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Places to Visit in Bath UK

We recently spent a weekend in the UK discovering all manner of places to visit in Bath and the surrounding countryside. Bath City is recognized as a UNESCO World Heritage Site due to its Roman origins.
Places to visit in Bath UK - Pulteney Bridge

Getting to Bath from Dublin

We flew from Dublin to Bristol and then took a train to Bath (~30 min) arriving in town before 9 am. Alternatively, Bath is a little over an hour by train from London so you can also make arrangements to connect to Bath from England's capital.

A Morning Walk in Bath

The pedestrian streets of Bath were peopled with just a few folks getting an early start. We wandered through the new shopping area. We admired the old Roman architecture and namesake baths. The buildings themselves had a striking, mottled texture. We spotted a grand church in the distance. We turned into a deserted shopping arcade. The interior featured impressive columns and architectural flourishes. We emerged from the arcade into a warren of small back-alley shopping streets. Returning to the main artery through Bath, we discovered the Royal National Hospital for Rheumatic Diseases (Royal Mineral Water Hospital) established in 1739 to take advantage of the healing waters in the area. I suppose spending time at the Royal Mineral Water Hospital was a precursor to a Bath spa day that is so popular today. We passed more striking facades, smiling as we had the town of Bath all to ourselves.

Where to Stay in Bath

We found our way to Queen's Square and the luxurious Francis Hotel which was to be our home for the night. We saw the following engraved on the building:

four houses which stood here the work of Wood the Elder were destroyed by enemy action on 27th April 1942 and rebuilding was completed in 1953. 

Small faces peeked at us from the doorways of the building. Inside, the hotel was clearly posh and comfortable.  We'd gotten a good deal and decided to treat ourselves to a fancy hotel stay. The staircase was lined with old photographs. Gilded mirrors and flowers added to the ambience. The room itself was richly decorated with a large and comfy bed.  We were looking forward to a good night's sleep after our early start in the morning.  Of course, there were lots of places to visit in Bath in the meantime - the day was still very young.

Green Park Farmer’s Market

We love to visit farmers' markets when we travel and there was one at Green Park in Bath.  We made our way to the old train station. The covered dome was helpful on this blustery, rainy day. We found a stall selling chillies and hot sauce dressed up like death.  Yikes, that must be some kind of hot! Small jars of homemade jams and chutneys were small enough to fit in our bag of carry-on liquids for the flight home so we bought a jar of onion chutney. People were milling about doing their produce shopping. Lovely tarts and quiches were on offer. There was a lot of sausage.
Things to do in Bath England: Shop Green Park Farmer's Market

Exploring Bath on Foot

The sun was starting to peek out for a moment over Bath so we went back outside for a walk around town. We admired an ornate church. We discovered a shaded square in the center of Bath with a bit of produce overflow from the farmers' market. A few outdoor cafes lined the square.

Morning Coffee in Bath

The cloud cover started to roll back in so we went in search of a cup of coffee.  We nearly missed the entrance of Colonna and Small's which is marked by a small sign with a picture of a coffee plant. The menu read a bit like a wine list with coffees from different origins and their flavor profiles listed. We opted for the 2nd Kenyan variety listed plus one from El Salvador.  The shop also featured lovely shortbread cookies flavored with (a) Stilton and rosemary (b) lavender and polenta. We noted a small doorway at the back of the Georgian building. The sun seemed like it was trying to peek through again so we took our chances and went to sit in the garden. Our coffees soon arrived and we sipped them the recommended way - black to ensure the flavor profile would come through. We also enjoyed a slice of apple cake and a sample of each shortbread. Sadly it started to rain again so we drank the remains of our coffee under an umbrella. Back inside, we passed a huge shiny espresso machine. Small plants were being tended in the front window - I'm assuming these are coffee plants. Despite the rain and fueled by caffeine, we continued to explore all the things to do in Bath.

