Instead of my usual travels to the continent, I finally decided to stay in the UK and we made a visit to Bath for the weekend. On the way back, we stopped at Avebury and also in Bray.
One of England’s most charming and beautiful cities, Bath is filled with Georgian architecture and one of the best preserved Roman Bathhouses, built on a natural hot spring.
The bathhouse was the center of life for the Romans – they not only came to bath, but it was a place for fitness, socialising, and most importantly, a religious center. The bathhouse is well intact, and the site has been excavated and reconstructed in a way so you can clearly envision the rest of the site as well. It is well worth a visit.
The grand Georgian architecture is seen at its greatest at the Royal Crescent. 1 Royal Crescent in itself is a museum, where you can tour through the house and get a good feel of what it was like to live as both the wealthy and as the servants in Georgian times.
Bath also has plenty of outdoor sites to enjoy as well. Just down the River Avon, there’s Pulteney Bridge, which like Ponte Vecchio in Florence, is one of few bridges that has shops built into it. And just down the river from Pulteney Bridge, is Pulteney Weir – built to help control the flooding problems the city faced.
Bath is also full of some great places to eat and drink (and also some not so good ones):
- Sally Lunn’s Historic Eating House: This is not only a restaurant, but also a historical site. Sally Lunn’s house is one of Bath’s oldest houses, and home to the historic Bath Bun. Sally Lunn, a refugee from France, found employment with a baker in Bath in 1680, and introduced him to brioche. Today, the bath bun is served in a number of ways – sweet and savory and is well worth a visit. There is also a small museum in the basement of the building.
- Hall & Woodhouse: The former auction house is over 230 years old, and today is a spectacular gastropub, situated over four fours, with a pub, dining room and roof terrace bar. It was a last minute booking, but given the size, it isn’t too difficult to get in, and is well worth the visit – not just for the grandiose spiralling staircase and decor, but also the food is good and well priced too!
- Ponte Vecchio: This little italian place has a nice terrace overlooking the weir, but unfortunately both the service and the food were sub-par. I’d recommending considering a coffee and cake at the Riverside Cafe instead (note: we didn’t get a chance to try it ourselves but the reviews are good, and it looked pretty good!)
- Circus Cafe & Restaurant: This family run restaurant, located just between Royal Crescent and Circus serves seasonal, locally sourced dishes for their regularly changing menu. Overall, it was a good atmosphere and pretty good food.
- Art Bar at the Abbey Hotel: This bar, situated on astroturf on the sidewalk, equipped with both umbrellas and heat lamps, is a great place for a pre-dinner drink. We also hear that in the winter, it turns into a lodge!
On our way back from Bath, we made a stop at Avebury. We had visited the famous Stonehenge, but Avebury is a much larger site and definitely under-rated.
The first farmers were at Avebury more than 6,000 years ago. The site itself has been excavated, and is a great place to walk around the Stone Circle (which is substantially larger than Stone Henge). You can also visit the museum, manor house and manor house gardens on the site. I highly recommend doing a 45 minute tour given by one of the volunteer guides (£3 per person) as the site is not marked, and there are a lot of key details in the specific stones.
Following Avebury, we made one last stop before returning to London. We decided to pop into The Hinds Head in Bray for a late Sunday lunch at Heston Blumenthal’s famous pub. It’s not the fat duck, but it was some tasty British pub food. Bray itself is also a nice small village, and well worth a trip back when the Fat Duck reopen (or maybe even to consider the Waterside – the other three michelin star restaurant in this tiny village).