These are some of the top attractions in Bath.
One of the largest attractions in the South of England with over one million visitors per year, the Roman Baths are of international historical importance. Built on the only hot springs in Britain and situated beneath modern street level, much of the spa remains for visitors to see and the site still flows with natural spring water at a temperature of 46°C. In use for four hundred years and not discovered until the late nineteenth century, the main elements of the complex are the central Sacred Spring, the Roman Temple (one of only two classical temples known from Roman Britain and built in honour of the goddess Sulis Minerva) and the Roman Bath House, a magnificent centrepiece, lined with lead, and filled with hot spa water. There are various pools and heated rooms, with good surviving hypocaust pilae. A large collection of Roman artefacts are on show in the extensive museum, exploring how Romans lived, worked and used the baths. At street level, the Georgian Pump Room is open to visitors, where they can have afternoon tea and sample the spring water. There is a gift shop selling a range of Roman and Georgian products specific to Bath. Audioguides for adults and children are available in a variety of languages and there are also free hourly guided tours. Private, paid tours can be booked in advance. Despite the many steps, the site is wheelchair accessible. Pushchairs, however, are not permitted but can be exchanged for courtesy child carriers.
Located in a Georgian town house in the centre of Bath, the Jane Austen Centre is a permanent exhibition describing life in Bath in the eighteenth century and the part that the city played in the life and work of the novelist Jane Austen. From 1801 to 1806, Jane Austen lived in Bath (actually high up the hill on Gay Street at No.25) and two of her most famous novels, Northanger Abbey and Persuasion are set predominantly in the city. The Centre was created under the guidance of authorities on Jane Austen and local members of the Jane Austen Society. With a period atmosphere, the exhibition includes costume, exclusive film, maps and books. It plays host to the annual Jane Austen Festival, which takes place during the last full week of September and includes an opening Regency Costumed Promenade through the city streets, led by the Town Crier. The Jane Austen Centre also boasts a gift shop and the Regency Tea Rooms.
Founded in 1499, The Abbey Church of Saint Peter and Saint Paul (otherwise known as Bath Abbey) stands on the site of an Anglo-Saxon Abbey Church dating from 757 and a huge Norman Cathedral begun about 1090. It is an Anglican parish church and former Benedictine monastery, a fine example of Perpendicular Gothic architecture and one of the largest Churches in the region. The cruciform-shaped abbey seats approximately 1200 people and welcomes hundreds of thousands of visitors every year. As well as religious services, the Abbey is the largest concert venue in bath and is host to a variety of concerts, exhibition and lectures. Notable features include the St. Alphege Chapel, the Edgar Window (depicting the prestigious ceremony of King Edgar’s coronation in the Church), the sixteen century ceiling with restored and repainted heraldic shields, the Gethsemane Chapel, the Tomb of Lady Jane Waller, a memorial to Isaac Pitman (inventor of shorthand), a large Klais organ and a peal of ten bells. Tours of the tower are available, taking around 45 minutes and enabling visitors to stand on top of the vaulted ceiling, sit behind the clock face, see the bells and a fantastic view of the city. Tickets for the Tower Tour cost £6 for adults and £3 for children. The Abbey Shop stock a range of Christian books, greetings cards, jewellery and other gifts.
Opened in 2006 and combining the city’s famous spa history with a modern sense of luxury, Thermae Bath Spa is situated in the city centre and provides a sanctuary and pampering spa experience for residents and visitors alike. The main spa consists of the New Royal Bath, sited in a contemporary building designed by Sir Nicholas Grimshaw and constructed in Bath stone enclosed in glass. Inside are two natural thermal baths, an open-air rooftop pool, indoor pool, waterfall shower, steam room with four circular glass pods and twenty spa treatment rooms. The Cross Bath, housed in a separate listed Georgian building, is an open-air thermal bath. The spa also boasts a café and restaurant, shop and visitor centre.
