A (Very) Short Visit to Bath

The Roman Baths and Pump Room

Our quick dash down to the city of Bath this week was over in less than 48 hours. We saw as much as we could during our stay, and Brett had a wonderful reunion with his former classmate. 

The city of Bath absolutely charmed us, and we left wishing we could have given ourselves a few more days there. We arrived on Tuesday afternoon, and walked up to our Airbnb from the station, about 15 minutes away on foot. We checked in, dropped off our stuff and then headed right back out to visit the Circus and the Royal Crescent as both were only a short distance away. The sky was overcast and loaded with heavy clouds, but the rain was holding off and we wanted to see these places before it arrived. We crossed our fingers, took our umbrellas, and off we went.

One of the three curving terraces of The Circus. While the homes are identical in the front, from the back each is unique. I couldn’t even recognize the back as the same building!
The Royal Crescent was breathtaking! Like the Circus, the fronts of the terrace houses are identical and the backs of each are different.

Neither the Circus nor the Royal Crescent failed to impress – both were magnificent and thrilling to see. We walked along in front of two of the three terraces at The Circus and then turned for the Crescent. As it was growing darker we chose not to walk the full length in front of the Crescent but instead went down to the park to take in the full sweep of the building’s curve. I was thrilled to discover there was a ha-ha in the park! I have read about them for years and when I saw it I knew immediately what it was and why it was there.

The Royal Crescent ha-ha.

Just before it turned fully dark the clouds opened up so we turned back into the city to find a grocery store to pick up things for breakfast (orange juice and French pastries as it turned out) and maybe something for dinner. We didn’t see anything that appealed to us though so instead stopped at a little restaurant just down the street from our apartment that served all-day breakfast, and Brett enjoyed a plate of banana french toast and I ordered eggs benedict. The rain was really coming down by the time we finished so we dashed back to our apartment to get ready for a busy Wednesday.

Brett had arranged to meet his classmate, Chris, for coffee at 11:00 on Wednesday morning at a cafe/shop up near our apartment, so we got up early and headed down to the Roman Baths to be there when they opened at 9:30. The temperature was quite cold, but we could see a few patches of blue sky above, a good sign, we hoped. I had purchased our tickets online the night before in order to save a few pounds and speed things up, and we were first in line when the Baths opened. There were only a few other visitors there with us, so we practically had the place to ourselves and were able to take our time to see it all. I am fascinated with Roman ruins and these did not disappoint – it was thrilling to walk on the same pavement stones that Romans had used nearly 2000 years earlier. At the end of the tour we were able to taste the famous water, said to have healing powers. Considering all the sulfur, iron and other minerals in the water I was expecting it to taste fairly foul, but it wasn’t that bad and I enjoyed two cups of it before leaving (Brett passed though).

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Following our visit to the Roman Baths we walked around the Bath Abbey (construction is being done inside so we didn’t go in) and then headed over to find Sally Lunn’s, home of the eponymous Sally Lunn Bath Bun, a brioche-type bread brought to Bath from France by Ms. Lunn in the late 17th century. Sally Lunn’s is now a restaurant, but it is located in the oldest house in Bath and there is a small museum in the basement. We skipped the restaurant but checked out the museum and purchased a Sally Lunn Bun to eat later in the day.

Bath Abbey sits adjacent to the Roman Baths.
Side view of the Abbey.
The Cotswolds Way, a 100-mile path from Chipping Campden, ends (or begins) in front of the Abbey.
Sally Lunn’s sits on top of Roman, Saxon and Norman ruins. The layers of these ruins can be viewed in the museum in the basement.

The reunion with Chris couldn’t have been nicer, and we also had the pleasure of meeting and getting to know his wife, Jane. We started out over cappuccinos, then took a bit of a walk, stopping into a lovely little bookstore along the way where I bought a travel book called Secret Tokyo, filled with quirky and unusual places to visit for free in that city. From the bookshop, we walked to the Holburne Museum to have lunch in their cafe. I don’t think the four of us ever stopped talking – Chris and Jane felt like old friends we hadn’t seen for a long time. After lunch we headed back down to the Roman Baths where we said our goodbyes so that Brett and I could start a free walking tour of the city.

