Bath Time in Bath!
Words by and photography by Peter Thorpe
Bath is one of the most beautiful and charming cities in England
We visited Bath as part of our bus tour of Devon and Cornwall in the south of England. The tour actually continued on to the Cotswolds but there is so much to see and do in Bath, we decided to leave the tour in Bath and stay on there for a couple of nights. So glad we did.
Bath is a truly amazing city, rich in history, both ancient, going back to before Roman times, and more recently as the home of the famous authoress Jane Austen. Today, the entire city of Bath is a UNESCO World Heritage site, famous for its beautiful 18th-century Georgian architecture, which includes the Royal Crescent and Circus.
According to legend, Bath was founded by the legendary King Bladud, father of King Lear, who discovered that the waters here possess healing powers. Poor Prince Bladud was wandering the countryside in 863 BC having been banished from the kingdom, due to his incurable leprosy. All he had for company and a source of income, was a herd of pigs, who also caught his skin condition.
Luckily for him, his fortunes were about to change due to his pigs.
The Roman Baths are amazingly well preserved
The only thing pigs love more than rolling in mud is, rolling in nice warm mud. This is exactly what they did when, roaming through the area, now known as Bath.
And while Bladud probably didn’t take much notice of the mud-rolling, he certainly did notice that the steaming mud appeared to cure the pigs’ leprosy. Amazed at the apparent health-giving benefits of the hot springs, he applied the mud to his own skin and experienced the same miraculous cure! So much so, he was able to return to his kingdom, where he became the ninth king of the Britons, and later went on to found the city of Bath.
Roman artifacts and statues abound - like this bust - circa BC
Well, that’s what the legend says. Officially, the Romans were the founders of Bath or Aquae Sulis, as they called it. However, Bladud is referenced in a number of historical texts, and features on several old coins, one of which has inscribed upon it, ‘Bladud Founded Bath’.
In the 1st century AD, the Romans established their settlement and subsequently built their baths, which remain one of the best preserved Roman bathhouses in existence.
A visit to the Roman Baths is compulsory for anyone who comes here. The baths and the buildings that house them are amazingly well preserved and there are many Roman artifacts and statues on display. The tour takes about one to two hours and is really quite fascinating.
Patsy gets to know Jane Austen at the Jane Austen Centre
Bath was also the home of Jane Austen between 1801-06. Pride and Prejudice and Mr Darcey etc. Her original home, now the Jane Austen Centre, is open for inspection and comes complete with life-size models of Jane and other characters from her novels. Don’t miss this place if you get here.
I get a haircut from the Demon Barber of Bath!
Also, I had a haircut Bulgarian style while I was there. If you look closely you will see the barber has a flaming stick, which he waves at you and burns all the hair out of your ears. If he’s not too careful, he could easily burn your ears off too! Hmmm – I don’t think I’ll be coming back here for a haircut any time soon!
English pubs are a great way to get to know the locals
Also, visited the Bath Rugby field. Unfortunately, the clubhouse only opens on game days. We were a week ahead of the season but last night they had a pre-season trial and it was sold out – 23,000 tickets. Rugby is alive and well here in Bath! Had a beer at The Boater nearby. English pubs are great. The beer is surprisingly good and it’s a great way to get to know the locals.
An opera singer busks in the streets and a phone box converted to an ATM
This is obviously a culture vulture’s town – first time I’ve seen a first-class opera singer perform Nessun Dorma, busking in the street! And good to see they finally found a good use for those old red phone boxes – as recycled ATMs!
Things to do here include; visiting the Baths, exploring the architecture, visiting the Jane Austen Centre, taking in a show at the iconic Theatre Royal and trying the local delicacy – a Bath Bun.