I recently stayed in Castle Combe, a quintessentially English village and backdrop to Steven Spielberg’s latest film War Horse. The traditional buildings are so perfect, it’s said that all Speilberg’s crew had to do was scatter hay and wood chippings over the tarmac roads before they started filming.
Integrated into a row of cottages and the 14th Century manor they used to serve is the stunning Manor House Hotel. Having enjoyed some top notch food and strolled (a little bit of) the hotel’s 365 acres of grounds, I decided to head into Bath.
With Austenian streets, well-preserved Roman sites, the sweeping river Avon and the famously Georgian Royal Crescent, this small city really is a showstopper.
It’s a great place to have a stroll and do a bit of shopping in quirky individual retailers as well as mainstream stores in the pedestrianised city centre. Plenty of premium brands have nestled into the sandstone buildings.
It won’t be long before you come across Bath Abbey. This towering piece of architecture is even more stunning on the inside thanks to the work of Sir George Gilbert Scott in the late 19th Century.
Just behind the Abbey are the famous Roman Baths. The first shrine was erected on this site thousands of years ago, and the baths are currently housed in 18th Century buildings along with a museum of Roman artifacts. Built on a natural hot spring, the water emerges at 47C. Even today this is an amazing natural wonder, so in its heyday it would have seemed miraculous. Its clientele only ever experienced cold water, and pretty much never washed, so to be submerged in warm clear water for the first time must have been amazing. Lack of understanding of sanitation meant that many mistook the baths for having healing powers. The reality was that most people just needed a good old wash.
Modern visitors in need of a dip must head to the Thermae Bath Spa. This is the UK’s only naturally heated spa; and people come from miles around to bob around in the water for a couple of hours. You can splash out on a treatment (or even a signature ‘Watsu’ water massage in a private pool), or head straight up to the roof to relax in the pool overlooking the whole of Bath. It’s the perfect way to unwind.
Image courtesy of Flickr
Next time: Travel Insurance – the Necessary Evil