Bath is located in southwest England’s Somerset country, about 100 miles from London. Since its beginnings as a Celt establishment, the city has been the source of pleasure and relaxation thanks to the Roman Baths that were built around the regions springs. It built up continually from about 60AD until the Roman conquest in Bath, when engineers constructed a stone chamber and vaulted building to enclose the hot, warm and cold baths.
During the Elizabethan era, the Queen granted Bath with city status. Bath improved upon the spas and began attracting England’s finest nobles. It hit a major peak in the 18th century Georgian period and much of the architecture and theater contributions hail from those times including the Royal Crescent and the Circus. It was around this time that the city also became known for many of its foods like the Sally Lunn Bunn and Bath Olivers biscuits.
Today the city is devoted to tourism and education. Nearly all working locals have jobs in one of these industries. Bath is also home to many internationally acclaimed places including the English Heritage (Park of National Historic Importance), the limestone hills (Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty), and the city in its entirety was claimed as a World Heritage Site in 1987.
The majority of South West England has a very mild, wet climate. The temperatures vary from about 8.1C (46F) in January to about 21.7C (71F) in July. The Azores archipelago extends its influence into the UK during the summertime. However, the city does see a fair share of cloud cover, particularly near the hills. The Atlantic depressions also allow more rain to fall in the autumn and winter months than any other time of year. November through March often have whipping winds to accompany the downpour.
In regards to the weather and activities, the best time to visit Bath is May through October. The city gets most of its sunshine and agreeable weather during these months. There is also plenty to do and see including rugby, walking tours, cricket clubs, somerset countryside, golf, and concerts.
While Bath does not have its own commercial airport, it is serviced by neighboring Bristol’s International Airport. It has scheduled and chartered flights to meet traveler’s needs.
By Car Bath can be reached by the A4 or M4 motorways in regards to the Bristol Airport.
By Rail Bath is also connected to Bristol by way of Bristol Temple Meads or Nailsea and Backwell railways. The Bath Spa railway station also connects the city to others like London, Bristol, Cardiff, Exeter, Warminster, and Plymouth among others.
Fun Fact: Much controversy has consistently surrounded the proposal of an airport expansion. Several groups including Friends of the Earth and Campaign to Protect Rural England have come together in an effort known as Stop Bristol Airport Expansion. New plans have been submitted despite the protest and approval should surface in the summer of 2008.
Bath is connected by First Group Bus Company that services both the city and a number of suburbs surrounding it.
You can also navigate the cities locks by narrow boat, which many locals do to avoid vehicle traffic. The waterways to the Thames have also been reopened to connect the Bath Locks to London’s Kennet and Avon Canal. There is also a highly acclaimed ‘Park and Ride’ system that the city tries to follow to further eliminate vehicle traffic.
The Bath Spa railway station and the smaller station in Oldfield Park provides access to regions in and directly around Bath Bristol.
Taxis are always available outside of the Bath Spa station and the Abbey.
However, the best way to see Bath is to walk it. There are many walking tours that take guests to favorite sites affordably. Two of the main tour companies are Mad Max and Scarper Tours. You can also take a Mayor’s Honorary Guide which is put on by local volunteers.
Our mini-guide to what’s on in Bath lists the top 10 events and attractions in 2010. If you take your short break in Bath, England when these events are taking place, add them to your list of things to do in Bath.
1. Walking the Cotswold Way: This 100 mile trail traces itself back to ancient history when herdsmen used it for their flocks. Although it takes roughly eight days to follow, it is free and is one of the most romantic ways to take in the rolling English countryside. The Cotswold path begins in Stratford and winds through Stanton, Cleeve Hill, Cheltenham, Painswick, Dursley, Upton and Cold Ashton until it takes its last turn into Bath.
2. Bath International Music Festival: Nearly 30 countries converge on Bath for two weeks each May into June to play to huge audiences in the musical styling’s of Folk, Electronica, Classical, World Music, Jazz and Contemporary. It is a great way to soak up Bath’s culture as well as others. Venue, hours and admission prices vary to the artist.
3. Taste of Bath Festival: Bath is well known for its delightful menus. The Taste of Bath Festival in July brings together the regions finest chefs and restaurants and combines it with taste testing, master chef classrooms and live music in Royal Victoria Park. There are also hundreds of international stalls that include the represented countries own beloved foods like cheeses, ciders and chocolates. The festival is admission free.
4. Roman Baths by Torchlight: From July 1 through August 31, the unbelievably soothing spas in Bath stay open from 9 to 9 and are lit the old fashioned way; by torchlight. There is nothing different than you and the ancient Roman’s enjoyment of the baths except time when exposed to them in this magical way. The Roman Bath’s admission starts at £10.25. It is open from November – February from 9:30am – 4:30pm, March – June and September – October from 9:00am – 5:00pm and torch lit and open until 9:00pm in July and August.
5. Jane Austen Festival: Jane Austen grew up in Bath from 1801 to 1806. Although we’ve learned via letters to her sister that she disliked her time in the city, Bath dedicates a festival and museum to her nevertheless. The September festival kicks off with a promenade at the Royal Crescent Hotel where participants parade in full regalia. A number of other events follow including another costumed Georgian Ball and separate Georgian styled Banquet, a dance workshop to learn steps before the ball and banquet, a tour of Jane Austen’s footsteps and a murder mystery tour along with other traditional elements like screenings, readings and discussions. Venue, hours and admission prices vary to event.
6. Shakespeare Unplugged: Held at the esteemed Theatre Royal, this biennial festival celebrates all of the diverse ways that the world interprets Shakespeare’s writings. It includes theatre, dance and music productions. The festival runs from February through March. Hours and admission vary to event.
7. Bath Mozart Festival: Taking over the Assembly Rooms, Bath Abbey, Guildhall and the Forum each November, this festival brings together the best of the best in new aged composers and features concerts by some of the world’s finest symphonies, all in celebration of the musical genius. Hours and admission varies to event.
8. Bath Abbey: Nearly 6 centuries old, the Bath Abbey was first inaugurated into the city’s architectural landscape in 973AD. It plays host to many of Bath’s festivals and often holds its own events when it invites guest organists, choirs and orchestras to fill its halls with the sound of music. Just beyond the abbey walls there is a churchyard with a peculiar Jacobs Ladder as well as the Heritage Vaults Museum that talks of the 1600 year Christian tradition. The abbey is open from April – October daily from 9:00am – 6:00pm and in the off seasons from 9:00am – 4:30pm. Hours vary around masses on Sunday’s. An adult donation of £2.50 is required to enter, while students and children’s donations are £1.
9. Fashion Museum: The Fashion Museum is one of the biggest tickets in Bath. The colossal collection encompasses historic fashions from the 16th century up through today. It also presents the Dress of the Year display, which features important dresses throughout history. The museum is housed in the Assembly Rooms and is open from November – February from 11:00am – 4:00pm and March – October until 7:00pm. Admission starts at £6.75.
10. Bath Fringe Festival: Hundreds of events and visual arts displays take place all over the city from May into June. These performances range from theater to comedians to dance. There are also many free events as well as child friendly ones. The Bath Fringe Fest is accompanied by other fairs including Wheel Thing pedal power fest, Bath Community Carnival, and the Bedlam Street Fair & Outdoor Arts fest. Hours and admission varies to event.