Click here to print this page

Planning Retirement Online


Travel & Holidays in later life

WEEKEND IN BATH

Theatre RoyalSaturday night in Bath: we emerged from a sparkling performance at the Theatre Royal, and looked for a late-night drink. We had assumed Bath would be on the sedate and sleepy side; the traditional retreat where retired colonels and old India hands were pushed around in Bath chairs.

Instead, nightclubs and discos were in full throttle, and all the central pubs were jumping. Drinkers spilled out onto the pavement, and it was a five-minute push and shove to infiltrate the bar. 

The clientele was locals mixed with week-enders and foreign tourists; Japanese included. There was also wide restaurant choice of international and ethnic cuisine.

 

Travel Facts

 

 

Travel Insurance for over 50s

Visit our  holidays, breaks and travel options pages

TRAVEL ESSENTIALS:

A loan service of manual or powered wheelchairs and electric scooters is available from Shopmobility, located at 7-9 Lower Borough Walls, Bath. Tel: 01225 481744. Many buses have low floors for easy access, including the Park-and-Ride and sightseeing buses.

Annual events 

Theatre Royal features year-round a wide range of drama, comedies, musicals, opera and ballet. Tel:

Bath Literature Festival  

First week in March

Bath International Music Festival 

End of May begining of June.

Bath Fringe Festival 

End of May begining of June.

 

Roman Baths by Torchlight

July and August

International Guitar Festival

June

Jane Austen Festival

September

Film Festival 

November

Mozartfest - major international artists in programmes mainly of Mozart. 

Mid November -

Christmas Market near Abbey.

Late November - early December.

More information: Visit Bath

 

Travelsphere escorted holidays

 

Of course Bath has been firmly into the international pleasure business for the past 2,000 years, starting with the Romans. They came for a hot bath, 120 degrees F, and relaxed around the pool to chat and gamble with their friends. 

In good Roman-engineer style, they tamed the natural 250,000-gallon daily flow of the mineral-rich spa waters which burbled up from the Sacred Spring and then fed into the Great Bath. They decorated the premises with statues and mosaics.

Since those days, Bath has had a roller-coaster history as a pleasure centre.

Bath flourished as a spa resort until the Roman garrisons pulled out in the 5th century. During the Dark Ages, hot baths were no longer a part of social life. The baths declined into ruins, and were used by Saxon monks as a handy stone quarry for building a monastery. Bath went down the drain as a pleasure centre. 

Centuries later, Bath again began to climb back. The big boom came in the 18th century, when Beau Nash arrived in 1703 and stayed as the Master of Ceremonies who laid down the rules for elegant social life.

Number One Royal Crescent, open to visitorsThroughout the 18th century, all the best and wealthiest families came to drink their prescribed three glasses a day of the natural hot cocktail of 43 minerals, claimed to cure the colic, palsy and gout. 

That set everyone up for the evening round of gossip, drinking, gambling, theatre-going and dancing. As the TV adaptations of Jane Austen's work have so eloquently portrayed, the Bath season was also ideal for those hunting a suitable rich husband or wealthy heiress.

During the Victorian era, Bath slipped somewhat downmarket. The aristocracy chose continental destinations, and the clientele became more middle-class, less tolerant of heavy drinking, gambling and ostentatious living. 

The former fashionable Assembly Rooms were used instead for high-minded concerts and learned meetings and conferences. By the 1920s, the Ball Room had become a cinema, and was then finished off by a direct hit during a wartime air raid.

All these ups and downs in Bath's 2,000 years as an entertainment resort can now easily be explored during a weekend visit, following in Jane Austen's footsteps.

While you're waiting to enter the Roman Baths Museum, street jugglers, musicians, acrobats and fire-eaters take turns in performing probably not much different in skill from those who amused the passers-by in Roman or medieval times.

In the restored Roman baths, you can dip your finger in the water to test the temperature, but no Roman-style skinny-dipping is permitted. Also you are not encouraged to drink the bath water.

Tasting is reserved for the Pump Room, where a white-coated attendant pulls a glass of the foul-tasting liquid.

On tap in the Spa RoomThere's no obligation to drink the lot - much less the three glasses a day which were doctors' orders for the Regency rakes. Most visitors just take one appalled sip. A Pump Room trio plays for visitors who wash away the Bath-water taste with tea and a Bath bun. 

The Upper Town is where the world-famed Georgian crescents are located, all built between 1754 and 1830, and well matured from their original dazzling white to their present honey colour.

Cars are parked outside, instead of carriages and sedan chairs, but otherwise little has changed for 200 years, except that menfolk no longer wear embroidered silk and velvet suits trimmed with lace. Number One Royal Crescent is open to visitors, and is furnished in authentic style. 

Also in Upper Town are the refurbished but empty Assembly Rooms, which need a TV production to liven them up with characters in full 18th-century finery. 

Next best thing is to go downstairs to a Museum of Costume, beautifully displayed in authentic period style. The history of fashion covers from late 16th century to modern times, culminating in 'Dress of the Year' contributions from couturiers such as Mary Quant, Armani and Lagerfeld.

Shopping: Bath is more than just an obligatory stop on the culture-vulture circuit. Start Saturday morning with Walcot Street and the Antiques Market in the former Cattle Market site packed with bric-a-brac, books, records and miscellaneous collectors' items. For more quality antiques, numerous dealers are established in the centre.

Just a final warning: car parking is a pain. Abandon your car - preferably in one of the three Park-and-Ride sites - and go sightseeing on foot. A complete circuit of the city highlights takes 45 minutes aboard open-top Citytour buses; or you can use your ticket to hop on and off all day, with 11 scheduled stops.

 

Quick jump to other West Country destinations

CORNWALL - choosing low season

CORNWALL - NORTH for beaches, cliffs & legends

DARTMOOR - Freedom to roam and explore

DAWLISH - Pioneer railway age resort

EXETER/EXMOUTH - Tour base for South Devon

ILFRACOMBE & NORTH DEVON - The Heritage coast

LYNTON & LYNMOUTH - Devon's Siamese-twin resorts

SIDMOUTH - Devon's Regency gem

SOMERSET - Choosing a farm cottage for a walking holiday

UP THE OTTER IN DEVON - A winter cottage haven

 


Books to read - click on the links below

Penguin Complete Novels of Jane Austen - Contains all six of Jane's major novels in one heavyweight volume. 

The Royal Crescent Book of Bath by James Crathorne - A  photographic record of Bath, past and present.

Exploring Bath by Keith Dallimore - A lightweight guide to the city.

Bath: More Than a Guide (Jarrold City-break Guides) - Part of a reliable city series.

 


 

Back to
UK & IRELAND INDEX
CONTINENTAL EUROPE INDEX
LONG-HAUL INDEX
TRAVEL TOPICS INDEX  

 


Visit our Pre-retirement Courses section here on laterlife or our dedicated Retirement Courses site

back to laterlife travel

Site map and site search

   

Bookmark


Advertise on laterlife.com



LaterLife Travel Insurance in Association with Avanti