We visited Bath recently. It was the first time visiting for both the hubby and I – and we loved it! I adore the Regency period – of course, being a Jane Austen fan. And I love Georgian architecture so there was a lot to see just walking around.
Plenty of shops and museums to occupy our time too. I understand that Bath really does try to capitalise on Austen, and now the TV show Bridgerton, but as I love the Regency period it’s definitely my cup of tea.
So here are some of the things we loved about Bath – mainly the architecture, but also some really good museums and galleries too.
The Royal Crescent
One of Bath’s most iconic landmarks. Started in 1767 and completed in 1775, there are 30 terraced houses along here. Overlooking lovely lawns, the views here are pretty impressive. Lovely for a walk, in fact, many people took their dogs walking around here.
In the middle of the Crescent is a hotel, which I imagine would be pretty lovely to visit. I can’t imagine living in such a beautiful, and touristy, road.
Not far from the Royal Crescent is the Circus: curved rows of townhouses forming a circle with some lush green in the centre. It is quite magnificent.
If you look closely, you can see different symbols and emblems along the columns. I wasn’t quite sure what they were, but they looked pretty cool.
East of the city and over the River Avon is Pulteney Bridge. One of four bridges in the world to have shops along it on both sides. Quite a tiny bridge and the shops alongside it are naturally also quite tiny. But definitely worth a walk to see it.
Great Pulteney Street
Yards away from Pulteney Bridge is Great Pulteney Street – the picture really doesn’t do it justice. A long and wide road full of beautiful Georgian townhouses, with Pulteney Bridge at one end, and The Holburne Museum at the other end.
This street reminded me of a street in Edinburgh lined with large statues. No statues here, but still pretty breath-taking walking along it.
Museums and Galleries
No. 1 Royal Crescent
Along the beautiful Royal Crescent – in fact, the very first house that was built on this road – is now a museum. No. 1 Royal Crescent dramatises a Georgian family during a season as you tour through the rooms.
You walk through each room, which has some original furniture from the period, listening to audio narrative of those living in the Georgian townhouse. Some rooms also show films projected onto mirrors, walls, or tables, so there is both audio and visual – like an immersive experience.
We were in a small group of 7, which was just enough space to explore and walk through the rooms. Oftentimes, we were uncertain when to move onto the next room and would either hang about wondering if there would be extra audio to wait for or quickly rush into the next room as we heard the next audio start.
The dramatised narrative is somewhat predictable: the oldest daughter is keen to get married, fully aware that securing a marriage with a wealthy suitor would ensure a good future for herself. The second daughter is stereotypically a woman of the world, with her pulse on the ground and pretty woke (for the times).
The oldest son is due to inherit the family money, but is swindling it away on cards. I was aware that oftentimes the second son would join the military, and interestingly learnt that the third son would usually join the clergy.
The narrative also presents how and where the fortune of the Georgian family is derived: sugar, cocoa, tobacco, and rum.
It was an enjoyable and informative hour, listening to the narrative play out and walking through the rooms. Each room was quite different and it was interesting seeing how – or where – the films would project.
The furniture was quite pretty – and I must say – the carpet was really beautiful. The shop at the end of the tour was small but decent and there was also a small gallery above the shop which is a work in progress.
The Jane Austen Centre
Greeted by a gentleman in Georgian attire, you can’t miss the Jane Austen Centre. Welcomed into the shop, you’re provided a souvenir guide that charts a brief history of Austen’s life, some Austen and Bath facts, and a walking tour with your tickets.
There are 3 tours an hour. You’re guided to the first floor where there was an introductory video and a small room filled with Persuasion filming mementos you can look at while you wait for the next tour to start.
Catherine Morland from Northanger Abbey opened the doors and the talk/ tour began. The actor informed us of the history of the Austen family, writing and education of the family, and places they lived.
The Austens visited an aunt and uncle in Bath, and scandalously, the aunt was arrested for shoplifting but was later acquitted. Austen had visited Bath on a couple of occasions, and then moved to Bath with her parents and sister Cassandra on their father’s retirement.
The third eldest brother was adopted by their father’s second cousin to be their heir and invited Mrs Austen and the two unmarried daughters to live in Chawton rent free after the death of Mr Austen.
The tour continued downstairs, where there was an exhibition of Austen portraits and a short film showing places in Bath where Austen lived with her family. You can also dress up in Georgian clothes and even take a picture with Colin Firth as Mr Darcy.
