Two full weeks in England meant that not only would we have ample time to explore London (our home base and my favorite city), but we would also have time to venture further afield on day trips. There are so many great cities within driving distance of London, so how would we decide which ones to visit? I had a very long wish list…
Realistically we only had time for three day trips, and our visit to Stonehenge, which was non negotiable, would be one of them, so based on their proximity to one another, it made sense to choose Bath. That meant our visit to Bath was actually by default, but pair ancient history, both Roman and British, with beautiful architecture, and our only complaint was that we wished for more time in such a gorgeous city!
Related: 25 Things to do in London
Related: Bucket List Item: Stonehenge
The City of Bath
Bath, a world heritage site, is located in Somerset about 97 miles west of London. The special distinction was given to the entire city in 1987, but when you consider that people have been coming to this amazing city for thousands of years, you have to wonder, what took them so long? What’s so special about Bath? Well, for starters the Baths themselves.
The Romans came to Britain around 43 AD, and to this area shortly after. The first Roman people who came to Bath were soldiers, and it was their craftsmen who built the temple and bath complex that the city is so famous for. Archeological evidence tells us that the baths were built and complete by 76 AD.
The Roman name for Bath was Aquae Sulis, which means The Waters of Sulis, The name comes from the Celtic Goddess Sulis, who they identified with based on her similarities to their own Goddess Minerva.
During your tour you’ll see a combination of ruins and modern displays depicting what the complex would have looked like almost 2000 years ago.
I was fascinated to learn that the flow of water is 250,000 gallons per day at a temperature of 115°F.
The combination of history, architecture and science meant that our entire family enjoyed visiting the Roman Baths.
A word of advice: Don’t touch the water during your visit, because while at one time the waters here were considered healing this is not the case today. In fact several types of disease causing bacteria can be found in the water.
Bath Abbey is only the third church to occupy this site in the past 1200 years. Talk about history! The current Abbey was started in 1499, but was surrendered to the crown, during Henry VIII’s time, before it could be completed. It was left in ruin for more than 70 years before it was restored and became a parish church. It was another 200 years before it became the church we see today.
Edgar, the first king of England was crowned at Bath Abbey over 1000 years ago, and you’ll find a plaque commemorating the occasion on the floor of the abbey.
While I wandered around marveling at the history and architecture, the boys explored via a scavenger hunt provided by the Abbey.
Sally Lunn’s Buns
One of the hardest things about traveling to a place for only one afternoon is working out just what to see and eat, and hoping you don’t choose wrong. Especially if you know you might not return. Thankfully we had a few insider tips, which led us to Sally Lunn’s!
Who was Sally Lunn, and what is a Sally Lunn Bun?
Legend has it that Sally Lunn, a French Huguenot, came to Bath in 1680 in order to escape persecution. She found work in a bakery, and started baking what is now known as the Bath Bun.
According to the official website a Sally Lunn Bun is part bread, part bun, and part cake, and can be enjoyed with either sweet or savory accompaniments,
The buns are so large we bought two and shared them. Unable to decide which topping to try, we chose two: Cinnamon butter and lemon curd.
The Royal Crescent
Sadly our day in the wonderful city of Bath was coming to an end, but not before we made one final stop to see The Royal Crescent.
Built between 1767 and 1774 the Royal Crescent is considered to be one of the greatest examples of Georgian Architecture in the United Kingdom. Due to it’s historical and architectural importance the building is protected and for the most part the exterior remains unchanged from when it was built.
The Crescent is 500 feet long and consists of 30 terraced houses, which include a hotel and a museum. 10 of the original townhouses are still full-sized, while 18 have been split into flats.
Unfortunately for us, the museum located in No. 1 Royal Crescent was closed for the Christmas holidays, but we did arrive at golden hour, so the shutterbug in me was pleased about that.
Our final stop of the day, was the adorable and quaint Village of Castle Combe, located in the Cotswolds in north west Wiltshire. The village looks just as one might imagine an English village should look, and according to the official website its often referred to as the “prettiest village in England.” Even with the fading light on a cold winter afternoon we could see the charm this little village possessed.
Hopefully we’ll find our way back to this part of the world one day, and if we do further exploration of Castle Combe is a definite.
Tips & Advice:
- While we did purchase our tickets to the Roman Baths in advance we mistakenly thought showing them on our mobile device would be sufficient. It wasn’t. Be sure to print them out prior to your arrival.
- We used the audio guide during our tour of the Baths, and it was very sufficient, but I think a tour might have been a nice supplement.
- If you want to taste the spa water at the Baths you can safely do so in the Pump Room.
- Bath Abbey is located just next to the Roman Baths.
- If you’re traveling with younger children, be sure to ask in the Abbey gift shop for the children’s activities.
- There is a full service restaurant at Sally Lunn’s, and had time permitted we would have loved to eat there.
- Royal Crescent No. 1 is open to the public depending on the time of year. Check the official website for operating hours.