There’s something different about visiting Bath at this time of year. Maybe it’s the trees changing colour and the late autumn light hitting the distinctive honey-coloured stone favoured by Georgian architects who built this elegant and charming little city.
Or perhaps it’s the crowds – or lack of them. Nestled in a Somerset valley, Bath is a UNESCO World Heritage Site that attracts visitors from around the globe. But now the summer hordes have departed, it offers the ideal opportunity to have a more leisurely look around.
Bath is perfect for a day trip, or makes a great weekend or midweek break destination.
Our base was the new Apex City of Bath Hotel, on the corner of James Street West and Charles Street in the city centre. The 177-bedroom hotel is the largest in Bath and handy for the main attractions.
All rooms feature walk-in spacious showers, baths and Elemis toiletries – and the large 49” TV with full Sky package and complimentary Wi-Fi went down well with our two boys, aged 11 and 14.
Beds were very comfy and a dip in the small hotel pool in the basement followed by a hearty breakfast set us up for a busy day of sightseeing.
Top of anyone’s list when visiting Bath has to be the Roman Baths, a fascinating glimpse of life in the city 2,000 years ago. It’s an ancient story but told in a modern, interactive way.
You can’t relax in the thermal, mineral-rich waters there any more, but the nearby rooftop Thermae Bath Spa does give you the opportunity to bathe like a Roman – complete with 21st century bathrobes and slippers.
Other must-sees are the handsome Royal Crescent, where No 1 has been painstakingly restored to its original glory as a Georgian aristocrat’s residence, and Bath Abbey, a place of worship for more than 1,200 years whose tower gives a great vantage point from which to admire the city.
I’d also recommend hopping on one of the sightseeing buses that offer tours with commentary. And if you’re a literary fan, then a visit to The Jane Austen Centre is a must to find out all about the celebrated author’s life and connections with Bath.
We also took some time off the tourist trail and enjoyed a leisurely trip down the River Avon with Pulteney Cruisers, leaving behind the city and heading out to Bathampton. Very relaxing.
Then, while me and the boys cheered on Bath in their clash with Harlequins down at the riverside Rec, one of the most picturesque rugby grounds in the country, my wife enjoyed some retail therapy in the city’s shopping mix of big names and quirky independents.
Bath is renowned for its wide range of cafes and restaurants and in the evening we had dinner at The Scallop Shell, an award-winning fish and chip restaurant and seafood grill not far from the Apex.
It’s run by Garry Rosser, who has returned to the city where his career as a chef began. The menu includes traditional favourites such as lightly-battered, flaky cod and haddock, plus seasonal fish from the early morning coastal markets that’s on display in a bathtub full of ice. Chips are freshly-prepared each day and the mushy peas are home-made. The restaurant was packed when we visited – usually a good sign. It’s not cheap – our bill came to more than £100 for four – but the food was good and portions generous.
We were only in Bath for a short stay but packed plenty in - and we’re already planning our next visit to this West Country gem.
- Simon was a guest of Visit Bath (https://www.visitbath.co.uk) and stayed at the Apex City of Bath Hotel (standard room from £109, family room from £179 B&B). Call 0800 049 8000 or go to https://www.apexhotels.co.uk
- The Scallop Shell is in Monmouth Street. Visit https://www.thescallopshell.co.uk
- The award-winning Bath Christmas Market, featuring more than 160 wooden chalets, is running until December 9. Visit https://bathchristmasmarket.co.uk