During my first trip to England, I only had four full days to cram in as much as I possibly could of this amazing magical country. I know what you’re thinking, “Wow, that is not nearly enough time.” Well, no it isn’t, which is why a return trip is already in the works (wink wink). I don’t think any amount of time would ever be enough, but that is the beauty of travel. You can always return to the places you love. While London is always the top of the list for a “first trip to England,” there were two other places that I had to at least set my eyes on. One being Bristol (I’ll save that for another post), and the other was Bath.
Bath is a relatively small but exquisite town full of history and culture, which is why the entire city is a UNESCO World Heritage site. It is the only city in the entire U.K. to boast this distinction. Another aspect that Bath prides itself on is accessibility. The tourism website even links to Shopmobility which is a rental service for motorized/manual chairs and scooters for those with limited mobility regardless of disability or age. The rentals range in price from 50p-£1.00 per hour plus VAT. This is also a great option for those who find walking all day on the cobblestones tiring.
From Bristol’s Temple Meads station, Bath is less than a 15-minute train ride. From London’s Paddington station, it is only an hour and a half ride. This makes Bath an excellent location for a day trip. So, what can you do when you only have an afternoon in Bath? LOADS! There is so much to see in this amazing city, but let’s hit the high points.
1. Roman Baths– The Baths is a religious spa that was constructed in 70 A.D. by the Romans over the only natural hot springs in Britain. Originally erected as a temple to Minerva, the goddess of wisdom (not our favorite Transfigurations professor), the baths were the elite of Victorian society’s playground. Even royalty would come to this natural hot spring because it was said to cure ailments ranging from skin conditions, rheumatism, and even infertility. While you really would not want to bathe in the waters now, included in your ticket is a chance to sample a taste of the springs. I opted out, but please let me know if you ever decide to taste it yourself. I’ve heard it’s a rather sulphur-like taste. The baths are 90% wheelchair accessible with lifts located throughout the site. Audio guides are also available in over ten languages, and there is a British sign language guide for the deaf and HOH communities. The Roman Baths is a great location and a wonderful way to learn about the Roman exploration and occupation in Britain.
2. Bath Abbey– I’m a church girl. Spiritually and literally. Trust me when I say, “We ain’t in Mississippi anymore Toto.” Wow, this church is breathtaking! This location has been the worship site of Bath’s Christians since 757 AD. Three different churches have occupied this site with the current one holding services since 1499. All areas of the Abbey are accessible except for the Tower Tours which provide a behind the curtain look at Bath Abbey and offers miraculous views of the city for those who are willing to scale the 212 steps and aren’t afraid of heights. Guide dogs are permitted, and there are facilities for those that are deaf or HOH. Always check opening times as it is a working church and holds services regularly. Of course, visitors are always welcome to attend.
3. Lunch at The Roman Baths Kitchen– While many people who visit the Roman Baths insist on having lunch or afternoon tea at the Pump Room next door, I can promise you it will be packed with tourists. Walk just across the street, and you’ll find an also busy, but warm and inviting Roman Baths Kitchen. This was one of my favorite places that we ate at while in England. Before it was a restaurant, it was a Georgian townhouse, so there are a few different floor levels. However, there is an accessible ground floor or the terrace if you’re in the mood for fresh air with your lunch. Word of warning southerners: if you order a Coke with your meal, there will be a lime slice in it for heaven knows what reason. While I’m from a place where the only things we put in our cokes are vanilla ice cream or peanuts, I did like the crispness of coke with lime. When in Rome, I always say. As far as a recommendation for what to order, the smoked salmon sandwich with chips (fries) was incredibly fresh and delicious. The horseradish mayonnaise gave it the perfect bite. I thoroughly enjoyed the atmosphere, and the service was incredibly friendly. For just under ten pounds, you simply can’t beat a lunch like that.
4. Take in a street show– Street performing or busking as it is sometimes called, seems to be an integral part of the living breathing organism that is Bath though many people don’t seem to pay them mind. Without these men and women, the city just wouldn’t be as vibrant. These talented musicians and performers are often overlooked as tourists are hurrying to the next attraction with their heads in their maps and guidebooks. Stop what you’re doing and take a minute to notice. I could have watched this gentleman all day. I wish I would have gotten his name. He was witty, talented, and certainly had me laughing. It costs nothing, but a coin or two dropped into a guitar case to help support these local artists. You really get a taste for the flavor of Britain when you see these lively street performers.
5. Shopping– I’m sure this raises a resounding “Duh” from the crowd, but I love shopping! Yea I’m a girl and I’m all about that stereotype, but there is so much more to it. I love shopping locally. In Bath, you can buy stunning handblown glass at Bath Aqua Glass shop, or drop into Charlotte Brunswick for decadent handcrafted chocolates. There is absolutely nothing like being in some strange land, stumbling into a tiny shop, and finding that perfect scarf woven from wool at a farm down the road. As Americans, we live in a society of right now and how much. When you come to the Britain, it becomes more about freshness and quality. By buying local, you are supporting the places that you love, and you get something incredibly special that you certainly won’t find at your local Walmart. Your money goes into these amazing cities and businesses and keeps them alive for future generations. This is a part of our responsibility as a traveler. Each place we visit gives so much of itself; we can at least return that favor.
No matter what you decide to do with your day trip to Bath, Bath will open her arms to you with a warm embrace. She is one of the most accessible places in Britain to visit, and I know you will love her as much as I do.