Built for William Beckford (1760-1844), charismatic and eccentric local writer, collector and patron of the arts, Beckford Tower was designed by Henry Edmund Goodridge in 1825 and completed in 1827 as a study retreat and home for Beckford’s collections of art and literature. Originally known as Lansdown Tower, the building itself is a 120-foot neo-classical tower with beautiful spiral staircase, which visitors can climb to enjoy the panoramic view of Bath, the nearby racecourse and the surrounding countryside. At the top of the tower is a beautifully restored belvedere beneath a striking octagonal gilded lantern. Standing now within a Victorian cemetery containing the tomb of William Beckford himself, the tower was originally the climax of a mile-long ride through a series of landscaped pleasure gardens from Beckford’s house on Lansdown Crescent. The tower now houses a collection of original furniture, art and artefacts showcasing Beckford’s life and work.
Unique in being the only museum in Bath about Bath, this collection showcases the architectural history of Bath through the 18th century, showing through maps, models, paintings and reconstructions what influenced building techniques and designers and demonstrating in detail the construction of a complete house. The Building of Bath Collection includes sections relating to stone mining, furniture making, soft furnishings, upholstery and painting. It also houses the Bath Model, a detailed, birds-eye model of the city in Georgian times, as well as the Bath Building Record (viewing by appointment only). Located in the Countess of Huntingdon’s Chapel, the Chapel hosts study days and family events, as well as welcoming the visiting public. There is a gift shop, selling building conservation guides, books, postcards, gifts and products associated with the novelist Jane Austen. The Collection does not have disabled-accessible toilets or toilet facilities, the nearest disabled toilet being located in the Assembly Rooms.
A splendidly-restored Georgian town house on the famous Royal Crescent, a visit to No. 1 allows visitors to gain an insight into the life of the rich in 18th Century Bath. Designed by John Wood the Younger and built between 1767-1774, the Royal Crescent was intended to provide luxury accommodation for the many visitors to the city and is considered to be the finest example of Georgian architecture in the United Kingdom. Once home to Marie Antoinette’s lady-in-waiting and later to Prince Frederick, Duke of York and Albany, No. 1 was the first of the Crescent to be built and each room, from the elegant drawing room to the busy Georgian kitchen, is now filled with period features, authentic furniture, artwork and soft furnishings. Knowledgeable guides in every room enable the visitor to learn about life in Georgian times and be transported back in time. No. 1 Royal Crescent also includes a small gift shop.
World-famous tea-house, restaurant and kitchen museum, sited in a historic house in the city centre and named after Sally Lunn, young Huguenot baker who created the first Bath bun over 300 years ago. Menu includes Bath buns as well as other local and historic food such as the trencher dinner. The museum charts the history of Sally Lunn’s House from Roman occupation, through its time as a kitchen of a Benedictine monastery, and reminds visitors of the ancient walled city that was pre-Georgian Bath. It is said that Sally Lunn, a young Huguenot at a time when Protestant Huguenots were being persecuted in France, came to England and to Bath to find employment as a baker. No reservations are needed during the daytime but are required for evening meals.
Opened in 1961 and situated in Claverton Manor (in an area of outstanding natural beauty) just outside the city, the American Museum in Britain is the only one of its kind outside the United States and includes a substantial folk and decorative arts collection, including historic American quilts, Shaker furniture, folk art paintings and sculptures, as well as Native American artefacts and Renaissance maps of the New World. The ‘American Heritage Exhibition’ charts the history of the Founding Fathers, Native Americans and the Civil War. The museum is host to a range of events throughout the year, such as traditional American concerts, American literature seminars and lectures, craft activities for families and children and living history events. In addition, there is an annual temporary exhibition. The extensive grounds include an Arboretum of American trees, a picnic area and a variety of walks. Tours of the museum are available, as well as free audio tours, three gift shops (Country Store, Gallery Shop and Herb Shop) and a café. With full wheelchair access to the museum (garden access restricted), the American Museum in Britain is well worth a visit.
Set up in the early 1990s and situated in the south west of the city, Bath City Farm is a 37-acre community-managed farm involving local people in developing new skills and learning about sustainable farming and food growing. A range of volunteer opportunities are available and the farm runs school visits and adult courses in animal care, conservation and gardening. Regular events and celebrations are a key element in the life of the farm, which also produces local free-range meat, eggs and vegetables. Visitors can see the animals, including a large flock of chickens, a flock of ducks, a flock of Soay sheep, a small herd of goats, a herd of Aberdeen Angus cattle, two Kune Kune and two Gloucester Old Spot pigs. A cafe kiosk is available for refreshments.
