Introducing The Hand Picked Hotels Guide to staycations in Bath.
Bath: it’s all in the name.
Because this historic city, the largest in Somerset, was made to relax in. Ever since Roman times, people have flocked here to soothe their bodies and spirits in its healing waters; in the ancient Roman Baths or, more recently, the contemporary Thermae Bath Spa. Interestingly, the latter has the only natural thermal hot springs in Britain you can bathe in.
But it’s not all about the water. Walking through this mesmerising city is like taking a trip to a forgotten world - an escape from modern reality. And that makes it the perfect spot for a staycation.
A brief history of Bath
Legend has it that Bath was founded in 860 BC when Prince Bladud, father of King Lear, caught leprosy. He was banned from the court and was forced to look after pigs that were also suffering from a skin disease. But after they wallowed in some hot mud, the pigs were cured. His interest piqued, Prince Bladud did the same and was miraculously recovered from his ailments. Consequently, he became king and founded the city.
In the Middle Ages, it became an important centre for the wool industry; ideally placed, drovers could bring their sheep in from the edge of the Cotswold Hills. What’s more, the River Avon actually powered the mills and it was close enough to Bristol so that traders could easily sell and transport their goods. Consequently, Bath became famous for its tightly woven broadcloth. It wasn’t until 1878 that the old Roman Baths were rediscovered. And along with literature and art, this elegant city has been famed for its spas ever since.
Things to do in Bath
Being such a historical city, Bath has plenty of intriguing attractions that are well worth visiting.
We couldn’t possibly talk about this lovely city without recommending a trip to the Roman Baths themselves.
This World Heritage Site contains one of the most well-preserved religious spas of the ancient world. So much so in fact that the Baths still flow with natural hot water.
Visitors can walk in the footsteps of our ancestors along the original Roman pavements and marvel at the ruins of the Temple of Sulis Minerva. One of the most visited heritage attractions in the UK, the Roman Baths entice over one million visitors a year. Visit this astonishing site and it’s easy to see why. For some of the most breathtaking views of the city, climb to the top of the historic Bath Abbey. Ascend the former Benedictine monastery, past the bell tower and you’ll be able to grab a snap behind its grandiose clock face on the way. It’s well worth walking the 212 steps for the rooftop views, we promise.
Arts and literature
For art aficionados, no visit to the city would be complete without a trip to The Holburne Museum. Located in luscious grounds along Great Pulteney Street, one of the most beautiful Georgian streets in the country, the works found inside are every bit as beguiling as the setting. Along with Sir William Holburne’s permanent personal collection, visitors can expect to enjoy other thoughtfully curated collections. The current exhibition, Grayson Perry: The Pre-Therapy Years, has been extended until 3 January 2021.
Behind the museum, you’ll find the stunning Sydney Gardens , formerly ‘The Pleasure Gardens’. Ideal for a picnic, this picturesque park used to be intrinsic to Bath’s social scene. And they were frequented by one very special visitor: Jane Austen. Literary fans can also retrace the famous novelist’s footsteps by visiting any of the five properties she lived in during her time in the city. However, if you visit just one, head over to 4. Sydney Place. Conveniently placed just opposite the gardens, Austin’s family residence from 1801 to 1804 has a commemorative plaque outside - so you can’t miss it. And for super-fans, this is where she wrote her classic novel Northanger Abbey, apparently.
Shopping in Bath
From antiques to boutiques, Bath’s got all of your shopping needs covered.
For all of your standard high-street outlets, SouthGate shopping centre has over 50 shops and is sat conveniently next to the train station.
But if you’re looking for something a bit more bespoke, try the Bath Guildhall Market. Open Monday to Saturday, you’ll find a haberdashery, traditional sweet shop and other quaint little outlets. Walking through this old-fashioned market is like a trip back to Victorian times.
Finally, don’t miss a stroll along Walcott Street, Bath’s bohemian quarter, for cheese and antiques and the pedestrian-only Margaret’s Buildings for jewellery and other affordable trinkets.
Eating and drinking
Also featured in Northanger Abbey, as well as inspiring parts of Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein when the author lodged next door, is The Pump Room. It hasn’t just stood the time for its cultural significance though; the afternoon tea is divine. And if you’re looking for something a little more hearty, the lunch menu showcases the very best in Somerset’s produce; a warming bowl of artichoke soup with rosemary bread that’s followed by melt-in-the-mouth Wiltshire ox cheek is a must. Just save some room the egg custard and nutmeg tart - it’s a real crowd-pleaser.
For something a little more contemporary, head over to Menu Gordon Jones. Mixing the contrasting flavours and textures of England, India and Asia, the best part of this experience is that the chef will surprise you with a unique tasting menu every time. Perfect for anyone who feels indecisive when perusing the options. Oh, and the wine is perfectly matched too.
Speaking of which, Bath has an abundance of great wine bars. For a laidback, jazz cafe feel, try Barton Street Wine Bar. The prices are reasonable and if you can grab one of a handful of tables outside, it’s a lovely spot to people-watch in the evening.
But if you’re in the mood for fizz and cocktails, grab a seat at the popular Comptoir+Cuisine. This lavishly designed champagne bar has a vintage 70s-style feel. And the cocktails are just as quirky; enjoy a Bath Sunrise or Earl Grey Fizz and, if you fancy a nibble, the cheese boards are to die for.
You’ll find the finest, locally sourced cheese at our hotel restaurant in Bailbrook House too. At Cloisters, Head Chef Michael Ball has created a menu that celebrates classic ingredients through contemporary flavour combinations. And for dessert - the parfait is heavenly.
Staying in Bath
Planning a visit to Bath? Our Bailbrook House Hotel is now taking bookings for stays with breakfast, dinner and everything in between. This Grade II listed building has everything you need for an idyllic staycation in Bath. Bailbrook House is:
- AA Four Silver Star hotel 83%
- Located just a few minutes drive from Bath, with easy access to the M4 J18
- Only a 1 ½ hours train journey from London
- Relaxed, with check-in at 3 pm and check out at 11 am.
- Ideal for drivers; we have a free on-site car park & electric car charge point
Contact us to find out more or book a room.
Images courtesy of Visit Bath