As much as I love London, sometimes you just need to get out of the city. Before this May, the last time I’d been to Bath was 18 years ago. It was a bit of a whirlwind day trip with my school. I remember doing the Roman baths, going on an open-top bus tour, and that’s about it. But the charming old-world feel of the city stuck with me all these years and I’d been dying to go back.
Since no one else in my family had ever been, we made plans to visit during our royal wedding trip. I also have friends who live outside Oxford and they’d never been to Bath either, so we arranged to meet them there for a day out.
Getting to Bath
If you read my post about Hever Castle, you know how we had a difficult time with transportation due to the bank holiday weekend. We’d traveled to Hever on Friday, and our Bath trip was Saturday. While we had zero problems with the train on Friday (it was getting cabs that we had a nightmare with), this was not the case for Bath. The 10 a.m. train was PACKED. I mean there was literally not a single seat.
Our train from London to Bath was an hour and 40 minutes, not bad at all. Unless you’re sitting on the floor in between two train carriages, outside a bathroom and behind a trash can, crammed against your kid who is asking every 2 seconds ARE WE THERE YET????
And then my sister found out that there was coffee dripping down from the trash can and it got all over her dress. We were basically riding the Hot Mess Express and we kept texting dramatic photos to our friend Tom who was pressed up against a wall somewhere in the carriage behind us.
At least we had some beautiful scenery to look at once we stood up and looked out the window. The Britsh countryside in springtime is picture perfect and it felt nice to explore a different area outside of London.
Finally, we arrived, put the train drama behind us, and headed into town. The train station is right in the thick of things, with loads of shops and restaurants surrounding it. The day started off super chilly and cloudy (I was freezing!) but later on, it was almost 80 degrees. You really can experience all four seasons in one day during an English spring.
The Roman Baths
Shockingly, the most famous attraction in Bath is … the baths. In Roman times, it was like a big leisure complex where people went to bathe, swim, eat, gossip, play games, and so forth. There’s a lot of really interesting history to learn there and it’s hard to believe these baths still exist.
Of course, it was quite busy because of the holiday weekend. We had to wait in a decently long queue to get in, and then kind of shuffled through the baths behind a bunch of tourist groups. But seeing this slice of history again was totally worth it! I find these types of places fascinating because everything in America is so new for the most part.
As I mentioned, I visited the baths when I was studying abroad in college, so I thought it would be fun to do a before and after. I’ve (thankfully) upgraded my early 2000’s cargo jeans and Abercrombie tee/fleece vest combo since then!
The baths are actually below the modern street level. Although it looks like a balcony area, we’re actually standing on the modern street level in the below picture. The lobby/entrance, which is right by Bath Abbey, is just behind our heads where you see the arched windows.
I didn’t take any photos inside the museum section because it was very dark and crowded with a lot of people pushing. But you can see the hot spring, loads of Roman ruins, and learn more about the baths, how they were used, how they were built, and so forth.
You get a free audio guide headset with your admission ticket, which was probably interesting but mine was stolen by my child so I can’t comment there. They had a children’s tour on it, which was nice, but at five I think he was a little too young to care/understand (he mostly just wanted to wear it and play with the buttons). They also have a family trail, which they gave us on the way in and you can check things off like a scavenger hunt. I appreciated that they offered a lot of things for children to keep busy!
Of course, you exit through a gift shop. The Roman Baths have a good-sized shop with all kinds of spa products, Bath souvenirs, and Roman-related items.
Fish and Chips, Ghosts & Dandies
After the baths, we met up with my friends. We’ve seen them the past three years in a row so our kids were excited to play together again. We went in search of lunch and settled on The Garrick’s Head. They advertised the best fish and chips in Bath, which is a pretty big claim. But I have to say they were probably the best fish and chips I had on the whole trip!
The pub is located in a lovely old building on a quaint little street. We sat in the sidewalk seating area in front of the pub since the weather was so nice. This was perfect for our group with four young kids as they were able to get up and move around a bit. If you’re looking for decent pub food and a nice atmosphere, I definitely recommend heading there for lunch or dinner.
Later I read that The Garrick’s Head was the home of Beau Nash, a famous resident of Bath. Apparently, he was a “celebrated dandy and leader of fashion in 18th-century Britain.” You go, Beau. It’s also the most haunted pub in Bath! Maybe we’ll have to go back at night one day.
