Bath is one of my favourite cities in England. I love the architecture, the boutique shopping, the history and the friendliness of the locals. I remember the first time that I visited Bath on a school trip. As our coach drove around the corner from Bathampton to the south we got our first glimpse of the city built of stone in the valley below us. I instantly fell in love with the beauty of the city and have loved it ever since. I was thrilled when my husband decided to treat to to a surprise weekend away there for our 10th wedding anniversary.
I love being mummy but a weekend to be me was something to be very excited about. I was determined to make the most of it. Shopping with a toddler is one of my most stressful encounters. I do my food shopping online as much as possible but trips to the shops tend to be no more than 3 shops in one outing and a rush in, buy and get out whilst trying to keep J from hiding in between clothes, running out of the store, or choosing himself a present – it is not a relaxing experience. I was very much looking forward to enjoying mooching and browsing the shops at leisure and so this is what we spend most of our time doing. If you haven’t been to Bath before, the shopping is a real highlight, especially compared the rather lame offering of my home town.
We were lucky enough to stay in the beautiful 5* boutique hotel, The Tasburgh, in Bathampton, a 20 minute walk into the city. This luxury hotel is small, personal and full of luxury touches – you can read more about it in my review. We walked into the city from our hotel along the canal and refuelled with a bagel for lunch, we were planning of visiting the architectural highlight of the Crescent (Georgian mansions in a crescent shape with a grassy lawn in front of them) but the rain had other plans and a heavy shower forced us to turn back and I spotted Bravissimo. This is a shop that I have wanted to visit in awhile but we don’t have one near us, so in we headed to keep dry and have a browse. It certainly didn’t disappoint and by the time we came home I had new underwear in the car.
Once the rain shower stopped, we headed up to the Circus, a circular grouping of Georgian Mansions and the Crescent and admired the homes of the Bath elite and peeked through the windows into their minimalistic and sometimes rather grand living spaces. You can visit No. 1 which is set up as a Georgian mansion but the £10 entrance cost seemed a little steep so we decided to give it a miss on this visit.
To continue the Georgian theme, I would have loved to visit the Jane Austen Centre and the Assembly Rooms which also houses a fashion museum, but hubby was rather less thrilled at the prospect so I will bring my mum next year as she will appreciate it far more than he would have.
We contemplated visiting the wonderful Roman Baths, one of my favourite Bath attractions, but the queue was massive and it had started raining again so we decided to pass. If you haven’t been and you enjoy history though then I would definitely recommend a visit. I have visited 4 or 5 times and never been disappointed. There is an excellent audio guide which tells you all about the Roman Baths and the artefacts that were discovered when they were excavated. It is also a great place to take older children and the children’s audio guide is one of the best I have heard.
We spent the rest of the afternoon shopping. Where not to shop is more the question when it comes to Bath. They seem to have everything you need. If you are looking for high street fashion find the colourful umbrellas of Southgate. Here you will find everything from Primark to M&S. Further up the road, towards the Circus, you will find a wide collection including Jolly’s department store, Hobbs, T.M. Lewin and my new favourite shop, Bravissimo – who knew that underwear could be so comfortable!
Intermingled with the usual high street shops, you will find plenty of independent or smaller boutique shops and coffee shops selling everything from antiques to second hand books; from fudge to plug sockets. If you want it, I’m pretty sure Bath has it.
At Christmas, Bath offers an excellent Christmas market alongside it’s already wonderful collection of shops. You should be able to tick off all of your list in one weekend, but I would recommend a whole weekend and a trip to the spa to help soothe those aching feet and weighed down shoulders.
In the evening, we headed into Bath for dinner, without a reservation anywhere. This was a big mistake! If you are visiting Bath please book somewhere in advance so as not to have to walk around the city looking for somewhere with a table as we did. Food and I have a difficult relationship, so hubby thought it would be easier to find something on the day, but with Bath rugby team playing at home, Jane Austen Festival and tourists aplenty it wasn’t the easiest to find a place to eat.
We tried to book the Hall and Woodhouse Gastropub as recommended by our hotel, but it was fully booked, so I would suggest it is pretty good. We also wondered into an Italian called Amarone which I would definitely book for next time I visit because it smelt amazing and was full but not too expensive.
We ended up in Prezzos which served delicious food, had excellent service and the décor resembled the indoor of a train tunnel which was pretty cool, so all was good, but it wasn’t quite what either of us had in mind.
After dinner, we had a stroll through the city stopping at a couple of pubs along the way. The Crystal Palace was a particular favourite. It is situated just around the corner from the Roman Baths and is very cosy on the inside with big comfy seats and has a lovely conservatory and garden too.
On Sunday, hubby had booked a 3 hour session for us at the Bath Thermae Spa. I was very excited about this as we have tried several times to go over the years and been defeated either by the queues on the day or by other factors. We had 2 hours use of the spa facilities and an hour for lunch. A dressing gown, towel and flip flops (which you can keep if you wish) are provided. I do feel I should point out that this isn’t what I would expect to find in a hotel spa, it is more like an adult spa version of Centre Parcs. It was also pretty busy, so if you prefer it quiet then a weekday may be a better option. There was the option to book a treatment but when I called to book they could only offer one during my 2 hour spa slot. I didn’t want to choose this option so I didn’t get to try them out.
The Thermae has a rooftop pool which is sourced from the original thermal spring and is delightfully warm. There are bubbles the side facing the Abbey and a small water fountain on the other side. You can use a woggle to help you float if you wish. We spent a lovely relaxing 40 minutes in this pool. I recommend taking sunglasses on a sunny day. The only downside was getting out of the pool as it was really windy and felt freezing! The dressing gown was very useful.
We then visited the Wellness Suite, which is where the saunas, steam rooms, a relaxing room and a range of showers are located. I am not a fan of saunas or steam rooms but I enjoyed the hot showers which warmed me up nicely after getting out of the rooftop pool.
After this we visited the inside pool downstairs. It was cooler than the rooftop pool so we headed to the Jacuzzi which is a subsection of the main pool so although there were bubbles, it was the same temperature as the main pool which was a little disappointing. They have a small floating river though which was fun and lots of people enjoyed using the woggles to float slowly along. I preferred to lay on my back as it was faster.
Then it was time for lunch. We chose a hot meal. I had a delicious gammon, new potatoes and roasted veg option and hubby had chicken with roasted veg and potato. The service was great and we had a window seat with a view overlooking the square outside.
The Bath Thermae Spa is a great place to relax and enjoy the original spring waters that drew many wealthy people to Bath in the past. It is the only place in England where you will be able to bath in the original spring source. A little pricey, but I loved the rooftop pool and I would recommend eating there as the food was delicious. I felt very relaxed and sleepy when I left.
Once back outside, we had a couple of hours to pass before we headed home. On the recommendation of a friend who used to live in Bath we visited the Fudge Kitchen near the Abbey. Oh this is absolutely Fudge Heaven! When I was forced to give up dairy I had presumed that fudge was a treat of the past, but no more! The Fudge Kitchen sells vegan fudge. On the day I was there they had caramel and chocolate. The caramel was a little too sweet for me, but the chocolate tasted like chocolate brownies and is absolutely divine. Not to be missed if you are a fudgeaholic.