The city of Bath is a beautiful town in the rolling countryside of southwest England that is a great weekend trip for the family. It is just an hour from Stonehenge, the prehistoric monument in Wiltshire. My husband and I thought that we should get the two places done in a long weekend since they were so close together. Researching what else was close, we also decided to take a quick pit stop in Salisbury, which is just 8 miles north of Salisbury.
We started our weekend off in Bath, although you could do the trip in reverse order. Bath is a city that has originated and developed around its hot spring waters discovered by the Romans over 2,000 years ago. The city offers museums, galleries, gardens, and many other tourist attractions. We planned on going to 5 attractions while we were there. In no particular order, this is what I recommend during your time in Bath:
1. Roman Baths & Pump Room
Around England’s only hot spring, the Romans built a magnificent temple and bathing complex that still flows with natural hot water. While visiting, we walked on ancient stone pavements and learned about this place of worship and bathing. We decided to take the self-guided tour, although you can purchase headsets if you want more detailed information. The Pump Room is the restaurant right next to the Roman Baths that offers refreshments and tea.
2. Thermae Bath Spa
This was such a relaxing experience! This unique spa is the only place in the UK where you can bathe in natural hot waters. It offers facilities including a full range of spa treatments and therapies. Since we went in the summer, the line for those without an appointment was about an hour wait. If you are going during the week, it should be a lot less crowded. I suggest you make reservations in advance. Without an appointment, the £37 ticket gave us 60 minutes of access to the open-air rooftop pool, minerva bath, aroma steam rooms, and Spring Cafe restaurant. The rooftop pool was truly sensational with a view of the city as we swam in such hot water. This facility provides a robe, slippers, and towel so you don’t need to bring that. Just bring a change of clothes and bathing suit and you’ll be all set. They have changing rooms. Although the massage treatments sound incredible, I think they are a bit pricey but it’s worth looking into.
3. Bath Abbey
This cathedral that began in 1499 and stands on the foundation of two previous churches is right next to the Roman Baths. While we were there, we climbed the tower to get a spectacular view over the city. A guide leads you up the narrow stairs, shows you how the clock works, and lets you get directly behind the clock hands. This was the most access I have gotten from a church so I really enjoyed going up.
4. Royal Crescent, Circus, & Pulteney Bridge
The Royal Crescent was built between 1767 and 1775 and contains around 30 houses, one of which is now the Royal Crescent Hotel, a museum open to the public. We just went to look at the design and take a break sitting in the field and then we headed toward the circus. Viewed from the air, it forms the shape of a key. Pulteney Bridge is located closer to Bath Abbey and is a nice location for a stroll in the park or on the path by the water. You can get the best view of the Palladian architecture from Parade Gardens.
5. Jane Austen Centre
If you are a fan of Bath’s most famous resident, definitely go here to get a glimpse of life during Regency times and explore how living in this city affected Jane Austen’s life and writing. They offer teas and cakes in the Regency tea room, have a souvenir gift shop, and have someone out front dressed in character to greet you.
Our next stop on our trip was Stonehenge. We arrived early in the morning, got our tickets and then headed into the museum where they give a lot of background information and history of the monument. It was nice learning things that I hadn’t known about it before we went to see it. We could also see the neolithic houses to imagine how people lived 4,500 years ago. From the visitor center, we took a short bus ride (runs every 5-10 mins) to the stone circle. As of recently, the circle is roped off so you can only see it from a distance unless you go on special days. This is such an iconic symbol of England that I did not want to miss seeing
It was great to visit but definitely not something you can stare at forever. While I was looking at it, I thought about the movie Guilt Trip when Andy and his mom visit the Grand Canyon. There are no set rules that say you have to look at Stonehenge for a certain amount of time but anyone who has visited the natural wonder will tell you that it does get awkward after standing there staring at a bunch of rocks for so long.
After the morning spent at Stonehenge, we took a short drive to the town of Salisbury. I looked up a few things to see while were there and then headed home. The first thing we saw was Salisbury Cathedral. Some people don’t like looking at churches, but I think they are so pretty! Dating from the 13th century, Salisbury Cathedral is the tallest cathedral in England. It also contains one of the four original copies of the Magna Carta and the world’s oldest working clock (dating from 1386).
Next we saw Old Sarum, the site of the earliest settlement of Salisbury.This was neat to look at where a castle had stood on the mote and get great views over the Wiltshire plains. You can also stand in the footprint of Salisbury’s original cathedral. Over 2,000 years ago, the Romans, Normans and Saxons left their mark on this impressive landscape.
We grabbed a bite to eat and walked around the town for a bit before heading home from our long weekend. We really enjoyed our visit!