Herschel Museum

The next place we visited in Bath was the Herschel Museum which showcased the astronomical equipment of 18th century brother and sister William and Caroline Herschel.  It took us some time to actually locate this modest museum. We went round the block twice past lovely Georgian gardens. Finally, we found it! Photos weren't allowed inside, but there was an imaginative video featuring jaunty play actors and an array of telescopes and period furniture on display.  The back of the house featured a beautiful garden. Sculptures of William and Caroline were nestled near the wall. Even the garden had an other-worldly air combined with down to earth roses. The Herschel Museum is a great place to visit in Bath especially on a rainy day.
Places to visit in Bath UK: Herschel Museum

Bath Postal Museum

The Bath Postal Museum was a fun diversion.  Located in the basement of the post office, the Bath Postal Museum features all sorts of trivia and memorabilia. We descended the staircase in anticipation. Character actors came to life in video portraits describing how the paid post got its start in Bath. A box of dress-up gear sat just below. Why not have a go at dressing up as Ralph Allen or John Palmer? (early post-masters). Why not? Period furniture also set the stage. We were also quite intrigued by an audio extravaganza of different horn calls used to signify different things; from the journey beginning to 'Get out of the way' to changing the horses.  The calls were quite complex.  I imagine it was quite a chore for passengers, pedestrians, and drivers alike to keep them all straight. The Bath Postal Museum was a fascinating stop and worth a 30 minute wander around.

Lunch at the West Gate Pub

By now we were quite hungry and stopped at the West Gate Pub in Bath for something to eat. We ensconced ourselves in comfy armchairs surrounded by wood panelling. We did not have huge expectations of the place - the menu looked good but the style and decor screamed 'pub grub'. I have to say though that our expectations were strongly exceeded.  We sampled butternut squash chunks, vegetarian risotto with zucchini and broad beans, and a duck wrap with hoisin sauce. In fact, the meal was so good, we came back the next day. The second time we tried a platter of bread and dips, a palette of local ciders, that old English favorite, fish and chips, and a chicken supreme atop roasted potatoes and piled high with greens. Don't overlook West Gate Pub, a hidden gem if you're looking for a fast and delicious meal in Bath.

Guildhall Market

We continued exploring things to do in Bath in the vicinity of the Guildhall Market. Inside, we found all manner of sundries from books to produce to coffee and tea.  We spotted a decorative pig holding court in the center of the market. A lofty dome gave an air of importance to the place.
Places to Visit in Bath England: Pig at Guildhall Market

Along the River Avon

Outside again, we strolled along the River Avon. We spotted Pulteney Bridge, lined with shops, in the distance. We made our way toward Pulteney Bridge and admired the stepped features of the river. Many of the shops on the bridge looked out to gorgeous views over the Avon. We decided to make one last stop before dinner at Society Cafe. We enjoyed hand-crafted flat whites to keep us going.  We'd been up since about 4 am and our energy was starting to wane.

Nepalese Dinner in Bath

We settled in to Yak Yeti Yak for a Nepalese dinner in Bath. The restaurant was set in the basement of a historic building and was accessed via a flight of stairs. The outdoor garden just outside the entrance featured rugby and soccer balls re-purposed into planters. Inside, I knew this place was promising when I saw a salt shaker full of chili powder sitting on the table. The walls and ceiling were decorated with traditional Nepalese items. We started with MoMo served on a copper plate. We enjoyed a dish of chickpeas and potatoes, chili chicken, and white rice to cool the burn. Black lentils rounded out the meal. At the end, we needed nearly an entire urn of water to douse the flame from the spiciness; a mark of a great meal in my book!

The Theatre Royal

After dinner, we made our way across the historic squares of Bath toward the Theatre Royal. We caught a glimpse of some of the Roman sculptures decorating the Roman Baths. The Theatre Royal seemed rather unassuming from the outside but was actually quite opulent. I liked the stamped white ceiling. A huge dome and dramatic chandelier anchored the interior. An impressive red velvet curtain had the audience waiting in anticipation for the show to start.  We saw the hilarious Relative Values, one of Noël Coward's most popular productions. The show dealt with a world of changing class and values in which Hollywood and Britain's more conservative culture collide. Very well done.