Horse-racing in Bath started in the early eighteenth century at Claverton Down but moved to Lansdown in 1811. As well as racing, it is today used extensively for conferences, concerts and weddings. The racecourse contains a premier enclosure with champagne lawn and seating, where the dress code is smart-casual. In the rest of the racecourse there is limited seating run on a ‘first come, first served’ basis. Parking is included with all admission badges and there is a bus service from Dorchester Street (bus number 22) running every half hour from two hours before the first race.
Completed in 1773, Pulteney Bridge is a beautiful Palladian bridge, one of only four bridges in the world lined with shops, and influenced by the Ponte Vecchio in Florence and the rejected design for the Ponte di Rialto in Venice. Built by Robert Adams for William Pulteney, the bridge spans the river Avon, connecting central Bath to the estate of Bathwick. Restored in 1975 and designated a grade I listed building by English Heritage. Shops include a florist, antique map shop and juice bar.
With spectacular views of the Circus and the Royal Crescent, Bath Balloon Flights enable visitors to see the city from a different perspective. Bath Balloons have been flying from Royal Victoria Park since 1988. Depending on wind direction, flights may pass over Thermae Bath Spa and Pulteney Bridge, as well as the Cotswolds, Mendips or the Kennet & Avon Canal. Landing points vary from flight to flight. Bath Balloon Flights last approximately an hour and are available either in the early morning or at sunset. Times vary throughout the year, depending on hours of daylight. Flights are fully certified by the Civil Aviation Authority and insurance is included in the price. Children under 16 must be accompanied by an adult.
The former perimeter track of a Second World War airfield, Castle Combe Circuit opened for motor racing in 1950 and as such, is one of the oldest established circuits in Britain. It has attracted such names as Stirling Moss, Roy Salvadori, John Surtees, Nigel Mansell, Ayrton Senna and David Coulthard and today plays host to a range of motorsport activities, including local championships dedicated to Saloon Cars, GTs, Formula Ford and rally driving. Car race meetings, motorcycle meetings, actions days, track days and testing, as well as other events and car boot sales are regular features. On a car race meeting, ten or eleven races are crammed into a four and a half hour afternoon, providing great family entertainment. Driving enthusiasts can experience driving on a real circuit on an action day, when a plethora of trade stands and ‘Autojumble’ area are also on offer. On track days, visitors can drive their own car at high speeds in a safe environment around the race circuit. Motorcycle days and ladies-only sessions are also available, as well as driving experiences such as Ferrari driving, rally driving and passenger race experiences. Go-karting in the Castle Combe Circuit grounds available. See website http://www.drivetechltd.co.uk/.
A family day out not to be missed! Set in the ground of Longleat House, the stately home of the Marquesses of Bath, Longleat is renowned for its landscaped gardens, safari park, maze and Elizabethan architecture. Over 8000 acres, the grounds were designed by ‘Capability’ Brown and include the first ever safari park outside Africa. Built by Sir John Thynne and completed in 1580, the house itself is one of the finest examples of Elizabethan architecture in the country and is packed full of antique furniture and art. Visitors can see the Great Hall with Minstrels’ Gallery, Red Library, Bathroom, State Dining Room, Lower Dining Room, Breakfast Room, Saloon, State Drawing Room, Robes Corridor, Chinese Bedroom, Music Room, Grand Staircase and Prince of Wales Bedroom. Out in the Safari Park, either in your own vehicle or on a driven tour, the Safari Drive Adventure takes visitors up close to an incredible range of animals including zebras, rhinos, wolves, monkeys, an ex-circus elephant, giraffes, tigers and of course, the famous Lions of Longleat. Visitors can even feed the deer by hand. For those wishing to avoid the monkey section, there is a bypass lane. Longleat’s Adventure Park has something for all the family. Features include the Jungle Cruise, animal centre, bat cave, large hedge maze, Postman Pat Village, mirror maze, teacup ride, soft play tent, splashpad and huge adventure playground. There are daily ranger shows and throughout the year, a range of events such as firework displays and Christmas festivities.
