Bath

Bath is a historic Roman and Georgian spa city. It is a UNESCO World Heritage site, situated 100 miles (260 km) west of London and 15 miles (25 km) south-east of the nearest big city, Bristol. Bath is famous for its hot springs, Roman period baths, Medieval heritage and stately Georgian architecture. Set in the rolling Somerset countryside on the southern edge of the Cotswolds, Bath (with a population around 90,000) offers a diverse range of attractions for its 4.4 million visitors each year: restaurants, theatres, cinemas, pubs and nightclubs, along with interesting museums, and a wide range of guided tours.

For other places with the same name, see Bath (disambiguation).
The 18th century Pulteney Bridge by Robert Adam

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Bath is among the oldest of England’s principal tourist destinations and has been welcoming visitors for centuries. The three hot springs within the city were sacred to the Celtic goddess Sulis, whom the Romans later identified with the goddess Minerva. Bath first achieved its status as a sacred spa site with the growth of the Roman settlement Aquae Sulis around the thermal springs. The Roman period saw a vast complex of baths constructed – the remains of these were re-discovered in the 18th century and helped fuel Bath’s modern revival as a luxury resort.

Bath was a prosperous city in the Medieval period, the site of an Abbey and Cathedral (under the Bishop of Bath and Wells). The Reformation under Henry VIII saw some uncertainty emerge in Bath’s future, although the reign of Elizabeth I saw the first revival of the town as a spa resort. It was during the Georgian period, however, that Bath came once again into its own. Exceedingly fashionable, Bath was laid out in stately avenues, streets and crescents, encrusted with Neo-Classical public buildings.

Bath suffered a significant amount of damage during air raids in World War II. The prestigious crescents and terraces were relatively unscathed and restored where necessary, but some of the more minor Georgian and Victorian streets were demolished both after the war and during a later ill-conceived phase of development known now as the “Sack of Bath”. Consequently some modern buildings pop up in unexpected places, and the locals are generally very opposed to any major building developments that are put forward. Those works are substantially complete, and a new shopping centre near the railway station has opened.

Jane Austen’s Northanger Abbey is traditional reading before a visit to Bath. Austen spent some time there, and her novel is a satire of the social life of the city at the time. Many of the sites she mentioned are still able to be visited in the city today.

These smaller airports provide a much more sedate experience than the London ones. Check in queues are shorter, there are fewer people about, and it’s much clearer where you have to go and what you have to do. Less stress and fewer delays than the London ones.

Bristol Airport is situated 20 miles from Bath and boasts scheduled flights from many major European cities, including Amsterdam Schiphol, Barcelona El Prat, Berlin, Brussels, Copenhagen, Edinburgh, Glasgow, Paris and Prague (but not London). By public transportation there are three main options for reaching Bath.

  1. Catch the Flyer bus service from the airport to Bristol Temple Meads station, then the train from there to Bath; expect the journey to take about one hour, and longer between 4PM and 6PM when Bristol’s roads are congested.
  2. Air Decker direct bus from the airport to Bath railway station. Every thirty minutes from early until late. Journey time is about 55 minutes. Single ticket £14, return £20.
  3. Taxi (about £40) and get to Bath in about 40 minutes.

Southampton Airport is under 2 hours from Bath by train, and connections are good. It is served mainly by the budget airline Flybe, flying mostly to European destinations.

Cardiff Airport, Exeter Airport, and Bournemouth Airport are also served by low-cost airlines and are within a couple of hours driving distance of the city.

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