Travel - Bath, England
Bath isn't short of tourists- it's a World Heritage site, and one of the best UK cities in terms of history and architecture, but most visitors miss out on a lot of the other attractions in the area. A feature of the city is it's compact size, and mainly Georgian architecture - because so much was built in the same era, it all works together as a whole. My advice would be to see it at night if possible. All the sights in Bath are within easy walking distance of the train station, and as the parking can be a nightmare this can be the best way to see the city.
The major sights, like the Roman Baths, The Royal Crescent, The Circus are all worth seeing, but the surrounding countryside includes a few gems such as the villages of Castle Combe, Lacock and Lacock Abbey - and some great landscape in the Limpley Stoke valley. Just outside Bath is Little Solsbury Hill, a great view over the city from an Iron Age hilltop village site - immortalised (maybe) in the Peter Gabriel song. A little further afield, major attractions such as Avebury and Stourhead are within range, about an hour's drive through great countryside. I have another hub article about Stourhead - which is mainly about the lakeside gardens and scenery.
So this is a quick introduction to some of those places. Later, we'll look at the city centre attractions.
Also, my new hub UK travel - Somerset has info about more attractions in the area, and travel from London
The Royal Crescent, Bath
Lacock Abbey cloisters
Lacock village is very picturesque, and contains a wealth of fine buildings, many from the medieval era. The Abbey was founded in 1232, and was modernised and extended in the 1590s after Henry VIII destroyed the monasteries, becoming a private house.
The cloisters is where two of the Harry Potter films were shot - the village is also used for many film and drama shoots.(Cranford is the latest) With a bit of mud and gravel covering the road, and no 4x4s in view, it looks like it did in former times.
Harry Potter connection
The Courts, Holt
Great Chalfield Manor
The Courts, Holt
Another National Trust property, close to Lacock, The Courts is a fine garden with a tearoom. There's not much to see, but anyone interested in gardening would probably enjoy it greatly.
Great Chalfield Manor is well worth a visit, as it has a history dating back to late 1400s. Close to Melksham and Bath. Another small manor house is Westwood manor, close to Bradford - on - Avon and Bath. It's another National Trust property, not really a must-see, and with very limited opening times.
This valley, only a couple of miles from Bath,has some stunning landscape. There is a river, a canal and great views of the surrounding hills. A viaduct crosses the river at one point, and there is a small marina for canal boats, with a good cafe and restaurant, The Angelfish.
A walk along the canal will take you back in time. Warleigh weir is also great, and well known to locals as a picnic and bathing spot (hazardous)
Another village in the Bath area, Castle Combe is a very attractive place and a nice place for a walk. There are several very old pubs such as the White Hart.There is also a very upmarket hotel, The Manor House, and a Golf Club.
It is attractive enough to have been used as a film set, Dr.Doolittle, I seem to remember.
Bath city centre
Bath has a number of major attractions for the visitor. Fortunately, the city is compact enough to see everything in a day, and it will be an interesting and educational day. First, see the Roman Baths, a unique Roman monument still in use until very recent times for swimming - many older Bath residents learnt to swim there.The scale of the archaeology is very impressive, and the exhibitions around the Roman ruins are really excellent - including details such as the inscribed lead plates thrown into the waters with curses written on them! Upstairs the actual baths are very impressive, and still in good working order after 2,000 years. In the same complex you'll find the Pump room, a Georgian Jane Austen-era vast confection of a room where you can take the waters, or tea (preferable but pricey)
From the Baths it's a short walk to the River, where Pulteney Bridge, modelled on the Ponte Vecchio in Florence, is a major landmark. You can sit by the Weir in an outdoor cafe, or continue along the road to Laura Place, a beautiful Georgian collection of buildings with a fountain, and along Great Pulteney street, a wide street of palatial houses. At the end of this street is the Holburne Museum and art gallery, undergoing restoration at the moment - and beside the museum is a park which leads to the canal. The canal takes you on a pleasant walk out into open countryside almost immediately. Other things you should see in Bath - the museum of costume at the Assembly rooms, Bath Theatre Royal, The Circus (probably the best architectural feature of all - and the famous Royal Crescent. At No.1 Royal Crescent is a museum where you can sample the comfortable life of Georgian Bath, as the house and original furnishings are preserved in every detail.
Bath is also noted for the variety of shopping on offer, mostly around Milsom street in the centre.The rail link to London means it is very easy to get here. There are many great cafes in Bath - a few of my favourites are cafe Shoon (top floor of the shop) and Same same just off George street. For eating out, Aqua in Walcot street, Demuths vegetarian are both good. Live music is at The Bell, Walcot Street (Mon and Wed) at the Green Park Brasserie (most nights) and at Gascoyne Place, The Ring O' Bells, Widcombe on Sundays. Another great thing to do is to take a boat trip up the River Avon to Bathampton, as you'll see the city from another angle.
Rail travel to Bath is much cheaper if you book on the net. Very expensive trains mean it's well worth shopping around, and travelling after 9am and 7pm. Check raileasy.com for much cheaper fares.Another site is called the trainline. From London Paddington station it's about an hour and a half, and there is a frequent service. Generally, it's about one train per hour.
Below are some pictures of Frome, about 15 miles from Bath. It's a town with a lot of historic buildings and cafes.
Nearest airport is Bristol, with a rail link to Bath from the city centre. Ryanair fly there, so if you are visiting Ireland that's maybe something you could add to your trip.
Westwood Manor, near Bath
Dyrham Park is a grand baroque era house set in parkland, owned by the National Trust. It's just a few miles north of Bath, close to the M4 motorway. The gardens are really well maintained, and there are some great views of the 272 acres of land that surround the main house. The tea room and shop are worth visiting, but the highlight is probably the pools and gardens. There is a shuttle bus from the car park area, which is a long way from the house, and you can see the deer roaming wild on the way. The house dates from the time of William III, mainly 17th century, although there is a record of the pool in the Domesday book, from a few years after 1066 and the Norman invasion.
Entrance is £11. Ouch.You could consider joining the NT to avoid this fee, which is well over the top.
Just south of Bath is Prior Park, an 18th century landscaped garden, with good views of Bath, and a nice walk in itself. There is a also a bus service, which is handy as the approach on Ralph Allen Drive is a very steep hill.