The city of Bath Spa is a great place to visit. It is of course the home of the mineral baths, first discovered by the Romans, and then later became fashionable with the Georgians and Victorians. It is also the setting for many Jane Austen novels, where the heroine would often spend time in the fashionable society there. One weekend recently, I decided it was about time I re-acquainted myself with the delights of Bath and it's numerous diversions (as Ms Austen would say). The day I chose was fine but not sunny and as ever Bath was teaming with shoppers and tourists.
Like any city centre, Bath has the usual high street shops deposited along the main roads, but it also has many fine shops and smaller more unusual shops too, selling gifts, jewellery and couture. The photo above shows one of the smaller side streets. Down this street there is a shop called 'Ben's Cookie's' which makes the best cookies I have ever tasted. Needless to say, that as I ambled down this narrow lane, a strange force pulled me towards the doorway of the cookie purveyors and then the sweet aroma carried me to the counter where I was powerless to resist. One fine cookie later I continued contentedly on my way and popped out near the Roman baths.
The Romans occupied Bath shortly after their invasion of Britain in 43 AD, being drawn to the area by the hot mineral springs situated there. They knew it as Aquae Sulis (literally 'the waters of Sul'). Increasingly grand temples and bathing complexes were built in the area, including the Great Bath. This was rediscovered from the 18th century onward, when the assembly rooms and pump room were added and has become one of the city's main attractions. The main entrance to the Baths is shown in the photo above.
I passed by this and wend my way down the adjoining street until I came to the park which is situated by the river. I captured a view of it in the photo above showing the band stand and an example of the gorgeous buildings for which the city is also known. Many of the buildings in Bath would have been present when Jane Austen moved to the city with her father, mother and sister Cassandra in 1801. The family remained in the city at four successive addresses until 1806, however Jane never liked the city, and after leaving it wrote to her sister Cassandra, "It will be two years tomorrow since we left Bath for Clifton, with what happy feelings of escape." Despite these feelings, her novels Northanger Abbey and Persuasion are largely set in the city.
I carried on past the park and then crossed the river to walk along the opposite bank which afforded me the lovely view of Bath Abbey, shown in the photo above. Originally a Norman church on earlier foundations, it was rebuilt in the early 16th century and transformed into a grand monastic church with Perpendicular architecture. The river walk took me down towards Pulteney Bridge and the weir (photo below). Pulteney Bridge crosses the River Avon and was completed in 1773. It is one of only four bridges in the world with shops across the full span on both sides. I climbed the steps by the bridge which took me over it and ventured back into the city centre where I found a small cafe to revive me before continuing.
I did a little shopping and some more walking, not really going anywhere but going down this or that street, going left or right as the mood took me. One such turn took me down a more quiet back street shown in the last photo. The dominant style of architecture in Bath is Georgian and many of the prominent architects of the day were employed in the development of the city. As a result Bath has many fine terraces, however, the original purpose of much of Bath's fine architecture was as purpose-built lodging houses, where visitors could hire a room, a floor, or (according to their means) an entire house for the duration of their visit as alluded to in Ms Austen's writings. If you find yourself in Wiltshire then I recommend a visit.