SIDEWALK SAFARI SPOTLIGHT: Looking for other historic places to visit in England? I'd suggest:

Sunday Walk in Bath

We awoke early and once again had Bath to ourselves.  We admired the obelisk on Queen's Square across from our hotel. We walked through the deserted streets in search of an open coffee shop before our day trip to Stonehenge and the Cotswolds. I noticed a set of initials on one of the brick walls.  It looked like some kind of code to me.  I wonder what it means:  S.'MP S'P.P.F.  I even managed to stump Google - there are no references to this text anywhere on the web! Caffe Nero was a lifesaver - the only place open in Bath before 8 am on a Sunday. We popped in for a cappuccino and porridge (and a few chocolate covered coffee beans for later). We continued on past the closed shopping arcades and the local cathedral. We soon arrived at the bus depot near the Best Western where Charles from Madmax was waiting to whisk us away. We were soon ensconced in the red velvet interior and on our way to Stonehenge! En route, I was surprised by a group of 'tank crossing' signs.  Apparently, the Brits do a lot of military exercises in this area. The land is also rich with flint. Charles passed around a sample of flint for us to handle.  The day seemed off to an auspicious start but that would soon change.

Bath Day Trip to Stonehenge and the Cotswolds

Setting up a home base in Bath for the weekend enables visitors to see some of the top attractions in all of England on a day trip tour.

Stonehenge

I should have known when I saw a foreboding crow at Stonehenge that something was amiss.  Despite this feeling, we marveled at the monument in the distance. Sitting in a giant field in the middle of nowhere (about an hour outside Bath), Stonehenge brings to mind all sorts of questions.  What is it?  What was it for?  Who put it here and why? We contemplated this along with a few other busloads of tourists (get there early to avoid the crowds!) as we slowly paraded around Stonehenge in the wind and even a bit of rain. It was positively freezing with the biting wind so we picked up the pace a bit. We completed our loop, admiring Stonehenge from all sides. Stonehenge is irresistible and just demands to be photographed!

Now for an explanation of the 'sense of foreboding' I felt when we arrived and what came to pass.  We spent about an hour exploring Stonehenge and then went back to the bus to meet up with the rest of our tour group.  We were one of the last few groups to arrive but there were still a few stragglers.  One of the people on the tour, a girl from China travelling alone arrived last.  She put her hand on the edge of the open door for a split second and at that very moment, the driver from the neighboring van forcefully opened his door without looking.  I'll spare you the details other than to say there was a lot of blood and our tour-mate had to go to the hospital to have her broken finger looked after.  I've never experienced anything like this before on a tour.  I asked our guide later if things like this happen on occasion and he told me it was the first time he'd seen anything like this freak accident happen in his 7+ years of leading tours.  You've got to hand it to the British though...  They made arrangements for our tour-mate to be taken to the hospital and then we simply kept calm and carried on almost as if nothing had happened.  Even so, I was certainly shaken up for the rest of the day (so American of me...).  I can only imagine what that girl must have felt or how scared she was being injured in a foreign country (I can imagine how I'd feel if something similar happened to me while travelling alone in China).  I hope she made it home safely in the end - we were all thinking of her and wishing her the best for a speedy recovery.
What to see near Bath UK - Stonehenge

Avebury

After Stonehenge we continued on toward Avebury.  This part of England is known for its cliff drawings of white horses.  It was quite a fad to make these in the 19th century mimicking an original from the Iron Age. We soon arrived at Avebury, another stone monument (albeit less well known) than Stonehenge.  An arrangement of stones spread out over a field and is almost 0.5 km across. The stones are hewn in irregular shapes. A big ditch or 'henge' surrounds the stones. There is even a road that runs through the middle, it's so large. In fact, the entire town cuts through the henge. We explored the area, admiring the lonely sentinels. The place is a bit off the usual tourist trail (at least compared to Stonehenge) but there was a healthy level of visitors when we arrived around 1 pm. We admired a rock that looks a bit like a chess knight and then wandered down the road to explore Avebury town. Many of the establishments in town had thatched roofs.  Apparently, thatched roofs are a bit of status symbol.  They cost a lot to maintain and all thatched roof buildings are protected and must be maintained so it implies you have money if you own one. Shocks of yellow and green were growing from the stone wall of a nearby building. A majestic church stood in the distance. I particularly liked a stone house consumed by climbing plants. We spotted an open gate leading down a forested path.  While tempting, it actually looked like private property so we thought we shouldn't venture down there. Instead, we ducked down an alternate (public) gravelled path and checked out the other half of the Avebury henge. Back on the bus, we passed a prehistoric mound nearby and another white horse set against a field of rapeseed (aka canola).
Things to do near Bath England - White Horses near Avebury

