A Day in Bath
Bath is a UNCESCO World Heritage Site located in Somerset. It is the only UK city designated so, having been added in 1987.
When you visit the city, it’s easy to see why.
Pulling into the station, the city’s hilled nature is quickly revealed. More than that, its beauty. The walk to the centre of town is fast – you cross the luminous River Avon, and modern shops like Holland & Barrett start to pop up, the twist being their placement in buildings more befitting of the landed gentry in a period drama.
Bath has an interesting history. Once named Aquae Sulis, an ode to the goddess Sulis Minerva, the Romans utilised its natural hot and cold water springs to create baths that still stand today. People from all over the Roman empire would come there for healing and to worship. If you visit the baths, the audio guide covers hundreds of years of history taking you through the construction of the baths, life in those times and the activities that took place there. A personal favourite of mine were the curses that people would write to the goddess and throw into the spring. These are now known as the Roman Curse Tablets and are the only artefact from Roman Britain to be on UNESCO’s Memory of the World UK register.
After the Romans left, there were periods where it remains unknown what was happening there. We know at some point the Saxons came in and rebuilt things in the medieval style, including building over the baths.
Around 1590, Queen Anne, wife of James I, was seen riding down to Bath to ‘take the waters’ as they often did. In doing so, she put Bath back on the map. Citizens rushed to the city, quickly destroying the last of the medieval buildings and rebuilding the city in the style of the day – the classical style associated with Italy and Greece. The city’s rapid expansion brought with it many other things, from dance halls to gambling sites. In the 1700s, Bath became the place to be – it was where businesses deals and marriages were secured. People would take to the streets in promenade, just to be seen.
At the start of the 1800s, Bath’s popularity changed with the growth of new industrial towns, taking with it these crowds. Around this time, with the end of the Napoleonic wars, a different cohort moved in – retired army generals among them. Those looking for a quiet place to live, to start a family. Following this came the rise of schools.
For those interested in a more in depth history of Bath, walking tours are available just in front of Bath Abbey. Visitors are taken around the city, both within and outside the city walls and enthralled with stories of crafty architects, famous past residents and of course the extensive filming that has taken place within the city on account of its beauty.
Other highlights of a trip to Bath include:
Celebrating Bath’s most famous resident at The Jane Austen Centre
Viewing art at the Victoria Gallery
Climbing Bath Abbey’s Tower
Visiting the Fashion Museum
Strolling through the Royal Crescent
At the end of the walking tour, the guide once again explained why Bath was considered a UNESCO World Heritage Site. He pointed to the hot springs, the classical buildings that dominated the city and the seven hills that surrounded it, highlighting the similarity in the rationale used for designating Venice the same. He paused then, before adding “and of course you. You all keep coming back as people have done for centuries”.
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