The whole Island feels old, the British Isles, are famed for the aura that they give off, an aura that is both dreary and beautiful. Rolling hills are flanked with outcrops of moss covered rocks, and flocks of sheep roam in fenced pastures, while stone homes dot the landscape, and it is something that looks and feels as if out of a fairy tale; the English countryside has a unique charm and feels that is its own. Anyone traveling to the U.K., which has many travelers, should get out and visit the countryside even if only for a day. There are plenty of options for great towns and cities, York, Bath, Cornwall, Brighton, and Norfolk.
I found the star of the bunch to be Bath. When selecting a weekend get-away from London, Bath becomes an easy decision for convenience, price, culture, and ambiance. The city is a well-preserved treasure of Georgian architecture that is complemented by trendy shopping piazzas and a Roman bath that still holds thermal waters. The Roman bath is the largest draw of the city and where the cities namesake comes from. As to the Georgian architecture, The Grand Royal Crescent showcases Georgian Architecture at its peak. With three Michelin starred restaurants in the area, charming English cafes, chic bars, and plenty of classic English pubs finding something to eat in the city is anything, but a struggle. Upon arrival it becomes easy to understand why Jane Austen set two of her six published books in Bath, even living in the city for 5 years herself.
The city once served as a weekend getaway for the British aristocracy coming from London, and it is still convenient to do so. Travel to Bath can also be very affordable. Coaches from London can be had for several quid and take only a couple of hours to Bath. Located in the center of Somerset region, it surrounded by a region rich in heritage, natural landscapes, and food.
Euphoria in classic Roman Baths
The Roman Baths are a key attraction. Still fed by a natural hot spring spitting out water at a steamy 46 C it’s not difficult to imagine what it was like back in ancient times. Attached to the Roman baths is the “Pump Room,” a restaurant now serving afternoon tea, and even some of the mineral spring water. Built in 70 AD the ruins are now considered to be one the best preserved Roman ruins in the world. Entry into the museum truly transports visitors to a steamy ancient Roman Bath, providing a true immersion to the former days of an empire.
Having afternoon tea is pretty much the quintessential English experience, and an experience all should have. Bath has a wide selection of tea houses to select from, offering all the dainty sandwiches and scones you can eat. Don’t forget a lashing of clotted cream.
The Pump Room
As mentioned before the having tea at the Pump Room is a classic affair in Bath. They offer a wide selection of loose leaf teas to select from, and scones with a lashing of clotted cream. It dates back to the Georgian period and has remained the place to have tea when visiting Bath.
If you’re looking for a class establishment to have your afternoon tea you can not go wrong with Sally Lunns. Located in the one of the oldest buildings in Bath Sally Lunns lives up to its famous reputation. The draw here is for their famous Sally Lunn buns, a cross between brioche bread and a bun. They offer selections such as walnut butter, dulce de leche milk jam, and Ivy House clotted cream.
Bea’s Vintage Tearoom
Located right next to Bath’s Assembly Room and the Fashion Museum, the tearoom is right at the center of town. The interior is decorated with old Wartime Posters, patterned tablecloths, and delicate tea sets. Have a generous helping of some jam and clotted cream with your scone while enjoying the positively English atmosphere.
Reaching out above the Roman baths is the wonderful Bath Abbey, known for being one of the last grand cathedrals to be built in U.K., check out the western side to find angels climbing up and down ladders depicting a dream had by the founding bishop. The Abbey was constructed in the 12th century and is a terrific embodiment of perpendicular Gothic architecture. A key focal point of the cathedral is its unique fan vaulting ceiling found only in a handful of historical buildings still standing in England.
Georgian Architecture Abounds
Another must see is the Pulteney Bridge and weir, two beautiful pieces of architecture, both of which are UNESCO World Heritage sites. It features shops on both sides and spans across the Avon River. The best views are had from perusing the shops and catching glimpses out the windows. While the waterside park offers a view of the bridge overlooking the weir. For those that are movie buffs, the weir is where Javert, in Tom Hooper’s Les Miserables, takes his life by plunging into the water feature below.
Other must-see sites are the Royal crescent, Victoria Park (my favorite), The Bath Assembly Rooms, the Fashion Museum, and Prior Park. The shopping in the city is unrivaled, although they aren’t anything special it was the first time I walked into both a lush and H&M (the jacket I was wearing when I met Tasha came from here, and she just learned that reading this). To me as an American, it reminded me of a Charleston feel with great food, and beautiful promenades with plenty of shopping. There are plenty of boutique shops to go window-shopping here, but those of us on a budget it’s probably best to just enjoy the sites of fashion.
After a day of wandering around the city, it’s great to settle down and have a pint in one of the many pubs spread throughout the city. Bath is positively English, charming, and unique, I would say a must for anyone with the time or desire to visit to do so. With the close proximity to London makes it only make it that much more appealing.