Chris and Jane – it was grand getting to spend time with them!

The walking tours given by the Mayor’s Guides are free and absolutely no tipping is allowed. Our group had only seven members, and we had a great guide who covered the history of the city from the Baths to the Abbey to the distinctive Georgian architecture. We stayed with the tour until we got to the Circus, but since we had already visited there and the Royal Crescent the day before we said thank you and goodbye then and walked back to visit the Assembly Rooms before they closed (groups had not been allowed in that day). When we came back out it was raining again, and as we had walked over four miles and nearly 12,000 steps at that point we decided to call it a day.

We crossed Pulteney Bridge (completed in 1774) on our way back from lunch and had no idea we were on a bridge – there’s no arch in the center and the sides of the bridge are lined with shops like a regular street. The lovely three-tiered oval weir in the river was designed to keep water flow to the center to reduce bank erosion.

The Assembly Rooms opened in 1771 and were a hub for high Georgian society in Bath – Jane Austen and Charles Dickens were among those who attended balls and other functions at the Assembly Rooms when they visited the city. The chandeliers were made by Whitefriars of London and are original to the Rooms, installed for the 18th-century opening. Their insurance value today ranges from £150 million to £300 million each although they are of course irreplaceable.

We still felt full from lunch in the evening and decided to just have our Sally Lunn Bun(s) for dinner. We thought the box would contain four small buns, so were quite surprised to find just one HUGE one inside. It was about the size of a personal watermelon but light as a feather. Our guide at the museum had told us the buns are traditionally sliced in half, toasted and served with butter so that’s how we ate ours. Brett and I each had half of the bun and it was plenty for the both of us (and plenty tasty too).

We were shocked by the size of our Sally Lunn bun – it was massive but very, very light.
Toasted and buttered and ready to eat. For size reference, the halves are sitting on salad plates.

Sadly, our Airbnb in Bath was a disappointment. All of the Airbnbs we have stayed in have been lovely, well-kept places but this apartment was shabby, complete with worn, stained carpet, dirty windows, and mismatched, damaged, thrift store furniture. The host met us at the apartment when we arrived, gave us the keys and two rolls of toilet paper and then quickly departed telling us nothing about how things operated. We about froze the first evening until Brett eventually figured out how to turn on the heat. The apartment also wasn’t what we would call spotlessly clean – clean-ish was more like it. Thankfully the bed had crisp, clean sheets but it was the most uncomfortable bed we’ve experienced on our travels. We both slept poorly and I woke up each morning with a sore back. It did have one redeeming feature though, a superb location in the city near to shopping, dining, and sightseeing. Still, if we had been there longer than two nights we might have found somewhere else to stay.

We woke up Thursday morning to sunshine and cloud-free blue skies, feeling ready to get out of the apartment but sad to leave because there was still so much of Bath we wanted to explore. We had a quick cup of coffee with our pastries and were out the door a little after 9:00, even though our train didn’t leave until nearly 10:43. That was another thing that had gone a bit wrong for us – I had booked the 9:43 train to get us back to Moreton-in-Marsh in time to catch the bus back to the Blockley, but when I downloaded our tickets they were for the 10:43 train (along with a different itinerary). The new schedule got us into Moreton 30 minutes after the bus to Blockley had departed and with another two hours to go before the next one so we ended up having to pay for a taxi to get back to the cottage. And, to add a bit more insult to injury, I had also reserved forward-facing seats both coming and going, but our assigned seats were all rear-facing.

We are glad to be back “home” and looking forward to resting up this weekend and then enjoying our last two full weeks in Blockley. Our recent trips to Edinburgh, London, Oxford and now Bath have made us realize that while we were happy to have been able to visit these places, we really don’t care for the frenzy of short visits anymore and prefer to stay somewhere long enough to discover and enjoy a place at our leisure. While we’ve loved seeing what we could in these cities, the short, hurried trips left us feeling exhausted and unsatisfied because of all that we missed. But, you go with the schedule you have, not the one you wished you had.

16 thoughts on “A (Very) Short Visit to Bath

  1. Majestic buildings! How clever and beautiful is the curved weir! Great that Brett got to catch up with his classmate.

    I love trying local food. You’ve given me several things to add to my visit to Bath list. The buns and the free guided walk.

