While it’s often said that London is the perfect international hub for hopping around Europe, I think many travelers take for granted how many wonderful UK destinations are a relatively short train ride away. Inspired to see more of this beautiful country that I now call home, I recently took a daytrip to Bath.
Just 1.5 hours by train from London’s Paddington Station, Bath is said to date back to AD 60-70, when a bathing complex was constructed as a result of the region’s natural hot springs. Today, Bath has been designated a UNESCO World Heritage site and the city’s rich history, numerous cultural attractions and charming 18th-century Georgian architecture have resulted in a whopping 3.8 million daytrip visitors annually.
After spending a day soaking up all that Bath has to offer, I cannot say that I am terribly surprised. Here are my recommendations and experiences following a very fun daytrip to Bath!
Getting To Bath
Traveling from London to Bath is very easy. Trains run directly between the two destinations on Great Western Railway. To purchase a ticket, go to the Great Western Railway website. I went through the exercise of selecting my desired dates/travel times just to understand what type of ticket I needed, as there are options ranging from peak, off-peak, super off-peak, first class, etc. As I was traveling on a Saturday, I was able to select super off-peak tickets, but they were still pricey at £57.50 for a round-trip. However, take note that Great Western Rail does promote fares as low as £14 each way between London and Bath, but I assume that requires purchasing farther in advance. I literally booked my tickets the night before, as I wanted to do my daytrip on a day with a low chance of rain. I know that’s a bold statement when it comes to the UK’s weather, but it did actually work in this case!
Once at Paddington station, you can collect your tickets at the electronic machines, or at the Great Western Railway ticket counter. You will need the credit or debit card that you purchased your tickets with, plus your confirmation number.
Great Western Trains are pretty nice. For my U.S. East Coast readers, they’re similar to Amtrak Regional Trains, with free wi-fi (that barely works) and plugs for a laptop/mobile device. The seats are a mix of two-seaters and four-seaters with a table in between. While the website says you can book seats together in advance, that option wasn’t available with my ticket, so you may want to call if that’s important. There were honestly so many seats open – especially if you leave early AM and come back early afternoon – so it really wasn’t an issue.
Bath Daytrip Recommendations
Stop 1: The Roman Baths
I took an 8:30am train, arriving at 10am in Bath with the goal of getting to the Roman Baths before the long queues formed. I arrived to the Roman Baths just after 10am (they open at 9:30am) and was very happy to see no line at all! The Roman Baths reportedly see one million visitors annually and every article I read had said to expect at least a 15-20 minute wait to get inside. Tickets to the Roman Baths cost £15.50 and are only available for purchase on-site.
Once inside you are treated to the upper view of the Roman Baths. The baths themselves are below the modern street level and you do get to wander alongside them near the end of your visit. Photos are welcomed throughout your visit and one of the very nice attendants was kind enough to snap a few photos of me.
The museum inside is home to various artifacts from the Roman period, including an interesting assortment of objects and coins tossed into the Sacred Spring. Also, make sure to wander through all of the different passageways, as this truly does make you feel as though you are stepping back in time.
All in all, I spent about 45 minutes inside The Roman Baths. I’m not a fan of audio guides, but I did wander through and read all of the educational placards, plus took a bunch of photos (of course!).
One word of caution – as The Roman Baths are incredibly old, the stone ground is very uneven on the lower level. I would recommend wearing flat shoes or sneakers and paying close attention to where you step. Because…you definitely do not want to trip and fall into the water!! 😉
Stop Two: Parade Gardens
If you read this blog regularly, you’ll know that I have a penchant for parks and gardens. Ok, more like a full-blown obsession! So naturally, I had to take a stroll through Bath’s Parade Gardens.
Not only are the grounds nice, but you will also be rewarded with a good vantage point of the historic Pulteney Bridge. Pulteney Bridge was completed by 1774 to connect Bath with the then newly built Georgian town of Bathwick. I would also recommend checking out the shops along the bridge – there are a charming assortment of cafes and boutiques.
Stop Three: Sally Lunn’s Historic Eating House & Museum
After multiple recommendations from friends and travel blogs, I couldn’t resist trying Sally Lunn’s famous Bath Buns for an early lunch. Sally Lunn’s does not take reservations, so the perk of getting up very early is you are hungry earlier and can then avoid the lunchtime rush!
The menu at Sally Lunn’s is anchored around the famous Bath Buns. Sally Lunn’s Bath Buns are described as, “Part bun, part bread, part cake… A large and generous but very very light bun; a little like brioche/French festival bread.”
Unfortunately, the buns are not gluten-free, so be aware if this is a concern for you. The restaurant calls out that their attempts to make a gluten-free bun have not been successful, but they do have gluten-free scones and one gluten-free cake. Does this sound like an opportunity for a gluten-free celebrity chef or food blogger or what!?
