beautiful, but at the age of twentysomething I was rather more interested in watching their cup-winning rugby team than undertaking an in-depth exploration of its cultural heritage.
I had always realised Bath is beautiful, but at the age of twentysomething I was rather more interested in watching their cup-winning rugby team than undertaking an in-depth exploration of its cultural heritage.
And, if it would be wrong to say absence had made the heart grow fonder, stepping back after a couple of decades allowed the gems that make this place special resonate to a visitor’s eye in a way that the resident of old took for granted.
And there are plenty of gems: the aforementioned Baths and Abbey; not just the Royal Crescent but the nearby Circus, the slightly more hidden treats of Lansdown and Cavendish Crescents, Pulteney Bridge overlooking the weir and leading to Great Pulteney Street. It is a place where you can literally turn in any direction and there is another slice of history – more often than not enveloped in the glorious Bath stone which makes the feel of the city so unique – to feast upon.
But what makes Bath such a fun place to visit is that this heritage doesn’t come wrapped in cotton wool. It is at the forefront while at the same time providing a stunning backdrop to a city that is full of life, full of vibrancy – and full of shops!
From the upmarket Milsom Street (if you want to know how upmarket it has a branch of celebrity-favourite restaurant The Ivy) to the more mainstream Southgate – a huge improvement on the shopping scar formed by the old centre in that area – there is pretty much a shop for everything. And a hoard of shoppers heading to each of them.
So is this a land of milk and honey, a nirvana nestling in the valley of the neighbouring hills? Well, there is much to admire but there are some downsides.
And those downsides undoubtedly include the transport links.
Even allowing for the fact I had some idea where the car parks are it is a nightmare navigating the city, and then you discover the car parks aren’t exactly cheap for a short getaway - and if you're driving, they're hard to avoid as many central hotels don't have parking on site. So perhaps come by train – except the journey from London Paddington to Bath isn’t the cheapest (although it is possible to search around for some deals). And you also need to factor in that hotels don’ tend to need to offer cut-price deals because demand to visit the city is so high.
But everywhere has its negative points. And standing in the Royal Crescent at 10pm on a Friday evening looking out across Royal Victoria Park to the city beyond – that’s worth a few quid of anyone’s money.
Guest reviewer Bob Dimond self-funded this trip to Bath. He stayed at the independently-owned Abbey Hotel. Room rates fluctuate, so contact directly for a quote.
For further information about getting the best out of Bath, including where to stay, go to Visit Bath
We select some of the must-do places to visit while in the stunning city.
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