Bath For Jane Austen Fans
Bath is beautiful all year round but to see it at its best, visit during the Jane Austen Festival (9-18 Sep), which celebrates the author of Pride and Prejudice and Emma. The author lived in Bath in the early 1800s, and two of her books, Northanger Abbey and Persuasion, are set in the city. It’s not every day you get to stroll around a British city dressed in an 18th-century bonnet, so why not join the festival’s highlight, the Grand Regency Costumed Promenade (10 Sep).
The street parade sees 500 people dressed in period costume. The festival programme also includes a country ball, Austen-themed comical walks, readings and masquerade-making or dancing workshops. The city’s top sights are all within walking distance of one another so you can see them in a day, but to do the city justice stay for two or three. Just a short walk from the station is magnificent Bath Abbey, which was built between 1499 and 1616. It looms over the city and the neighbouring Roman Baths – Britain’s only hot spring, which still steams with hot water. See the Sacred Spring and Roman Temple. Take inspiration from the Romans and bathe in the mineral-rich hot water at Thermae Bath Spa, a few streets away. It has an indoor bath, Jacuzzi and steam rooms, although the highlight is its rooftop pool – beautiful by day or night, it makesfor a romantic evening out.
On a sunny day, relax by the bandstand in the Parade Gardens, which overlooks the River Avon and Pulteney Bridge; from here, if you walk along the river, you’ll arrive at The Victoria Art Gallery, which houses paintings, sculpture and decorative arts over two floors. Prior Park is a gorgeous place to spend time in, too. Bath has many museums, but if you only have time to explore a few then visit the Fashion Museum for its Behind the Scenes exhibition on how women’s dress has changed over the centuries (until 2 Jan). The Museum of East Asian Art specialises in Chinese art including ceramics dating from 5,000 BC.
Literary lovers will not want to miss The Jane Austen Centre, where guides dressed in period costume explain the effect Bath had on the author and her writing. You can also take a selfie with a waxwork of Jane Austen, and have afternoon tea in The Regency Tea Room inside the Georgian townhouse. Both museums are around the corner from The Circus, a picturesque curved terrace of Georgian townhouses dating from 1754. The Royal Crescent, a row of 30 terraced houses built in the late 1700s, is nearby. They overlook Royal Victoria Park, a 57-acre space that is home to a botanical garden.
At night, visit Theatre Royal Bath – catch The Libertine (to 17 Sep), starring Dominic Cooper as the 17th-century philanderer Earl of Rochester, or take a behind-the-scenes tour (9 & 16 Sep).
Where To Eat: Huguenot baker Sally Lunn’s legacy lives on in a tearoom named after her in one of the city’s oldest houses, right by the abbey. It’s known for its buns, which can be topped with lemon curd, dulce de leche and marmalade (not usually all at once!) – although you can also have afternoon tea and ‘trencher’ dishes that date from 1500 – meals served on bread. 4 North Parade Passage, BA1 1NX, T: 01225 461634, sallylunns.co.uk
Where To Stay: You can’t beat the Abbey Hotel, which overlooks Parade Gardens and the abbey, for location. Once three adjoining townhouses, it’s now a boutique hotel with individually decorated rooms, quirky art and an ‘igloo’ event space in a former air-raid shelter. Double room from £111. North Parade, BA1 1LF, T:01225 809193, abbeyhotelbath.co.uk
How To Get There: London Paddington to Bath Spa (takes 1 hour and 30 mins; from £29 return Fri-Sun). T:03457 484950, nationalrail.co.uk