“Oh! Who can ever be tired of Bath?” - Jane Austen
Green British countryside flicked by the train window on the Grand Western Railway’s line from London Paddington to Bristol Temple Meads. Barns and sheds, heaps of hay, a flock of sheep, and a narrow, slow stream dominated the view. After passing through a long tunnel, the countryside quickly turned into a collection of small towns and villages with beautiful churches sticking above everything else within sight. Then, the train suddenly reached the sprawling outskirts of Bath with beautiful cream buildings rising in every direction. Crossing a bridge, we passed over the River Avon with a purple and black boat sitting on its own off to the left. Soon, we pulled into the station: Bath Spa. Even the name alone is a breath of fresh air.
From the main entrance and exit of the train station, I bound left going through a brick tunnel with bikes lined up in racks. Opting not to walk through Bath’s city centre just yet, I instead crossed a green bridge and followed the sidewalk running along River Avon. Occasional black benches spotted along the route provide an opportunity to take in the views along the water. Curling to the left, the river flowed under bridges and leafy trees, and I began to see the centre of Bath on the opposite side of the canal.
Straight ahead, Pulteney Bridge and the weir came into view. Off to the right was a labyrinth, Beazer Maze. I walked the maze, but a small child had more success than me making it to the beautiful mosaic in the center. Then, I took the steps up to Pulteney Bridge and explored the shops, cafes, and restaurants that filled the street. Bath’s city centre is packed with cute boutiques and trendy cafes and pubs, and Pulteney Street is a wonderful place to start.
After a few shops and lunch, I made my way to the Parade Gardens, a picturesque park that had caught my eye on the opposite side of River Avon. Walking down the steps to the gardens, I already knew how well spent the £1.50 admission was. The flowers were vibrant purples, reds, oranges, and yellows and beautifully . Views of Pulteney Bridge, the weir, Bath Abbey, and surrounding buildings make it a perfect spot to kick your feet up. The gardens also feature a bandstand situated in the centre of a flawlessly-manicured lawn where couples and groups of friends sat together basking in the British sun. Parents set up picnics on blankets, while kids took full advantage of the freedom to run around.
On the grounds of the gardens, there is also the Parade Gardens Café. As soon as I saw a sign for cream tea for £5.95, I knew I couldn’t pass it up. West country clotted cream, strawberry preserve, and a strawberry, in addition to a pot of black tea, came with the fresh scones. I enjoyed my treat on the white iron tables with a perfect view of the bandstand and Bath Abbey. The café also serves delicious looking cakes and refreshments. Parade Gardens is open all year long, while the café is open seven days a week between April 1st and September 30th from 12:30 pm to 5:00 pm, weather permitting.
Scooting back across Pulteney Bridge, I wanted to visit more of Bath’s parks, so I made my way to Henrietta Park. It has many large, overhanging trees making shade across some of the paths and lawns. You can stroll among the trees and flora or take a seat on a bench and take in the tranquility of this park. It’s lovely how quiet and peaceful it is even with its close proximity to the city centre.
A short walk from Henrietta Park is Sydney Gardens, the city’s oldest park. Packed with flower beds, trees, lawns, and tennis courts, it’s easy to see why Sydney Gardens was frequented by Jane Austen and numerous members of the Royal Family. The bridge in the gardens also offers views of the Kennet & Avon Canal and the railway line.
Flowing right through Sydney Gardens, the Kennet and Avon Canal has a path running alongside the canal for cyclists and pedestrians. Chances are you’ll quickly see at least one boat chauffeuring people around along the canal. I went through a tunnel and under bridges, passing beautiful homes butted up to the canal. It’s a peaceful and picturesque wander. I could see the reflection of the sky in the calm waters. And all too soon I was back to where I started walking along the River Avon near the train station.
I wasn’t ready for my trip to Bath to come to an end, so I decided to pay a visit to Alexandra Park as the finale. Located at the top of Beechen Cliff, which sits behind the bus and train station, I made my way to the park via a set of steep stairs called Jacob’s Ladder. I hiked up to the park in about 30 minutes occasionally taking photos and wiping the sweat from my brow. Offering the best overlook of Bath, I was amazed by the panoramic views of the stunning city and surrounding areas. These impressive views are a great way to cap off your trip to Bath. Also it’s location near the bus and train station make it easy to include even in a day trip.
Bonus tips for your trip to Bath
If you have the time, the Roman Baths museum is a must. I forked over the £15.50 for a single adult ticket to learn more about the city of Bath and the majesty and history behind the Roman Baths. With excellent audio guides and videos, this museum is an interactive and fun way to learn about the baths. I was especially enthralled by Bill Bryson’s audio clips.
Less than 500 feet away from the Romans Baths is Thermae Bath Spa, a historic spa — actually the only naturally warm, mineral rich water in all of Britain. Having reopened in 2006, the Thermae Bath Spa allows locals and tourists to enjoy the waters as the Romans and Celts did over 2,000 years ago. The spa also features an open-air rooftop pool with magnificent views of Bath’s centre by day or night. It’s £35 for a base level two-hour spa session from Monday to Friday, and on Saturday and Sunday it’s £38.
Looking for a unique gift or souvenir? Stop by Bath Aqua Glass, an independent glass production company making and selling jewelry, glassware, tableware, and ornaments. Bath Aqua Class has two central locations in Bath. (P.S. I’ve visited their store next to the Roman Baths twice and bought something on both occasions.)
Feeling artsy? The Holburne Museum, Bath’s first public art gallery, is situated in front of Sydney Park. It has free admission but a £5 donation is recommended so they can keep their doors open. The museum store also sells beautiful gifts, souvenirs, and local art.
Bath, UK is one of those destinations where it’s impossible not to be amazed by its beauty and utter serenity. They’re really doing things right in Bath, so lap it up while you can.