Bath is often called ‘the world’s most beautiful city’ and with good reason. Not only is it home to lovely parks and stunning honey-coloured architecture, but it’s also home to an incredibly high amount of museums and art galleries (many of them free).Bath is only 13 miles from its more vibrant neighbouring city of Bristol (there’s a traffic-free old railway path but do look out for cyclists and horseriders).
Royal Crescent is the famed curved avenue often used in period dramas (and in one of the last episodes of Inspector Morse where he takes his new girlfriend for a weekend away. Today nearly all the buildings are museums or hotels (one former resident was Jane Austen). It’s thought to be influenced by Stonehenge, as they are built around the rising and setting sun. Nearby Pulteney Bridge (designed in 1769 by Robert Adam) is one of the finest examples of Georgian architecture, and one of only four worldwide to have (indie) shops across its full span on both sides.
The city of Bath was originally built for pleasure, with many well-off people visiting since Roman Times to bathe in in the thermal hot springs (250,000 litres of warm mineral-rich water come to the surface each day through three springs (check with your doctor as some people may not be safe to use them, like with Epsom salts). Legend has it that Prince Bladud (the father of King Lear) was the first person to bathe there, after he had incurable lepsrosy which he had passed to his pigs. The story goes that his pigs jumped in and were immediately cured and so was he. So he returned and founded the city on muddy ground!
If you’re feeling energetic, you could climb Bath Abbey Tower that’s a whopping 212 steps and be rewarded with amazing over the city and beyond. Beckford’s Tower also gives good views, a shorter climb at 154 steps. Or to keep on terrafirma, stroll the 6 mile Bath Skyline walk through meadows, woodlands and valleys (only takes around 90 minutes). And it’s only a short hop to the Cotswolds.
Bath is known for its beautiful parks and gardens. Take away the traffic and people’s iPhones, and you could be back enjoying the city, as 100 years ago. Parade Gardens has a beautiful bandstand and Sydney Gardens is one of the last 18th century ‘pleasure gardens’ (no skateboard parks hopefully) remaining in England. Or enjoy a picnic in Royal Victoria Park near the famed curved Royal Crescent. The Urban Garden includes a lovely tropical glasshouse, then children can head off to the nearby adventure playground to blow up some steam.