Lacock

Lacock was the next stop on our day trip from Bath to the Cotswolds.  Lacock town features a large abbey. We did a quick loop around the town.  Lacock is defined mainly by 2 sets of intersecting streets so it's hard to get lost.  We admired the Red Lion pub. We saw examples of Cotswold stone roofs. The roofs are actually quite heavy so significant wood framing is required on the inside to hold things in place. We followed another group of tourists through the quaint, sleepy streets. We passed a church and surrounding area that served as a setting for at least one of the Harry Potter movies.  Camila, Duchess of Cornwall, has a home in Lacock. We marveled at the half-timbered and stone structures. This home served as Dame Judi Dench's place in Cranford.  The current owners sell herbs on the honor system. We were charmed by this garden with carefully sculpted hedges. Some had a human element.
Places to visit near Bath UK: King John's Hunting Lodge Tea Room in Lacock

Back in the heart of Lacock, we sought something to eat. We settled on King John's Hunting Lodge Tea Room. A beautifully painted ceramic kettle pointed the way. We stepped into a lovely, quiet garden and then inside to the tea room itself. The interior featured homey craft decorations. We somehow managed to resist temptation and avoided the scrumptious cakes. Instead, we tried pancakes with butter and jam and a vegetable tart with salad.  Of course, we shared a pot of tea to warm up on this blustery day. We did a second loop of Lacock town, taking in all the details of the historic homes. Even the street signs were quaint. Some of the buildings in town were so old that the wood was visibly warped and twisted. We popped into an unassuming local crafts market before heading out past the abbey and back to our tour bus.  One more stop to go.
Places to visit near Bath UK - Half-timbered House in Lacock

Castle Combe

Our final stop of the day on our Bath day trip and smallest town yet, was Castle Combe in the Cotswolds.  We parked the van just over a babbling brook outside of town. We admired the white-washed buildings with flowers climbing the facades. A gent in an old fashioned car drove past making a pretty picture. Old stone houses with Cotswold signature grey stone roofs lined the main street. An old door screamed medieval to me. The town was anchored by a covered platform marking the former market square. The nearby medieval church was quite imposing. Inside, drab vaulted ceilings were offset by bright stained glass. I liked the embroidered kneeling cushions. The lonely grave of a battle hardened knight sat in one corner of the church. A praying angel seemed to point us toward the exit. Not far on, we spotted a doorway and a table of baked goods. We saw some delicious looking spice cake for sale (again on the honor system). We helped ourselves to a slice and put our money through the mail slot. I was still feeling bad (and a bit shaken up) after the earlier incident at Stonehenge that left our tour-mate in the hospital.  I picked up a card at the Castle Combe church and passed it around the bus for the group to sign. Even with one empty seat, our tour-mate was here with us in spirit.  Our tour guide promised to give her the card in the hospital but we were left to wonder whatever happened to her.  We never heard anything more about it from the tour company.  I hope she made it home safely.
Places to visit near Bath England: Castle Coombe

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Sidewalk Safari | Part-time Travel Blog: Places to Visit in Bath UK
Places to Visit in Bath UK
Discover places to visit in Bath UK. Learn about things to do in Bath England. Spend a weekend exploring Bath. Take a day trip from Bath to Stonehenge and the Cotswolds.
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Sidewalk Safari | Part-time Travel Blog
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