Let’s go to Bath
The insider's guide to scoffing, quaffing, shopping and just hanging out. Plus a light sprinkling of sightseeing and culture.
Sure, there are the Roman Baths, Jane Austen and it’s stuffed to the gills with gorgeous Georgian architecture – cripes, the whole city’s been designated an UNESCO World Heritage Site – but there’s so much more than history to discover in Bath.
Relaxed posh nosh at the Michelin One Starred The Olive Tree and sustainable veggie fare at the Michelin Green Starred Oak. Superb modern British food at buzzy neighbourhood restaurant The Circus. Surprise multi-course tasting menu at Menu Gordon Jones and the intimate Henry’s. Pizza acrobat Emiliano Tunno makes all sorts of dough – sourdough, hemp, black rice, even seaweed – for his speciality pizzas (and other Italian dishes) at Dough. Everything fishy at The Scallop Shell. Afternoon tea (with or without prosecco and gin), cakes and brownie boxes at Bath’s most Instagrammable cafe, the super floral Sweet Little Things. If it’s Indian street food you’re after, Chai Walla‘s veggie curries made by the owner’s mum and delicious bhaji roti wraps with salad, tamarind and mint sauce sold from the tiniest shop ever will hit the spot.
Opulent chic at The Bird, Victorian villa turned eclectic, avian-themed boutique hotel, a short hop from the city centre. Georgian townhouse hotels, the family and dog friendly No 15 Great Pulteney, The Queensberry, with the city’s only Michelin starred restaurant in the basement and the new and fabulous Hotel 8. A 5-minute stroll from the centre is family-run bijou B&B Brindley’s has just six rooms (said it was bijou). Combine the freedom of self-catering with the luxury of a hotel with the serviced Halcyon Apartments. Cheap as rather stylish chips is the YHA Bath, a golden-hued Victorian villa with some en suite bedrooms. For the best of both worlds, stay in the countryside just outside Bath at country house hotel Homewood Hotel & Spa or the super laid back The Pig, near Bath, where all the food comes from a 25 mile-radius.
Admire the Georgian buildings and streets around The Circus and Royal Crescent. Take a boat down the River Avon from Pulteney Bridge or see the sites from a stand up paddleboard with Original Wild. For a view of the city from the countryside around it, take the six-mile circular Bath Skyline walk through fields and ancient woodlands, past follies and an 18th century landscape garden.
You’re spoiled for choice for excellent coffee: Society Café, Café Lucca and, where coffees change weekly, Colonna & Small’s. Stop for a pint served from the jug at ye very olde pub (first licensed 1760), The Star Inn. Feel like a local at The Marlborough Tavern. Head to The Hare & Hounds to combine with views and a walk. Comptoir+Cuisine for champagne and cheese. The Hideout for their 200 whiskies. The Canary Gin Bar for guess what? Eat, party, live music and more at the urban warehousey Walcot House. And onto the wine: pour yourself into to the Michelin Bib Gourmand Beckford Bottle Shop or Corkage, to nibble on small plates, drink interesting wine by the glass or the bottle, then buy more bottles to take home.
Head up to the Bartlett Street Quarter at the top end of Bath’s main shopping drag to find sustainable women’s fashion Bibico, women and home stores The Loft and Toast (where they will repair any Toast garment for you for free). Nearby is St Margaret’s Buildings, a little pedestrian street lined with interesting independent shops including eclectic European clothing for men and women at Uber and affordable contemporary art at the Rostra Gallery. Walcot Street is known for its interiors shops. Peruse the goods in cool concept store Found on Argyle Street. Make a selection from Magalleria’s huge range of esoteric and ultra rad mags or get lost in the labyrinthine stairways and wood-panelled rooms of Rossiters, Bath’s idiosyncratic, independent department store – both of which are on Broad Street. Designer makers at Bath Artisan Market in the Abbey Quarter last Sunday of the month. Three brilliant bookshops: Mr B’s Emporium on John Street, Topping & Company on The Paragon and Persephone Books (who publish neglected fiction/non fiction by women writers) in the Edgar Buildings.
ICONIC HOT SPOTS
Where to start? Have tea in the Royal Crescent Hotel or see how the Georgians lived at the restored No 1 Royal Crescent. Cameras out ready to take pix of the super symmetrical Georgian townhouses encircling huge plane trees in The Circus en route to The Assembly Rooms (the place to be seen in the 18th century) with the Fashion Museum downstairs. Climb to the top of Bath Abbey. Scare yourself at Bath’s new immersive experience, Mary Shelley’s House of Frankenstein (she wrote part of her famous novel in the city). You can see the thermal waters at the historic Roman Baths, but you can’t jump in – do that at the rooftop pool at the iconic Thermae Bath Spa.
Bath’s dedicated children’s theatre, the egg has an eclectic programme for kids from 0 upwards, daytime shows, the chance to meet performers and a very nice cafe with healthy, veggie, vegan food – but don’t worry, there’s prosecco too. Everyone can let off steam in the huge fun children’s playground – a zipwire big enough for adults, climbing frames and slides, not – in the 57-acre Royal Victoria Park. A visit to Baths’ best toy shop is My Small World in the Southgate centre will keep the nippers busy for a while.
Stand on the spot where the planet Uranus was discovered. William Herschel designed his own telescope to identify Uranus at his house, now the Herschel Museum of Astronomy, in 1781. Sister Caroline was an important astronomer too. Find flea and food markets, indy shops and eateries under the huge glass-domed roof of former railway terminus Green Park Station.
Catch a show at the Theatre Royal‘s main auditorium or Ustinov Studio before it hits the West End. Festivals aplenty: the Bath Comedy Festival, the flagship multi-arts Bath Festival brings international musicians, writers and speakers to the city in the summer and the Bath Children’s Literature Festival, the largest in Europe, in Sept/Oct. If you must, dress up in Regency gear for the Jane Austen Festival in Sept. Gallery hounds: Holburne Museum (9,000 objects and paintings) and Victoria Art Gallery (along the same lines). Like your culture a bit more raunchy? Comedy, music, cabaret, burlesque and Bath’s biggest nightclub Motorcity at Komedia Bath.
OTHER MUDDY INSIDER GUIDES
- Bury St Edmunds
- Isle of Wight
- Leamington Spa
- St Albans
- St Ives