2/18/08

Where would I send you to in England?

These are the places that for me epitomise the essence of England, they are not all on the tour guide routes, some are off the beaten track whilst others are very much on them. I will introduce them individually and give you an idea of what you can expect.

I will always endeavour to return to these places whenever I go home, because they reconnect me with my British roots and I greatly miss not being able to just drive to them and catch my breath at their beauty, history or vibrance.


My top choice is the Georgian city of Bath, in the picturesque county of Somerset, somewhere I have always taken all foreign visitors.

It's hard to do Bath justice in words, you just have to behold it's great beauty, the warm glow off it's buildings and the extraordinary sense of history it exudes. The centre of Bath is entirely constructed in golden glowing Bath stone, in the Georgian architectural style. The buildings have great symmetry, extraordinary details and are beautifully preserved, to me they represent everything great architecture should be. The city became a World Heritage site in 1987, in order to safeguard it's preservation and recognise it's status.

Walking around Bath it is just a small leap of the imagination to see it 200 years ago, or even as far back as Roman times. But equally the city is a thriving modern centre, with wonderful shops, restaurants and museums to explore and enjoy. It truly blends together the best of the old and the new in a travel destination.


At its centre are the Roman Baths, with the naturally occurring hot springs, which are still under constant excavation revealing new treasures every year and more secrets of the Romans. It's at times hard to comprehend how old some of the pieces on display are, but the excellent audio guide and many reconstructions in the museum, help you to visualise the daily life of a Roman in Bath.

Next door is Bath Abbey, completed in 1611 and has been the site of an abbey or cathedral since 757. The interior contains fine examples of fan vaulting and 52 windows of stained glass, covering 80% of the wall space. The Abbey is visible from any higher vantage point around the city and takes on a whole new beauty when lit at night.

Bath became the leading centre of fashionable life during the Regency period (1800) of English history and this is very evident in the many other museums. You can visit the Assembly Rooms where the Balls made famous in Jane Austen novels were held, go inside a restored wealthy Georgian home at No.1 Royal Crescent and see the fashions throughout British history in the Costume Museum.

You must take one of the open top tour buses and see the historical sites brought to life with a local guide. This way you will learn about why the sidewalks are raised so high, why many buildings have painted on windows, see the home of Jane Austen and hear the history of the city.

The jewel in the crown of Bath is The Royal Cresent, a residential road of houses built in the form of a crescent between 1767-1774. It and the neighbouring Circus, were designed by John Wood and from the air the pair represent the sun and moon. The most famous and exclusive hotel in Bath is housed at No's 15 & 16 Royal Crescent, the centre of the crescent and enjoying splendid views across the city.

Just walking about Bath is a pleasure, with it's many small pedestrian lanes, antique and one-off shops. There's also a vast array of old pubs where you can relax and the Avon River where you can take a boat ride. At night Bath comes to life with vibrant restaurants offering many world cuisines, a wonderful array of theatre choices, live music in bars and many nightclubs.

It is one of the most romantic destinations in England and a UK visitor essential stopover in my personal opinion.

If you have been to Bath and would like to comment or share other Bath destinations, please do so - please also feel free to ask questions if you plan to visit.

9 comments:

Lynne said...

Some day - SOME DAY - I'm going to take a trip to England and Ireland. Bath sounds like a beautiful city. I'd love to take you along as a tour guide! Why painted on windows?

Mary said...

Sarah, I want to visit Bath. I'm a Jane Austen fan and loved the scenes in the film versions of Persuasion. Several friends have been there and recommend it. I have a question: what's the population of Bath?

Sarah said...

Mary according to Wikipedia the population of Bath is around 80,000 - plus the 1 million staying visitors & 3.8 million day visitors per year.
If you are a Jane Austen fan then you would adore Bath, the Jane Austen Centre is based there too.

Sarah said...

Lynne - In Bath there are some clear examples of buildings with bricked up windows, which were due to the window tax. William III introduced the tax in 1696 during a slump in the economy but this tax ended in 1851. The tax was due on any house having more than 6 windows, so as a result many people bricked up the excess windows. In 1792 anyone with 7-9 windows had to pay 2 shillings & houses with 10-19 windows had to pay 4 shillings. In 1825 they increased the number of windows allowed pre-tax to 8. The tax also resulted in many houses having fake windows painted on, in order for the appearance of the house to be symmetrical.

Stacy at Exceedingly Mundane said...

As Lynne said, someday, I'm going to go to England and Scotland (for me rather than Ireland, although I'd gladly go there as well). It's my lifelong dream. If you've read many memes on my blog over the years, I always mention this as my number one destination, some place I want to go before I die, etc etc.

I've also been watching the Jane Austen movies on Masterpiece Theater and loved the scenes in Bath. Loved reading your travelogue and seeing the photos and hearing the tidbits. I'd think you'd make an awesome guide :)

pamokc said...

I have to agree about Bath being a lovely place in england to visit. Plus easy to get there from Stonehenge, which is overrated in a way -- we call it "rocks in a field".

I always recommend York also -- just what an American thinks old England should be ....

Sarah said...

Pam this is so funny - but that's pretty much how I described Stonehenge to my husband when he said it was the thing he most wanted to see in England..LOL
I think us Brit's undervalue it partly because it's just there and we drive past it regularly and get a clear view from the road. I have never even stopped at it until hubby was with me!

Carrie said...

Bath is beautiful and I think that I love it more now that I don't live in England. The funny thing was that when I was applying for university, I imagined ivory towers and 15th century buildings on U of B campus, but arrived at their open day to find a concrete jungle of a place built around the 60s. Very disappointing!

Took a gap year instead!

Kathy said...

I could not have put it better if I had tried, Bath is one of, if not my favourite place in the whole of the UK.