We went to Bath in mid-January. Initially, I had some worry about whether we would be able to travel out by train as there was forecast of some terrible snow coming through. My concern was whether the trains would run, be cancelled, and then what kinds of contingency plans would I have if that happened. To be honest, I was praying for rain. For rain meant, at least, that the trains would run. As it turns out, weather was fine and forecasters … well, are still forecasting.
Our trip to Bath was via Reading to Bath Spa. This took us nearly 2 hours to get there, plus about half hour waiting time in between. Hubby took the train from Paddington and it was a direct run taking about 1.5 hours in total. I thought that was pretty neat. Train ride was great, as it always is, and we got into Bath at about 2 pm. It’s an easy walk from the train station right into the heart of town. We were staying at the Hilton Hotel in Bath and it was about a 15 minute walk from the station, though a bit longer for us as I took a roundabout route via the River Avon.
Bath is … a very civilised town and very pretty. The buildings are very dense. I love the colour of the stonework, though this has to be cleaned regularly as it gets quite black from the pollution. Being hilly, I was able to see the long lines of roofs with loads of chimney pots waiting to be cleaned. In the old days of course, these would be spewing out coal smoke, and I’d imagine the town would’ve been quite polluted.
We checked into our hotel and rested for a bit. Hilton Hotel in Bath is very pleasant and extremely convenient to the main sights of interest. The hotel room was a standard size but fitted the 3 of us quite nicely. It had a nice deep bath for taking baths though I did not end up having one. I have noticed that Hilton no longer provides Bath gel as part of their complimentary items, no doubt to cut the number of people taking baths in Bath. 😉
On day 1 of our trip, the little one and I walked into town, checking out shops and deciding where we might visit over the next 2 days. The town was quite busy with lots of young people about. I wasn’t sure whether these were students from the university, or tour groups coming through as these students seemed to have a guide. We ended up quite easily in the Roman Baths area. The Pump Room was having a special afternoon tea for GBP 8.50, and so the little one and I rocked up for scones and tea, which was very pleasant. Afternoon tea was nice enough, though the hot chocolate that the little one ordered looked absolutely great!
After that, we walked up the hill (Bond Street, I think) and checked out all the shops and restaurants. Bath, I would say, is a wealthy town and its residents have a lot of money to spend. There were loads of shops around, lots of up-market and contemporary bars, the usual old pubs and well-heeled people about. All the different restaurant franchises from London were all in Bath – that I could see anyway. We had some trouble identifying a place to eat, having become weary of the usual that we see in London. We ended up in a place that I thought was unique to Bath, but found out later that it was a chain.
The River Avon is quite pretty near where the sluice gates are. The Pulteney Bridge definitely reminded me of the Pont Vecchio in Florence and I was not surprised to learn that the architect had done just that. There was so much around Bath to remind me of Italy, only cleaner.
The City of Bath provides 2 free walking tours a day: 10.30 am and 2 pm. We went on one of these and it was very good and gave us a good insight into some of the history of the town and the colourful players within it. It’s a must-do, and extremely good value given that it is free. Most walking tours in UK will set you back about GBP 8 -10. We saw The Circus, The Crescent, and the Upper Rooms (aka The Assembly Rooms). Something I learned is that Nicholas Cage is a resident of Bath, loves it, and has a townhouse on The Circus. The other interesting thing I learned about The Circus is that its circular dimensions are exactly that of Stonehenge.
The Jane Austen Centre is a must visit if you’re a Jane Austen fan. It is a centre and not a museum. Most of the exhibits are reproductions and only a handful is directly attributed to Jane Austen herself, eg. letters she wrote. Still, it was quite informative and, like I said, if you like Jane Austen, it’s just a place to visit. I learned that Jane Austen did not like Bath very much, and found the society there quite shallow. I was very tempted by a Mr Darcy (aka Colin Firth) mug – it was so cheesy that I felt I had to have it – but at GBP 10, I managed to resist. The gift shop also sold DVDs of Pride and Prejudice and the like, but if you really need to get it, I’d suggest your HMV store instead. They were charged at full retail. So Pride & Prejudice was GBP 29.95, whilst I saw the same DVD at HMV for GBP 9.95. But some of the other stuff there is pretty unique. They also serve afternoon tea, which I did not try.
We did not go to the Thermae Spa as it didn’t allow children to use the facilities. But the facilities look very nice and I’m sure it’s definitely worth a go.
I found shopping in Bath extremely convenient. Being so close to the hotel, I could easily duck out for a couple of hours. The stores had a much bigger range than in Richmond, and I was just happy browsing and looking for a bargain. The only downside to shopping was that I brought only a very small bag so I had to carry my purchases in separate bags.
A good idea would be to also make a reservation for dinner on Saturday evenings. We were there in mid-January, not quite what you’d call peak season and most restaurants that we went to were booked. Like I said, there’s a lot of money in Bath, both local and tourists. In the end, we ended up at the Hilton Hotel, which turned out to be good value for money as children under 11 eat free. And we walked away with a good meal for about GBP 30, which was good value. Of course, we don’t drink wine, but if you do, then add another GBP 15 – 20 to that.
Overall, a very enjoyable weekend.