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    1. I don’t think that under different circumstances the buns would be all that, but the history behind them combined with the visit to the house made them a must try for us. The bun was incredibly light, and not in the least chewy either.

      You will swoon over the buildings. I’m so glad we were able to get a look at the Assembly Rooms – they were breathtaking. Anytime I see a period, Jane Austin-ish movie or show now I will be looking for those rooms (or at least thinking about them).

      The tour was very good and very informative.

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  2. Did this air bnb have superhost status? I have only used the platform once and it was fine but my daughter was able to personally go look at the house. I am leery because of a friend who had major problems with air bnb in Las Vegas.

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    1. This is the first instance where we’ve been disappointed by an Airbnb rental. I think frankly that we’ve been spoiled by the quality and cleanliness of the places we’ve stayed up until now. This place got very good reviews so maybe others thought it was fine, but it pales in comparison to our previous rentals for a variety of reasons. The location however was perfect and made up for a lot of the other flaws.

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      1. I have to throw in here that we have stayed in some close-to-sketchy Rick Steves-recommended hotels in Europe, but darn if the locations weren’t always fantastic. Like you, I’m guessing, location trumps amenities when we travel . . . just like in real estate! 😊

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  3. I loved reading about your time spent in Bath and seeing the pictures brought back so many wonderful memories. I was amazed at the age of old some of the buildings. And the fact that the Baths are 2000 years old is just incredible! The pictures of the Royal Crescent really don’t do it justice. I didn’t realize that the backs of the building were different. Sorry to hear the Air B&B was a disappointment but glad you weren’t staying there for an extended period of time.

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    1. The baths were magnificent, and it was so nice to be there and not overrun by other visitors. You’re right about the Royal Crescent too – both Brett and I gasped when we came around the corner and saw it. We learned about the backs being different when we were on the walking tour – the guide was showing us these different but attached terraced homes and then walked us around to inside The Circus and we could see that we had been looking at the back of the building! He said the Royal Crescent was the same.

      The Airbnb was OK for a couple of nights but it paled in comparison to other places we’ve stayed, so it was very disappointing for us.

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  4. We had fun on our trip to Bath last year and did it as 2 day trips from our lodgings nearby in Bristol. We saw many of the same things as you did. We thought the ha-ha was cool, too. And had our Bath buns turned into pizzas! If I went back I would want to go to the local museum about geology and industry, and find out more about how they quarried the golden sandstone. But I am nerdy that way 🙂 And also see the Fashion Museum, highly recommended by Vivien at wherethejourneytakesme2.

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    1. The Fashion Museum is in the basement of the Assembly Rooms. We got there too late in the afternoon to have time to see it so we just looked around the Assembly Rooms and gawked at the chandeliers. I would be interested in knowing more about quarrying the sandstone – we have seen on the maps that there are still some operating quarries in the area where we’re staying.

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  5. You know, as much of a wonderful time as you two are having, why settle down anywhere anytime soon? I can see the joy in living footloose and fancy free such as you and Brett are doing. I’m thinking we will start with 30 day one location travel, and see how and where that goes. At the top of that slow-go list currently would be London, Paris, Tokyo, or Sydney. No bad choices among them!

    We loooooved Bath when we were there in 2004. So elegant! And the Roman Baths were historically amazing, as you’ve shared here.

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    1. We are not in a hurry to settle down – everytime we think we are, then we think on it for a while and realize we want to keep going! We are enjoying not being encumbered with all the expenses that come along with being settled: rent/mortgage, taxes, utilities, car and all that goes with that, etc. I know the time will come, but we’re not there yet.

      Our one-month stays have been wonderful. Three months has come to be a bit too long for us (we start to get restless after two months), but makes sense in places like Tokyo where there’s family we wouldn’t see as much of otherwise.

      BTW, we will be in a different apartment (same host, same building though) when we visit Tokyo next year. I will let you know what I think of it because the location is wonderful, and the price amazing for a one-bedroom apartment in Tokyo.

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      1. After I wrote I went to look at what’s available on Airbnb and yikes! Prices are outrageous for very little, but that may be because prices have been adjusted already for the Olympics. We’re getting way more apartment for half the price.

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