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Visiting Bath

22 January 2013

I sent this information on Bath to one of my tweeps, and subsequently to several other friends who were visiting Bath.

Arriving

If you take the train to Bath from the north, you’ll change at Bristol Temple Meads.  It has a classic station roof, and being at Bristol always reminded me that I was on the way ‘home’, whichever direction I was travelling.

Take a seat facing east (direction of travel) on the north (left) of the train; that way you’ll see the splendour of the Georgian city spread out before you as you clear the last tunnel.

If you take the train to Bath from the east (London), then take a seat facing west (direction of travel), but on the north (right) of the train for the best view of Bath as you arrive. You don’t have much time when going in this direction for views before you reach the station.

Going into town from Oldfield Park/Bear Flat area accommodation (2.5km)

This route avoids the new shopping centre and takes in some sights.

Head for Bear Flat, the southern end of Wellsway where the main road turns left and becomes Wells Road to curve down to the city.  Note the Bear pub with the polar bear on the roof.  I worked there part time for two years when it was a local boozer rather than the gastropub it is now!

Don’t take the main road; instead, head down Holloway, which is the original road up the hill. You’ll get views of the city at various points, as well as passing the chapel of Mary Magdalen (probably not open).  Continue to the very end of Holloway, noting the more recent homes, then through the footpath to St Mark’s Road.  At the junction with Lyncombe Hill, turn left then right onto the A36.  Cross at the pedestrian crossing then cross the river by the footbridge.  Look right from the bridge to see where the Kennet and Avon Canal joins the river; this was the old cross-country navigation route through eventually to the Thames.  Behind you you’ll see on the way markers indicating old flood heights.

Go through the arches under the station to bring you out in front of the station.  Walk north along Manvers Street, noting South Parade and St John’s RC church on your right.  At North Parade turn right, first noting the triangular island with what used to be underground public toilets, but in my university days was the Island Club.  This area is known as Bog Island, as was the club!
Along North Parade, you’ll cross the river at North Parade Bridge.  Look left for the weir and Pulteney Bridge.  After the bridge, take the stairs down to the river, then walk north towards the weir and bridge.  Note the labyrinth on your right, then find the steps up to street level again.

At the street turn left onto Pulteney Bridge itself.  Cross the bridge and continue in a straight line until you reach Northgate and High Streets.  Turn left.  The Guildhall is on your left (Banqueting Room upstairs may be open) and you’ll see the north transept of the Abbey straight ahead.  Head into Abbey Churchyard for access the Abbey and the Roman Baths.  If you go into the Abbey (and you should) be sure to look for the memorials to Malthus (in either the entrance or exit porch, entrance I think) and to Arthur Phillip (on the north wall and towards the east if I remember correctly), as well as noting the huge clerestory windows that give it the name, the Lantern of the West.

The crescents, etc (3.7km)

Pick up your walk at the north of the Abbey again.  Walk up High Street and Northgate Street, noting the main post office to your left on the corner of New Bond Street and then veering right at St Michael’s Church.  Keep heading north on Walcot Street, watching for the Fine Cheese Company on your left (highly recommended!) and then for an enclosed flight of stairs going up on the left.  Before heading up, note the huge embankment supporting the houses above; most of the Georgian city is built on the hills.

At the top of the stairs you are on the Paragon.  Cross where you can and take the pedestrianised Hay Hill until you reach Lansdown Hill.  Then turn right and head up.  Keep going, enjoying the views and the exercise, until you reach Lansdown Place East, just after the Royal High School.  Turn left into Lansdown Place East, which becomes Lansdown Crescent, the Lansdown Place West, then Sion Hill.  You will thank yourself for having made the effort to see Lansdown Crescent, which is a treasure missed by many in favour of the better known Royal Crescent; there may be sheep grazing below the Crescent.  There are more Georgian crescents. You will see Somerset Place just above Sion Hill, but I’ve missed out Camden Crescent, which is missing most of its eastern arc because the ground was not secure enough to build on; the central house is most definitely not central!
Turn left down Cavendish Road and head down the hill again.  On your left, look, another Crescent!  By now you’ll have noticed from afar that much of the southern slopes of the city is Victorian and more recent additions to the architecture.  All the way down Cavendish Road, then cross into Marlborough Buildings.  That higgledy-piggledy, jumbled up structure that you see ahead and to the left is no less than the back of the Royal Crescent!  Only the front was architect-designed; the rest was built to suit the purchaser’s pocket.

Turn left into the Crescent and walk round it, maybe singing “Who will buy” from Oliver Twist as you do.  At the other end keep going along Brock Street until you come into the Circus.  Photo time!

Leave the Circus by the north east and you’ll come to the Assembly Rooms.  Turn right to walk past the entrance (go in if they’re open and you have time) and continue on the pedestrian path until you can go no further.  Turn right, then left into Miles Buildings until you finally come to George Street.  Turn right into George Street, then left into Gay Street.  You’ll pass the Jane Austen Centre on your left before walking down the east side of Queen Square.  At the corner of the square, keep heading in the same direction down Barton Street.  Duck right down Trim Street to look at the original facade of the Theatre Royal before retracing your steps and continuing down Barton Street to the front of the Theatre Royal.

Turn left into Sawclose/Upper Borough Walls, noting on the left a bit of faux original wall, and on the right the Royal National Hospital for Rheumatic Diseases (the ‘Min’, or Mineral Water Hospital).  The pedestrianised shopping spine of Bath crosses the road; turn north (left) to Old Bond Street and Milsom Street for the more expensive/exclusive shops and south (right) to Union Street and Stall Street for the more high street ones (though I think the new SouthGate centre has gentrified the southern end more recently).

If you’re going to explore shops, then look for the Corridor and Northumberland Place heading east from Union Street.

If you really can’t face the walk up to Lansdown Crescent, then turn left off Lansdown Hill into Montpelier/Julian Road, taking Rivers Street then left into Upper Church Street to bring you to the eastern end of the royal Crescent with a view of its back on the way.

Back to Bear Flat (1.5km)

Heading straight down the spine will take you past/through SouthGate to the river, Broad Quay and the Wells Road back up to Oldfield Park and Bear Flat.

Drinking

Don’t let yourself end up in the larger drinking establishments only.  You should try one or more of:

  • The Old Green Tree, Green Street (small, good selection of real ales)
  • The Hobgoblin, St James’ Parade
  • The Raven, Queen Street
  • The Rising Sun, Grove Street
  • The Farmhouse, Lansdown Hill
  • The Salamander, Quiet Street
  • The Crystal Palace, Abbey Green (beer garden at the back)
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