Image Credit: Katy Leverett
Bath is a traditional Roman town in the south west of England in the county of Somerset. Deriving its name from the famed ‘Roman Baths’ at the heart of the city centre, Bath is also known for its regency elegance and author, Jane Austen, who set many of her novels in the city. I was lucky enough to visit with a friend for the day during the summer. Although we had been to Bath before, there were numerous things we found, both on and off the beaten track, that make Bath definitely worth visiting!
1. The Royal Crescent & Circus
Iconic images of regency Bath, the Royal Crescent and Circus are ‘hot spots’ on the tourist map of Bath. They are definitely a must-see, especially for any Austen or Bridgerton fans! The Circus is a completely circular street with a very small area of parkland acting as a roundabout in the centre. The street was designed by architect John Wood in the 1750s and is the epitome of stunning Georgian architecture. Just a five minute walk down adjoining Brock Street takes you to the Royal Crescent, one of the most iconic sites in Bath. The street forms the shape of a crescent and again, iconic Georgian terraced houses adorn one side of the street whilst the other overlooks the Royal Victoria Park. The Royal Crescent has been used in a plethora of period dramas, most recently (and famously) Bridgerton. Both streets are completely free to access and are perfect spots for a selfie or ‘Instagrammable’ photo!
2. Jane Austen Centre
Bath is also known for being the home of author, Jane Austen, for a large proportion of her life and is also the setting for many of her novels. For anyone interested in the author behind the books, the Jane Austen Centre just down from the hill from the Circus is a perfect place to start. The centre is in a narrow Georgian house, creating an atmospheric sense of the period Austen was writing in. Admission is relatively cheap and actors take you on the first part of the experience, explaining aspects of Jane’s life. The second part is a self-guided exhibition, which gives information about the production of each of Austen’s books and her experiences in Bath. There is also an opportunity to dress in regency outfits, write with ink and quill and take a selfie with Jane herself (although in wax form!). The whole experience lasts just over an hour, on the way out there’s a gift shop for fans to purchase their favourite novels or just some general Jane Austen merch. For anyone interested in Jane Austen and her books, the Jane Austen Centre is a very informative and interesting museum to visit!
3. Pulteney Bridge & Bath Abbey
One of the lesser known iconic sites of Bath, Pulteney Bridge is another image of Regency elegance. Completed in 1774, the bridge connected the city with land belonging to the Pulteney family that they wished to architecturally develop. What makes the bridge impressive is that it has shops spanning the full length of the bridge on each side. You can walk within the bridge itself or take in the outside from the street adjacent. Underneath is the famed weir which was constructed in the Medieval period to stop the city flooding. The three tiers create a breath-taking waterfall effect. Both are impressive feats of architecture and are a must-see if you visit Bath. Although we were unable to go inside ourselves due to large queues, Bath Abbey was a stunning building just from the outside. Within, the towering pillars, intricate ceilings and colourful stain-glass take you away from the Georgian architecture for a moment to appreciate the older history of Bath before the regency period. Admission is free, although donations are encouraged to support the restoration works of the building.
4. Persephone Books
Persephone books is an independent publisher located in Bath city centre. What makes Persephone different from the average publisher is that they publish solely forgotten female authors to give them a voice. Thus the name ‘Persephone’ which aims, according to their website, to promote female creativity. All books are published with a grey cover and beautiful endpapers with a matching bookmark. Although you can order their books online, if you like browsing bookshops then this is definitely a great place to visit in Bath, the shop also sells lovely posters too!
5. The Pump Rooms
After all of that, you’d probably be hungry, and there is no better place to enjoy Bath’s regal elegance alongside good food than the Pump Rooms. Although more expensive than the rest of the places mentioned, the Pump Rooms are well worth the money, especially for afternoon tea! The room is fancily decorated with views of some of the famous Roman Baths out of the windows. The food is beautiful: four mini savoury items per person followed by two scones each, then three mini desserts. The highlight for me was definitely the vegetarian sausage roll: it was a unique twist on the classic sandwiches served with afternoon tea. Whilst we were eating, the ambience in the room was lovely, a live band played songs whilst everyone sipped their tea and enjoyed a scone. I can strongly recommend the experience if you, like me, enjoy afternoon teas, and want to experience the elegance of Bath.
There are plenty of other lovely places to visit in Bath too: these are just a handful that encapsulate the beauty of the city and are affordable on a student budget. Living in the south during the holidays, Bath was perfect for me as a daytrip but if you travel there from York, a weekend away may be more suitable to fully appreciate the city. However, if you’re ever in the south of England generally, Bath should definitely be a stop on your travels!