July 24, 2013
Ever since I first visited the World Heritage City of Bath on my 16th birthday, it’s held a special place in my heart, with its striking architecture and pretty Georgian streets. I’ll confess that the reason behind my initial visit was mainly in the hope that I might catch a glimpse of my ‘80s pop idols, Tears For Fears, who were born and raised in the city. I wasn’t lucky enough to spot them that day (although I did meet them years later!) but, nevertheless, I have been entranced by Bath ever since. Here are a few of my favourite spots…
The shopping in Bath is great – compact enough to walk around with plenty of quirky independent shops, interspersed with familiar High Street chains. The best streets for exploring are east, west and north of Milsom Street. Shopping obviously requires regular pit stops, so this is where Café Lucca comes in! Based in Bath’s antiques quarter in The Loft (a clothes, homeware and furniture emporium), this airy Italian café serves up fresh seasonal salads and enormous slabs of cake. A more traditional refreshment option is Sally Lunn’s, named after a French refugee who arrived in Bath 300 years ago. Serving freshly-baked Bath buns with a variety of homemade toppings (the cinnamon butter is particularly delicious), the bake house doubles up as a museum and is one of the city’s oldest houses.
From old to new, The Bath Thermae Spa finally opened in 2006, but I didn’t get to visit until spring this year. It really exceeded my expectations too: a two-hour pass (£26 pp) provides access to four floors of hedonistic heaven. Think saunas, steam rooms, pools and Jacuzzis, with the highlight being the superb open air rooftop pool – heated to 91 F year-round – which was wonderful, given the freezing temperatures outside. With views towards Bath’s rolling hills and the majestic Abbey, this was money very well spent.
Every city break requires a tipple or two and last year I came across The Canary Gin and Wine Bar. Tucked away in Queen Street, it’s a fabulous spot for a cocktail or a glass of bubbly, with a very relaxed vibe. This intimate little bar in one of Bath’s prettiest side streets has flock wallpaper, black wooden floors and a roaring log fire in winter. And, if you over-indulge, it is opposite a great café for brunch the following day. Wild Café serves builder’s tea and the most delicious avocado on toasted sour dough for under £6.
No visit to Bath is complete without seeing Pulteney Bridge – one of only four bridges in the world with shops spanning it on both sides. Designed by the Scottish neoclassical architect, Robert Adams, and completed in 1774 at the cost of £11,000, it is picture-perfect. And, if you’ve visited the Ponte Vecchio in Florence, you’ll notice the striking similarities immediately.
Head to Bath on a Sunday. Most hotels impose a minimum two-night stay over the weekend, so if you’d rather treat yourself to a great hotel for one night or if you only have the time to visit for 24 hours, Sunday is ideal. It is also more lenient on parking, which can be a major issue. Notable hotels include The Kennard, an exquisitely-restored Georgian townhouse just five minutes’ stroll to the city centre, Lucknam Park, an imposing Palladian mansion a few miles outside the city that’s set in 500 acres. Alternatively, the no-frills Travelodge is housed in a traditional Bath Stone building and has one of the most central locations. Best of all, it’s only 20 paces from Cafe Lucca’s Victoria Sponge!