The world-famous prehistoric standing stone monument of Stonehenge consists of earthworks surrounding a circle of huge standing stones. Believed by many archaeologists to have been erected in around 2500BC, the site is listed as one of UNESCO’s World Heritage Sites, along with nearby Avebury Henge. It is a legally-protected site, owned by the Crown and managed by English Heritage. Although nobody is certain as to its original use, whether religious, mystical or spiritual, archaeological evidence suggests that it was used as an early burial ground. Today, thousands of visitors flock to the site each year. As a result of erosion, visitors are no longer permitted to touch the stones but can walk around the monument from a short distance away. Access is permitted during the summer and winter solstices, as well as the spring and autumn equinoxes.
The largest stone circle in the world, Avebury Henge is a world-famous Neolithic monument in the small village of Avebury, consisting of three stone circles surrounded by a bank and a ditch, the outer circle originally containing 98 sarsen standing stones, some weighing over forty tons. Leading out from the western entrance is the West Kennet Avenue, an avenue of paired stones. The wider landscape includes the West Kennet Long Barrow and Silbury Hill. Nobody is sure of its original purpose, but it is today used by modern Pagans, who perform a variety of rites on major celebration days such as the summer solstice. Visited by more than a quarter of a million people each year, the site also boasts the Alexander Keiller Museum, showcasing prehistoric artefacts found at Avebury.
Set in 325 hectares near the Severn Estuary, Slimbridge Wetland Centre is home to the world’s largest collection of swans, ducks, flamingos and geese. Owned by leading UK conversation organisation The Wildfowl and Wetlands Trust (WWT), many species at Slimbridge are rare or endangered, including the nene (Hawaiian Goose), the rarest goose in the world. Visitors can roam the extensive grounds, feeding and getting close-up to an astounding array of birds from all around the world. Welly Boot Land is a particular children’s favourite, a fantastic wet play area where children can splash, wade and build dams. The Pond Zone lets families pond dip using nets and trays whilst the Canoe Safari allows visitors to paddle in a three-man canoe, seeing wildlife such as water voles, dragonflies and ducks. Other features include the heated tropical house and various hides around the park. Regular sessions include floodlit swan feeds, wild bird feeds, otter feeding, Land Rover safaris, guided walks, cinema shows and ranger talks.
Starting from the Garrick’s Head pub, Ghost Walks of Bath takes visitors on an evening tour of the Roman city, telling tales of haunting, tragedy and macabre occurrences, and seeing many famous attractions in a new light. The tours have been running since 1974 and are well-known locally.
Cheddar is Britain’s largest gorge, rising 450ft and including large stalactite caverns. A popular tourist attraction, the Gorge is also a National Nature Reserve and international caving and rock climbing centre. Highlights include Gough’s Cave, where Britain’s oldest skeleton was discovered, Cox’s Cave, which includes beautiful calcite formations, fountains and pools, The Crystal Quest, Museum of Prehistory, Open-Top Bus Tour and Lookout Tower, providing a spectacular view of the Gorge, Mendip Hills and Somerset Levels. Visitors can go on a 3-mile cliff-top walk, stopping off for a picnic or visit the various shops, cafés and restaurants available in the village of Cheddar itself, famous for Cheddar cheese and local ciders. The more adventurous can partake in caving or rock climbing, with introductory sessions suitable for beginners. Experienced climbers can test their nerve on over 1000 climbs, considered among the best in England.
Part of the CitySightseeing group, Bath Bus Company run a popular open-top bus tour of the city centre, visiting all the main sights, including the Roman Baths, the Abbey, the Circus, the Royal Crescent and Pulteney Bridge. They also run Skyline tours, which operate away from the city centre and allow visitors to see the American Museum, University of Bath and Prior Park. Both types of tour offer a hop-on/hop-off option so that tourists can stay longer at the destinations of their choice, should they wish. Many attractions offer discounts on presentation of a bus tour ticket, including the Roman Baths, Jane Austen Centre, Fashion Museum and Prior Park landscape garden. The tours are commentated by a live guide but recorded commentary is also available in ten different languages.
Situated next to Bath Abbey, the Bath Tourist Information Centre has over 535,000 visitors per year and provides advice and information on all aspects of the city and surrounding area, including booking accommodation and tickets to nearby attractions, events and tours, supplying travel information and giving information about things going on locally. The Centre also stocks a wide range of maps, books and souvenirs, as well as selling the Bath Visitor Guide and Bath Visitor Card (offering discounts at selected shops, restaurants and attractions in the city).