British tourist authorities are promoting the GREAT in Britain this year, with the queen’s 60th Diamond Jubilee and Summer Olympics as magnificent cornerstones. Those events focus on London, but there are wondrous historic draws outside the capital too.
The Roman town of Bath is one outstanding example, easily reached by car or train on a day trip, though at least one overnight stay is recommended to savour the tranquility and perhaps take the waters which gave the town its name.
The narrow streets are lined with fine stone buildings of Georgian design. Among these are The Royal Crescent containing some 30 terraced houses dating from 1775. The Circus is another masterpiece of urban residences and one of the key reasons Bath was awarded the title of World Heritage Site by UNESCO.
Pulteney Bridge, over the river Avon, shares honours with the Ponte Vecchio in Florence, Italy as being the only historic bridges with shops, while Bath Abbey, begun in 1499, is the last of the great medieval churches of England. The 212 step belfry and roof tour is a must for panoramic views and a peek downward through a hole in the vaulted ceiling.
At the heart of Bath sits the Roman Temple of Minerva and ancient below-ground baths -– all accesible by personal tours with audio headsets. Visitors follow the history from legendary Prince Bladud’s discovery of the healing waters around 863 BC, to how Celts, Romans, Saxons, Normans and Georgians enjoyed the mineral rich liquids –- and how we Moderns still do.
The word SPA derives from the Latin phrase Salus Per Aqua, meaning health through water. And here’s the bargain of Bath: within 100 feet of these ancient waters is the exquisite Thermae Bath Spa, a touch of luxury open to the public at rates affordable enough to not make you feel as though you’ve…umm…had a bath.
There are over 50 spa, health and beauty treatments available for which advance booking is required. To book, either show up at the door by following pedestrian signposts or phoning 0844 888 0844 (from overseas 44 1225 33 1234). Lockers, robes and hair dryers are provided.
Springs Café & Restaurant serves snacks and light meals. A spacious indoor pool is available while the open air rooftop pool offers the ultimate abbey view between your toes and the swirling mist, when conditions are right, as you float between water and sky.
The complex is an inspired design linking three 18th century stone buildings with a contemporary structure. Strange but true that the source of the water remains a mystery. However, we do know that the water contains 42 minerals which are heated 2 kilometers below ground, emerging at a constant temperature of 46.5 C. The spa waters then cool down to an optimum 33.5 C (92 F) for bathing.
Welcome to Britain’s only natural thermal spa!
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Please note: Story and photos copyright © Gary Crallé 2012. Not for commercial reproduction without written consent.
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Gary Crallé is a seriously sociable travel photographer who appreciates wherever he is. With almost 70 countries under his travel belt it’s surprising he hasn’t put on weight. He likes to concentrate on what is good for the body and soul (history & culture, gastronomy, health & leisure) and the spirit within us (geography, self-discovery/adventure). Image-based stories are his passion.
Located: Georgetown Canada
Likes: photography, adventure, gastronomy, history, events, health & leisure