If you are looking for a weekend break that is “quintessentially English”, then Bath in the south-west of England is your destination.
Bath’s famous Georgian architecture and cityscapes set a scene derived from a Jane Austin classic with cobbled streets, honey-coloured Bath stone buildings, lush green parks, and glowing lantern-style streetlamps.
You will find plenty to see and do in Bath and because it is a compact city most of these activities can be enjoyed over the space of a few days.
Bath was first established as a spa town in AD 43 and the ruins of the Roman geothermal baths and temple are still a prominent attraction in the centre of the city today.
Surrounded by rolling emerald green hills, the city attracts many visitors all-year-round and the atmosphere is best absorbed while wandering aimlessly along the narrow back streets that are lined with charming shops, restaurants and cafes.
Upscale boutiques, quaint tea rooms, and chic bars share the streets with local farmers markets, high street stores and traditional pubs.
There is something to suit everyone in Bath, from tasting local delicacies such as a Sally Lunn Bun or a pint of West Country cider, to watching a play at Theatre Royal Bath or bathing in naturally-heated mineral-rich waters at the Thermae Bath Spa.
Whatever your preference, the city’s enchanting ambience and beautiful landscapes will leave you wanting to revisit this delightful city time and time again.
Where to eat
The city is full to the brim with restaurants, bistro, cafes and pubs and the menus feature a wide range of international cuisine and locally-sourced gourmet delights.
Tilley’s Bistro is an independent restaurant tucked away from the main street in the picturesque North Parade Passage, offering a warm and inviting environment and an array of exquisite, traditional French dishes.
The two-level restaurant features a style of dining that is often associated with tapas restaurants and the evening menu offers over 40 starter-type dishes, enabling diners to sample as many as they wish.
Low wooden beamed ceilings in the lower level of the restaurant create a cosy setting for a celebration or romantic dinner and the wide choice of meat and vegetarian dishes range between £4 and £12. I highly recommend the Crepe a la Greque, a pancake filled with lamb, aubergine, tomato, onion and cinnamon, and creamy dauphinoise potatoes. Remember to leave enough room for dessert – the brandy snap filled with summer fruits, vanillas ice cream and clotted cream, is the perfect way to end the evening.
Located in Beehive Yard, Tramshed is a funky restaurant that boasts a varied menu, from pizzas and Mediterranean salads, to homemade gourmet burgers and grilled specialities. I tried the Tramshed Handmade Burger with onion, gherkin, mayo, relish and chorizo which was delivered on a rustic wooden slab. The quality of the meat and portion size was fantastic and great value for money at £10.95.
The quirky brightly coloured décor and wooden furnishings offer a contemporary setting that is perfect for meals with friends or a quiet glass of wine after work.
Where to drink
This is a great place for a sociable drink with friends on a weeknight or a fun-fuelled night out at the weekend. Located next to the Halcyon Hotel, the stylish cocktail bar and lounge is situated underground and includes a four-room low-lit vaulted cellar. One unique feature is a Chesterfield bed where friends can relax with a glass of wine or fruity cocktail while listening to some funky tunes.
DJs play a mix of electro-beats, funk, house and soul until 3am at weekends and if you develop a taste for something zingy, the Cocktail Masterclass (£20) provides the perfect opportunity where you can learn how to make three different cocktails.
The staff members are friendly, the atmosphere is sophisticated but not pretentious, and the music is varied but will no doubt have you dancing at some point during your evening.
Opa is a Greek-themed bar and restaurant located in North Parade near Pultney Bridge. The underground venue is perfect for private parties or a fun night out and the bar’s terrace offers an idyllic setting for a cocktail on those warm and balmy summer nights.
Whether you are after authentic Greek plate smashing, cocktail classes or dancing the night away, Opa is a vibrant bar with an electric atmosphere.
Where to Stay
Tucked away from Bath’s busy streets but still positioned in the heart of the city, Villa Magdala is a luxury bed and breakfast hotel with 20 spacious rooms.
The five-star property is just a five-minute walk from the centre and you can leave your car in the private car park and take a scenic stroll past Henrietta Gardens along streets that are lined with traditional Georgian terraced houses.
The rooms are airy and stylish with modern amenities such as flat-screen TVs, i-Home docking stations, wireless internet, and tea and coffee making facilities. The bathrooms are roomy and feature baths, separate power showers and fluffy towels.
The Hypnos beds with feather light goose down duvets enable a heavenly night’s sleep and the delicious, gourmet, home-cooked breakfast sets you up for the rest of the day, whether you are sight-seeing or working in the city.
Relax in the hotel’s tranquil garden or enjoy afternoon tea in the light and elegant dining room where you can admire views of Henrietta Park.
What to See and Do
Take a tour around the ancient Roman Baths and/or take a dip in the thermal spas
Enjoy afternoon tea and a traditional Bath bun at Sally Lunn’s Tea Rooms, the oldest house in Bath
Visit Bath Abbey and take the Tower Tour where you can admire panoramic views of the city
Have a picnic in Henrietta Gardens or Queens Square Park
Visit the Jane Austen Centre and learn about the author’s life in Georgian Bath.
Walk along Bath’s Royal Crescent and be transformed back in time to the Georgian days where wealthy residents and visitors would spend their time.
Go shopping! There are so many shops and markets to browse around in this beautiful city. I personally recommend the little jewellery store in the Guildhall Market, the Southgate Centre with a range of high street names, and the Farmer’s Market at Green Park Market every Saturday.
Villa Magdala, Henrietta Road – 01225 466329 http://www.villamagdala.co.uk
Tilley’s Bistro, North Parade Passage – 01225 484200 http://www.tilleysbistro.co.uk
Tramshed, Beehive Yard – 01225 421200 http://www.thetramshedbath.co.uk
Circo Bar, The Halcyon, South Parade – 01225 444100 http://www.circobar.co.uk