The menu contains a tempting array of sweet or savory toppings for the famous Bath Buns, plus a few pre-fix options. I ended up ordering a savory, decadent Welsh Rarebit Bun with mushrooms and bacon. For those not familiar with Welsh Rarebit, it’s a dish of melted cheese mixed with savory ingredients like ale, mustard, cayenne pepper or paprika and Worcestershire sauce.
I also ordered a pot of Sally Lunn’s house tea blend to go with my meal, which was served in an adorable tea pot, with a strainer, milk and sugar. The pot serves three cups of tea, which was plenty to go with my food.
I’ll admit, I was very tempted to order one of Sally Lunn’s pre-fix options with soup and a bun, or soup and a dessert, both of which are very reasonably priced, but I am happy that I did not. One bun left me completely stuffed – in a good way. The bun was so good, I had to eat it all!
With my bun entrée and my tea, my bill came to £11.46 + a £2 tip that I left (service charge is not included on the bill). Very reasonable, especially considering how stuffed I was!
Stop Four: Bath Abbey
Bath Abbey is another must-see attraction. Located next door to The Roman Baths, it is hard to miss. As an FYI, there is a suggested £4 donation per person upon entry, so I recommend that you have some coins or cash handy depending on the size of your group. There are some very lovely door greeters that you must pass by that engage with you upon entry, making the donation much more suggested than other venues that simply just have a donation box.
The Bath Abbey was founded in the 7th century and has subsequently been re-organized and re-built several times. For the architecture buffs out there, it is recognized as being one of the largest perpendicular gothic architecture venues in the UK’s West Country.
The Bath Abbey is still an active place of worship today and can seat up to 1200 people. Upon entry, I was completely wowed by the incredible fan vaulted ceilings. I did not realize this, but in addition to their beauty, the fan vaulting also provides structural stability by distributing the weight of the roof.
Also unique to The Bath Abbey are the amount of windows – 52 in total, which account for 80 percent of the abbey’s wall space. Also adorning the walls are 617 wall memorials and 847 floor stones. If you can spare the time, I highly recommend reading them. I found it so interesting to read the words from the deceased’s loved ones and get a glimpse into who they were.
Stop Five: Guildhall Market
This is probably a bit TMI, but after the copious amounts of tea at Sally Lunn’s, nature was calling. On a whim, I took a quick spin into Guildhall, a historic building that is home to various public and private events. During my visit, the event du jour was a vintage market, so definitely keep an eye out for what’s on when you’re in Bath. There is also a very clean, free bathroom on the first floor (U.S. second floor) if you’re in need!
I also popped into the adjoining Guildhall Market on the ground floor. The market contains a charming assortment of food stalls, sweets and gift shops, a barber, and more.
Stop Six: The Circus
My next stop was The Circus, which, is not at all like what it sounds. The Circus was completed in 1768 and refers back to its Latin definition to literally mean circle. Today The Circus remains a pretty circle of Georgian-style homes with a round park and trees in the center. No matter what angle you view or photograph it from, it’s very pretty!
Stop Seven: The Royal Crescent
Just a few blocks from The Circus you will find The Royal Crescent, a row of 30 terraced houses and a luxury hotel, all of which are considered to be among the greatest examples of Georgian architecture in the United Kingdom.
While over here, architecture and history buffs can also visit No. 1 Royal Crescent, a museum which has been decorated and furnished to represent what life was like for Bath’s upper class residents from 1776-1796. Admission is £10 for adults. I decided to skip this one due to the long line, but in reviewing the website, it does look like a nice attraction to visit if you have the time.
I thoroughly enjoyed my trip to Bath. In total, the trip cost me about £100, including all meals, transit, admissions, etc. The city is full of history and charm and I would recommend a daytrip. I’m not sure that you need to stay overnight, but if you do, I’ve heard that a nighttime visit to the Thermae Bath Spa is delightful. If I could fit anything else into my trip, I would try to sneak in some Skyline views. The city and architecture are so beautiful, but I candidly did not realize such pretty views could be an option!
Additional Recommendations I was Given – But Didn’t Get To!
Here is a list of a few other restaurants, bars, etc. that I bookmarked, but did not get to, plus a list of resources I consulted. Feel free to use them as you plan your trip to Bath!
Bath in 4 Hours: https://visitbath.co.uk/things-to-do/bath-in-4-hours
Awesome daytrip guide from TripAdvisor: https://www.tripadvisor.co.uk/Guide-g186370-k4542-Bath_Somerset_England.html
Thermae Bath Spa: http://www.thermaebathspa.com/
The Raven Pub: http://www.theravenofbath.co.uk/
Same Same But Different Café & Restaurant: http://same-same.co.uk/
Olive Tree Restaurant: http://olivetreebath.co.uk/
The Green Bird Café: http://www.greenbirdcafe.co.uk/
Sub 13 Cocktail Bar: http://sub13.net/