In need of getting out of London but don’t want to travel too far? Look no further than the prettiest city in the Cotswolds – only 90 minutes away.
Bath reminds me of my childhood. It used to be the closest ‘nice’ city to school. It reminds me of going to do Christmas shopping. Of buying my first pair of flares. Of staying here with my parents after they’d watched me try and perform in the school play. It also always used to remind me of Covent Garden – with its squares full of talented buskers surrounded by large crowds. I have only pleasant memories of this pretty city and yet had not been back in at least 5 years. So this weekend I decided to escape London and head back down memory lane.
I found Bath more beautiful than I had remembered. As the train pulled into the small station I admired Bath’s surrounding hills in their autumnal colours and could already catch a glimpse of the rows of limestone Georgian houses with their identical facades, to which Bath owes its beauty and its classical, almost royal feel. The limestone of the buildings has this unique honey colour, which gives Bath the warmth that perhaps Edinburgh – while also stunning and Georgian, yet with grey, not yellow stone – lacks.
It is immediately understandable why Bath is such a hugely visited city – not only because of its looks, but it has a small-town feel, easy to navigate around and heaving with cute little cafes, delicious brasseries and vibrant bars. Of course its major attraction – and the very reason it exists in the first place – is because of the Baths. The Romans used to come here to bathe themselves in the healing waters – and the original baths can still be visited and are very popular.
My weekend was a mixture of walking around the city, enjoying the crisp and surprisingly sunny weather, a lot of chilling in yummy cosy Cafes, some early Christmas shopping and quite a lot of photo-taking and City Turtling around. It is the perfect place for a weekend break and an escape from London. Yes, it is a busy touristy city but that also adds to its lively vibe. It is not over-crowded in any way. And while it’s not cheap, it is much more affordable than London – which makes it a great place to treat yourself but not bore a hole in your bank account. Which is of course why City Turtle likes it so much.
How to get there:
A 90 minute train from London Paddington station will take you straight into central Bath. Book ahead and return tickets are from £15 return.
Where to stay:
Bath has many lovely hotels and B&Bs. But unless you book early you’ll have a hard time finding an available place you like and can afford.
Splash out: Royal Crescent Hotel £££
16 Royal Crescent, Bath BA1 2LS
I’ve always wanted to stay here. The closest I’ve come to this is High Tea here (which is amazing). The hotel itself has prime location in the centre of the crescent – the most impressive sight in Bath – and is the most luxurious place to stay in Bath. It does not come cheap though – rooms from £200.
Where I stayed: AirBnB ££
Rochfort Place, Bath BA2 6PB
I struck gold with this place. Brenda’s studio is perfectly located – just 5 minutes walk from the centre – and it’s in a Georgian house with high ceilings, masses of space and even with a little balcony facing the back garden where you can sit in peace and quiet. Brenda is lovely, she even leaves coffee, tea, biscuits and bread for you to use in the little kitchen. One night costs £85 which is more than reasonable for what you get.
What to do:
The Roman Baths
The Roman Baths, Abbey Church Yard
Bath, BA1 1LZ
Price: £12.25 for an adult ticket
The tourist-attraction of Bath. Formerly known by the Celts and the Romans as ‘Aquae Sulis’ (meaning ‘the waters of Sulis’ – Sulis was a goddess identified with Minerva), it was first a Celtic shrine and from about 43AD a Roman bath and temple. It is beautifully preserved and you can also see the curses scratched onto metal by locals during the Roman time – written to the goddess Minerva – asking her to punish those who had wronged them.
The Thermae Spa
Price: From £26 for 2 hour use
I was hugely excited about going to the Thermae baths for my own little healing treatment. We wanted to go just as Bath was turning dark, as apparently the views from the rooftop pool are the most beautiful then. And it wouldn’t be so full. We got there, assuming we could walk straight in and warm ourselves in the hot water. This was not to be the case, there was a queue snaking all the way around the building – some tourists told us they had been queueing for an hour. An hour! They must have clever marketing because on all the pictures they make it look like it’s just you and maybe one other person in the pool. I couldn’t imagine having to queue for an hour just to share a magical moment with 60 other tourists.
Word of advice: don’t go on a Saturday evening – and especially not when the rugby is on as this attracts even more tourists. Also, they charge for use of slippers and dressing gowns, so if you want to save money – bring these along.
Bath is a great city to walk around – I love its cobbled streets, some steep, others narrow and winding. I love the views of the surrounding Cotswold hills – sometimes you catch sight of a stunning country house in the distance:
Bath also has some lovely little parks, like Henrietta park which is good for a stroll.
While most of Bath feels small and cute, the Royal Crescent is quite the opposite. Built in the mid 18th Century, this sweeping crescent of Georgian terraced houses are – in my eyes – one of the most stunning pieces of architecture in Britain. The crescent is so majestic – the way it stands so tall and proud on a hill overlooking a large ‘garden’ and green valley. A great place for a photo, I certainly could not resist it.
Cotswold inhabitants will travel to Bath to do their shopping. I love Bath’s shopping streets – so unlike Oxford street – and they have recently totally rebuilt a shopping area and developed it into ‘SouthGate’. It mimics the Georgian architecture with a Bath stone facade and so fits in very well with the city. The shops have greatly improved since my shopping days there 10 years ago..
Where to Eat:
The Boston Tea Party ££
19 Kingsmead Square
Lower Lansdown, Bath
Perfect place for a yummy breakfast, with all ingredients locally sourced and an extensive menu full of all the things you love to eat. They also have lunch options and a great Kids Menu.
Jika Jika £/££
I love this place! You could come here and not leave all afternoon. They serve a variety of brunch and lunch dishes, but their burritos are to die for. Especially the pulled lamb, tzatziki and tabouleh burrito. It attracts all kinds of people – from students, to families, to couples which together add to the bustling vibe of the place. I noticed they had quite an extensive drinks menu, but at the time my eyes were more drawn to the milkshakes and fresh apple juices, rather than which vodka they had on offer.
Hall and Woodhouse ££
1 Old King Street
The website does not do it justice. This place is the place to come to for a Sunday roast. Their roast menu is simple: beef, lamb, pork or chicken for £11.50 – with all the trimmings. And the portions are very generous. There is also just a basic lunch menu which offers some nice options. Downstairs is more of a cafe where you can have breakfast or just a coffee and a cake. Apart from that I liked the interior of the building itself – very open and light, with a big glass ceiling. Book ahead as it’s very popular.
34 Brock Street
Hugely popular, Circus is a cute little bistro just off the Circus, close to the Royal Crescent. It has a lovely ambience and you must book well ahead, especially for a Saturday evening as locals and tourists a like flock to this place. The steak with shallots and claret gravy is a must. They also do lunch with a cheaper menu.
Where to drink:
Puts Starbucks to shame with incredible Chai Lattes and Cappuccinos. The cake selection is to die for. And though it is right int he middle of the buzz it has plenty of seating spaces upstairs and you can curl up on the large leather sofas and read a book while enjoying Jacob’s treats..
Pretty trendy place to go and it is made even more appealing because the cocktails are amazing. And they are Buy One Get One Free from 5 – 8pm every day. The bar-tenders are super friendly and do their best to create the most delicious drinks for you. Espresso Martinis recommended! The main room turns into a dance floor on a Friday and Saturday night, open till 3am. Be warned, unless you have a reserved table it is very difficult to get in after 11pm.
Grove Street, Bath
Quirky and cool, this underground bar has random bric-a-brac everywhere – from Mao on the men’s loo door to sewing machines on some of the tables. It’s a popular place and open till quite late so recommended if you’re looking for a boozy night in Bath.