We decided to go on a double-decker bus tour of the city, but after seeing how outrageously expensive that was, we walked down to the river instead. We ended up finding this park called Parade Gardens and it was the perfect place to let the kids run loose, have some ice cream, and enjoy the warm weather and river views.
If you find yourself in need of a bathroom, they have public toilets in the park as well, although you need coins to operate them. The line was so long I think my sister and I spent a good 20 minutes (not exaggerating) waiting. But again, bank holiday.
We walked back to the center of town and decided to go into the city’s famous cathedral, Bath Abbey.
It’s absolutely beautiful inside! Something I didn’t know was the very first king of England was crowned on that site (although not in the current church as it now stands) in 973.
We didn’t stay too long (because 5 year old!) but it was nice to take a few minutes for quiet reflection during a hectic day. That was, until I sat on my phone and it started blasting the Ben and Ashley I. Almost Famous Podcast. If you’re a fan of The Bachelor/ette/In Paradise you should definitely listen to their podcast, by the way. Just not in the middle of Bath Abbey.
The Jane Austen Centre
This was the last stop on our tour of Bath, since it was getting late in the day.
As a writer and huge reader, the Jane Austen Centre was super interesting to me. But surprisingly, there was a lot to do for kids as well. They had Regency costumes to try on for dress-up, activities like writing with a quill and ink, coloring pictures of Jane, etc. Plus, who doesn’t love a good wax figure of Mr. Darcy?
They have costumed interpreters throughout the museum and they give a 15 minute or so talk about Jane and her life in Bath when you first come in. But since we had the kids with us we skipped the talk, which actually seemed to confuse and offend the girl working there. She kept saying “right, well we can go in the other room for the presentation now,” and we’d say, “no, we’re good actually!” and it went on like that for a while, which was pretty funny/awkward.
The gift shop is small but has a decent selection of Jane-related items. I resisted a book-themed teapot (we were SERIOUSLY almost out of luggage space by then). But I bought one of my Austen-obsessed friends a birthday gift and got a Christmas ornament for myself.
I Like Bath Buns and I Cannot Lie
After saying goodbye to our friends, the rest of us headed to Sally Lunn’s. My friend Maddie said we must try a Bath Bun there so I definitely wanted to check it out before we left for the train station. It was crazy crowded, but you can go in the gift shop and buy to-go buns if you don’t want to eat in the restaurant. This is actually the oldest house in Bath, built in 1482! It’s been a restaurant since 1680 and apparently, it’s very good.
In the basement, they have a tiny museum where you can learn more about the history of the house and Bath Buns. It’s actually like a cave down there – you can see stalactites and stalagmites! There are pieces from the medieval floor, amongst other ruins, and a creepy wax figure of Sally Lunn in her kitchen. Good times!
A Sally Lunn’s bun is kind of like a huge, very slightly sweet, fluffy roll. I’m guessing it would be better served toasted with jam but I just ate mine plain which is basically like eating … a roll. It was fine, don’t get me wrong, but I imagine eating in the restaurant is much better.
I should’ve taken a picture because the buns come in the most beautiful boxes. I actually used one to store some of the 50,000 Christmas ornaments I bought on the trip for the flight home. We took our buns back to Parade Gardens and enjoyed some people watching on the benches before we bid Bath a fond farewell.
Thankfully, the train ride home to London was comfortable and not crowded at all. We finished out the day with a late-night dinner along the Thames. It was a long but fun Saturday!
If you go
If you’re taking a day trip from London, you can catch a train from Paddington to Bath Spa station. Unfortunately, the tickets aren’t cheap (it was about £60 per person when we traveled on a Saturday in May). However, I found out if you book your tickets together as a group (if you’re going with three or more people) the savings are significant. Since there were five of us, we ended up saving more than £20 a person this way, knocking the price down to £39!
You can purchase tickets to the Roman Baths online ahead of time, but we just bought them at the gate. If you plan to visit several of the museums you can get a discount combo ticket that includes the Roman Baths, Fashion Museum, and Victoria Art Gallery. We weren’t sure what we were going to do that day, so we got the regular ticket to the Roman Baths.
Keep cash on you if you want to go into Parade Gardens, as there’s a small admission fee (£2 for adults, £1 for kids over 5, free for under 5’s). You’ll also need change to operate the toilets.
Have you ever been to Bath?