Monday, 16 June 2014

Four hours in Bath Spa

Last weekend we had some friends from New Zealand visiting. They only had a few hours in our part of the country so we suggested visiting Bath Spa. So, what to do with four hours in Bath?

Main pool of Roman baths
There are HEAPS of excellent touristy things to do in Bath (and Bristol, and the surrounding countryside), but with strictly limited time we settled on the Roman Baths. We'd never been but had heard that they were awesome. They were pretty awesome.

 Street level where the people are standing on the balcony is a storey above where the baths were. They had actors on the lower level by the pool interacting with visitors. These two were a wealthy Roman lady and her slave explaining about cosmetics and hair and the latest fashions from Rome. There was also a centurion showing off his armour.

Steps of Roman baths
One of the surprising things was that it was a huge place with lots of underground excavations and rooms full of Roman artifacts. It took us a good couple of hours to go around and that was travelling at a decent pace.

It was a massive complex in Roman times with a temple, bath houses, gymnasium and more.

Pediment of temple of Sulis Minerva
 This picture shows the ornamental pediment of the temple of Sulis Minerva with a fantastic Celtic-influenced gorgon's head. They projected images of what the whole thing would look like onto the remaining bits so you could really visualise it.

Head of Sulis Minerva
The face of the goddess Sulis Minerva was amazing - larger than life and so serene. Her gilt-bronze statue would have been kept in the 'holy of holies' by the sacred spring for only consecrated priests to see.

Pool inside Roman baths
The coins glimmering at the bottom of this underground pool make it look like the night sky. The Roman bath complex had a range of hot and cold pools and even a sauna.

The thing that broke my heart was that the water was completely untreated so it wasn't safe to swim in or paddle in or even touch. Coming from New Zealand where I frequently visited thermal hot pools, this made me sad.

You can buy an expensive 'Spas ancient and modern package' to be able to swim in the modern hot pools a few metres away from the Roman Baths (and you get lunch as well). You can also get a cheaper combined ticket to also be able to visit the Bath Fashion Museum. I got the combined ticket as the Fashion Museum is another place that I've heard is good but have never been. I'm going soon so I'll report back.

Roman baths overlooked by Bath Abbey
The Roman sacred place is now overlooked by a Christian sacred place - the stunning Bath Abbey. I highly recommend a visit here too. If you go for Evensong it's free to get in and you get to hear the choir of little boys in ruffs*!

*Evensong is a Christian service so don't go if that doesn't appeal. Also, the boys only sing part of the time, but there is always choral music and it's always lovely.

So that was our whistle-stop tour of Bath. A quick lunch and a dash into a couple of shops and our time was up. I think we made a good choice in our tourist attraction though, don't you?


  1. Oh yay! I adore Bath!
    I was fortunate to spent part of my studies at the University of Bath and, as a "resident", I got free entry to the Roman Baths so I took all of my visitors there (I think I went 5-6 times :-D )
    I was also fortunate enough to attend the University Christmas Carol service in the Abbey.

    I've spent time in Bath twice now and never got to bathe in the new baths - they were supposed to be open by the first time I was there and still weren't the second time (2004/5!)

    I look forward to hearing about the Fashion Museum (never got there). Did you know that there are free walking tours that are full of awesome insights (again, I took my visitors on them and it was great to get different info from the different guides).

    Oh oh! And the Sweet Shop! Okay, enough from me :-D

    1. Hi Michelle, no I didn't know about the walking tours, but I think I've probably been on enough of my own walking tours to soak up most of the atmosphere. My favourite place in Bath is the Holbourne art museum beside the Sydney Gardens.


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