Bath and Stonehenge in south west England are two of the most visited cities in the country due to its rich history. Bath in Somerset, with its Roman link has some of the most architecturally rich buildings and assures you a memorable visit. Stonehenge, being a UNESCO world heritage site offers a peek into the mysterious stone construction and the stories behind it. These should definitely have a top place in your England-must visits if your a history buff.
Getting there and going around
I visited Bath in train as it is well connected to cities like Birmingham and London with trains via Bristol. Important attractions in Bath are at a walk-able distance of less than 10min from each other.
Nearest railway station to Stonehenge is at Salisbury and nearest town is Amesbury. Site is not easily accessible via public transport and hence reaching by cab or own car is the best way.
Bath- Not just the Roman baths..
Aren't the streets of Bath just a treat to the eye? A city full of historic buildings, narrow roads oozing out the Roman essence and English charm in the right proportion.
I took a walk along the streets to travel back into history and meet the Georgian architecture.
Though the city of Bath is primarily famous for the Roman Baths, other attractions like the Pulteney bridge, the Royal crescent and Bath abbey are equally significant in a trip to Bath. These could be very well covered in a single day giving breaks in between for some coffee at the historic Sally Lunn's cafe and brunch at one of the restaurants right on the Pulteney bridge.
The Roman baths
I started my journey in Bath with a tour to the Roman baths. A 5 min walk from the Bath Spa railway station took me to the oh-not-so-grand entrance of the Roman baths. All ticket prices can be found here.
I walked into the balcony above the main pool in the Roman baths to find the statues of iconic personalities like Julius Ceasar, Constantine the Great and many others.
One can take a look at the spa room, dressing room and massage room which the Roman citizens, both men and women used when the Roman baths were open for public to a take a dip in the natural hot water rich in minerals. The rooms have interesting films playing on a transparent screen showing the Roman people in their traditional outfit carrying out the daily chores like the maids dressing up their ladies, getting an oil massage and so on.
I had grabbed an audio guide from the ticket counter for a better experience and more informative tour. The tour took upto 2 hours for me though it depends on the visitor and crowd on the day.
The site also hosts a museum of ruins from the Roman temple and Bath.
The Bath Abbey
The next stop of my trip is the Bath Abbey which is right beside the Roman bath entrance.
It is as beautiful as any other abbey in the country and has history engraved in its walls. Beautiful glass paintings enhance the tall walls and depicts all the stories written down in the history books.
One can climb up to the top of the abbey tower, but do check out the timings before you reach there. The tower climb is unavailable during Services, special events and bell ringing. One can view the complete city of Bath from the top and enjoy the Bath breeze.
The visit should take less than an hour.
The bridge which is built over river Avon and connects city of Bath with Bathwick, is a masterpiece of its own with a unique architectural style and supports cafes and shops on both side of the road on it. Walking for hardly 5 min from the Bath abbey or the Roman baths, the Pulteney bridge was standing in front of me with water splashing down the curved steps. I walked over to the other side where the beautiful Parade garden is situated. I got onto a river cruise which can be easily spotted from the bridge and depart every 40min from garden. One can get down at the Bathampton town for lunch or sightseeing. Once the cruise has crossed the city of Bath, only birds chirping and boats paddling can be heard in the outskirts.
The cruise spans around 1 hour and takes you back to the garden at a cost of £9 per adult.
Victoria art gallery and Royal crescent
Victoria art gallery can be found next to the Pulteney bridge. It has an invaluable collection of art pieces, paintings, crockery and other masterpieces by artists across the globe. The day I visited, a photo exhibition was happening which was a heart wrenching throwback to the various events in history like middle east crisis, twin tower attack, after effects of the nuclear explosion and many more.
Royal crescent is another feather in the Bath crown. It is a Georgian architectural marvel housing privately owned and other apartments as well as a historic house museum. It has been walked upon by some eminent personalities and the crescent shape well deserves the Grade I listing. The vast green meadow in front of the building is the perfect spot for your kids to run around and for an open space mid day nap.
Stonehenge - Untie the mystery loop
Stonehenge always had a top place in my travel wishlist and I'm sure I'm not the only one. This mysterious site with humongous stone pillars erected in a particular pattern and well calculated plan is another must visit in England. As its in the middle of nowhere and hardly accessible without a cab or own vehicle, some homework on how to reach and where to stay surely helps.
I reached Salisbury railway station from Bath and stayed overnight in a hotel in Amesbury from where I took a cab to Stonehenge the next day. You can take a ticket from the entrance or pre-book it online. There is literally no view of the Stonehenge from this point, but well, thrill picks up with suspense, ain't it? I visited the museum next to the ticket counter to learn more about the history of Stonehenge and why it was built in the ancient times. It also shows you how England was at the time they started building Stonehenge and the different facts around it. Men transporting gigantic stones from far away places to this particular site throughout several years is a point to be clearly noted.
I walked up to the shuttle bus stop following the signage to get into one that takes you to Stonehenge. A 2min walk from the final stop took me right next to the mighty Stonehenge!! Oh yeah!!
You can stay in the site as long as you wish and catch any of the return shuttle buses to go back to the visitor center.
Points to note
1. This might not be the best tourist spot for families with kids in the age group 0-5 as there is nothing entertaining for the kids near the site and they can get cranky due to the long hours.
2. Visiting the site without a ticket might not be the best decision as you can reach upto only a certain point and is fairly far away. Now would you want to see your dream destination using a zoomed in camera or binoculars? Ermm.. I wouldn't!
3. Though a cafe is available at the ticket entrance, taking ample amount of water and other liquids with you would be helpful especially in summer as its a vast open space and might take some time to return to the cafe.
4. Hiring a car for the day or driving your own car is the best way to reach Stonehenge. The nearest town is Amesbury and there are no easily accessible public transport facilities available to reach the site.
5. Details about bus services from Salisbury railway station can be found in the internet, choose the one that suits your plan to avoid high taxi charges.
6. If you opt to stay at a hotel in Amesbury and visit Stonehenge the next day morning, remember to collect a local taxi number from the hotel so that you can call them up once you are done with the visit
No trip to England is complete without Bath and Stonehenge. Pack up your bag and walk back into history in these epic twin cities :)