If you are planning a trip to Bath on a budget, you need to remember that it’s a very popular spot for visitors, with good resason. The history of Bath dates back to Roman times and earlier, so there is plenty to see. Accommodation will probably be your main expense and you will need to balance the added cost of being close to the city with travelling in and out. We found a lovely b&b close to the railway station through Airbnb for the two nights we were in Bath. As it was on the hill overlooking the city, our host kindly collected us and our luggage and delivered us back to the station when we left.
We did get to
While Bath is a lovely city to just wander around, the best way to get your bearings, is probably to join one of the free walking tours. You just need to gather outside the Roman Baths at the designated times (every day except Christmas Day) and they’ll divide everyone who turns up into groups and off you go for a couple of hours. You’ll learn about such diverse subjects as the hanging toilets, the terraced houses with two stories underground and the reason for the drop in the middle of the green in front of the Royal Crescent.
Bath University is on a hill slightly out of town, on an open and spacious campus. The writer has caught the bus up to the campus some years ago and there’s usually someone on the bus who will point out notable landmarks on the way including the homes of a number of well known people, including authors who spent part of their lives in Bath. There’s even a group of streets named after some of the best known.
Neither did we actually go into the Roman Baths and Bath Abbey as we chose to walk the Kennet and Avon Canal instead. If you’d like to see inside, it is worth the entry fee, but it would be wise to be early if it’s a peak period as there can bve long queues.
You can enjoy the healing waters that gave Bath its name. The old Baths close to the Roman Baths keep company with a number of establishments offering all levels of Spa treatments if you’re feeling like some pampering.
The free walking tour really is free! You can believe the sign that says tips are not accepted, they even stress to the group that they don’t accept payment.
Our landlord mentioned a couple of times (actually, he made a point of it!) that he recommended a walk along the Kennet & Avon Canal, which joins the Avon River just behind the railway station. As it was a pleasant Saturday afternoon, we decided to take him at his word and go for a walk. If you enjoy saying hello to small boys out fishing with their dad, locals working on their gardens, and other assorted characters out for a stroll, this is a good way to spend an afternoon. We stopped to help houseboat travellers opening and closing the numerous lock gates on the way. We chose to walk back by the same path after a look around the Sydney gardens, though we could have continued through the gardens and back through the town via Pulteney Bridge.
Eating on the street and in comfort
If you are lucky enough to pass by a street market as we did on Friday afternoon, do stop to check out the fresh produce, particularly for fruits in season. We picked up a big bag of the best plums we’d eaten in a long while. If you are one of the last customers when they are about to close you’ll probably get a good offer – more fruit for your money.
There are quite a few small ‘hole in the wall’ fast food shops selling pies, rolls and pasties though the ones we passed closed fairly early. They may stay open longer in summer, you can also find a cup of coffee to go with your food quite easily.
Sally Lunn’s teahouse is said to be the oldest building still in existance in Bath, it’s just around the corner from the Abbey about half way along the street. There’s usually a small queue to get in as the seats are limited, but you can enjoy the ‘signature dish’ the Sally Lunn buns – large soft buns, cut in half with a choice of topping, sweet or savoury. You can choose to have a half piece if you prefer, they are quite large.
After you finish your food, go down the stairs to the basement where the levels are marked showing how new communities built on earlier ones, since Roman times. There’s also a life sized model showing the workings of the bakery in the early days in the 17th Century.
Our landlord likes to visit the local Farmers’ Market in the old Railway station on Saturday morning and asked if we’d like to go down with him. We were happy to accept as it gave us a chance to look for some local crafts and buy something local for lunch. We were very happy with our local cheese pies and would love to have picked up some of the locally made sausages, if we’d had cooking facilities.
Walk! If you want to travel any distance out of town, you can catch one of the local buses, the bus station is close to the railway station near the river. But getting around the town is easier and more interesting if you walk. Wander through the parks and along the wide pavements where the ladies used to parade in their crinolines. Explore the narrow streets and the Pulteney Bridge, the covered bridge across the River Avon which flows through the town.
The best view we could find of the city is from Alexandra Park on the hill behind the Railway Station. The walk up is steep, especially on the western end, but if you look for the small signs, or ask, it’s not difficult to find your way up. Walking down the eastern path is a little bit less steep and you may be lucky to meet one of the gardeners tending their small allotments by the side of the path.