7.30 am and sipping a steaming cup of hot chocolate in my thermos outside London Victoria station. After boarding the National Express coach I ease into the comfy seats and we zigzag through the waking streets on the 3 hours (115 miles) journey, to Bath. From the large windows, the city begins to melt away and after an hour we are barreling along with the M4 through the rolling hills of Gloucestershire. Vivid greens and striking skies, cattle and sheep dotted around, in the countryside which has barely changed since inspiring landscape artists from the 19th century such as Thomas Barker (Barker of Bath). Looking up we are accompanied by the majestic silhouettes of birds of prey – numerous red kites and kestrel hover and soar with the ascending sun.
Bath is one of the oldest cities in England. Originally a Celtic settlement in the valley of the River Avon, and home to the only hot spring in the UK, it was given the Latin name Aquae Salis (the waters of Salis). Salis, a Celtic goddess was appropriated by the Romans after the construction of the military road the still existing Fosse Wayinaround 60AD, connecting the ancient Roman cities of Bath, Cirencester, Leicester and Lincoln, linking the southwest to the northeast. Checking out the Roman Temple of Salis Minerva, I learn it was built to incorporate the native and Roman gods in order to assimilate the hostile Celts. Today the museum at the baths contains a wealth of Roman artefacts, presumably offerings thrown into the waters. After the departure of the Romans in 400 AD, the springs fell into disrepair but later the Georgians and Victorians created the impressive architecture unique to Bath and known the world over. And while I could no longer take a dip in the old baths, boreholes from the springs have been drilled in the newly constructed Thermae Bath Springs, so you can get a taste and feel for the sodium, sulphur, chloride and calcium ion infused waters.
The Georgian architecture of Bath is a favourite backdrop for period TV dramas and movies including the wildly successful Bridgerton (2020) featuring the stunning Royal Crescent in the same TV show’s opening titles. The Royal Crescent is the enormous sweeping curve of Georgian masonry in front of a wonderful expanse of grass, with a quiet cosy, atmosphere, and a popular spot to picnic and watch the sun go down. And later, I take a stroll to the nearby exquisite Circus Restaurant with an impressive selection of fish from the nearby port city of Bristol (also an essential location to visit 11 miles away).
Bath is the capital and the jewel of the county of Somerset, historically vital in the formation of the British Isles, home to Sulis Minerva the Roman goddess of arts, crafts, and later war. A city alive with historic architecture and maintaining a very English flavour, and an ancient gateway from the west to the north. It is not uncommon to see streets closed with film crews, and after a visit, you will be amazed how many times you will see the city as a background to period dramas: the modern adaptation of Sherlock Holmes with Benedict Cumberbatch as well as TV detective drama McDonald and Dodds, all testimony to how remarkably preserved and alive the city remains. So check the travel site Omio to book your trip back in time and get a taste of Bath’s riches.