Based on portraits and descriptions of the author, a forensic artist drew and painted a picture of Austen, and then a wax figure was created based on the picture and is displayed here.
Actor Emma Thompson has also visited the Jane Austen Centre. She wrote in a lovely letter and sent in various pictures, such as this one taken during the filming of Sense and Sensibility.
Funnily, there is a quote from Thompson during her visit displayed in the gift shop reading: “There’s an awful lot of Firth here”. That made me chuckle.
A delightful hour was spent here. The talk/ tour was informative and lively. The exhibition downstairs was small but interesting. I appreciated that there were actors dressed up really committed to their roles.
There were interesting things to read, short films to watch, and even clothes to dress up in. I love film and TV adaptations of Austen’s work too, so seeing film scripts and props was really interesting too.
The Holburne Museum
More of a gallery than a museum, the Holburne Museum holds art, objects, and trinkets collected by Sir Thomas William Holburne throughout his life.
When we visited, the top floor held a Tudor exhibition. This mainly showcased paintings of the Tudors and their various associates, along with commentary on religion and politics.
The middle floor held Holburne’s collection of various objects and trinkets. It reminded me of Sir John Soane’s Museum in London – both held large collections.
The Holburne Museum was more spacious and I felt the objects and trinkets were grouped more sensibly – and displayed more daringly: there was a room where vases were hung from the ceiling! We did not walk under said vases.
Interestingly, some of Holburne’s collection turned out to be fake. When Sir Holburne was collecting at the time, there were influxes of certain designs that people wanted to copy and profit off of.
Another exhibition was happening when we visited: Mick Peter’s Old Ghosts. I’m not usually a fan of modern art, but I liked this one: a humorous critique on the conventions of heritage sites.
Outside at the front of the museum was a sculpture showing a dig site, with an archaeologist wearing a top stating their “career lies in ruins”. I do like puns.
On the first floor was another sculpture making light of Regency filming, with life size actors in Regency attire and crew in casual clothes. Quite funny considering that Holburne Museum was used as Lady Danbury’s house in the TV show Bridgerton, also set in Regency England.
This sculpture was placed in the same room as other paintings, so you couldn’t quite see the paintings around the room very well. An interesting and enjoyable sculpture, though potentially not best placed. In this same room are really good views of Great Pulteney Street too.
An interesting hour or so walking around all the floors. We probably spent just as much time relaxing in the cafe and walking in the gardens.
The cafe downstairs was pretty decent. It was dog friendly and even had dog ice cream! Behind the museum is Sydney Gardens, where Jane Austen apparently frequented. It’s small but it was nice for a little stroll.
Museum of East Asian Art
Situated right by the Assembly Rooms near the city centre is the Museum of East Asian Art. The staff were super friendly and gave us a brief summary of what to expect in the museum, pointing out that there were things to see and read on the stairs too.
When we visited there was a Judo exhibition. There was an interesting letter from a Caucasian woman to her English Judo teacher, recounting her experiences of being trained by famous Japanese coaches in Japan at the time. Breaking boundaries, not only as a woman, but also as a non Japanese woman learning and mastering Judo.
There was a photo gallery on the first floor and objects on the second floor. Well spaced out and not crowded. When we visited there was a Japanese tea ceremony demonstration happening on the second floor, meaning we weren’t able to view all the items in that room.
Of the items we did see, they were very intricately made or full of bright colours. There was also a display of jade carvings, making me think my jade gua sha might not really be made of jade.
For £5 it was not expensive and took us almost 45 minutes to see everything – except part of the last room where the Japanese tea ceremony was taking place.
The displays on the stairs were quite interesting too. The staff were very friendly and helpful, and there was a small and interesting shop on the ground floor too.
This is one of the oldest houses in Bath and below in the basement is a tiny one room museum, whilst the ground floor is a cafe. The kitchen museum was interesting to visit and there was a tiny shop here too.
Famous for its buns, the Sally Lunn bun is absolutely massive and you can buy them to take away. Solange Luyon, who became known as Sally Lunn, arrived in England from France and allegedly created the now famous buns.
Near The Royal Crescent is the Botanical Gardens, where there are dogs absolutely everywhere! It took us a little while to find the main garden entrance, as some of the side gates were locked.
I was aiming to get to this beautiful blossom tree. It was massive and magnificent and definitely worth it.
In the city centre, right by the Roman Baths, is Bath Abbey. I love the Gothic architecture here. We didn’t go inside but you can and you can also climb up to the top to see the magnificent views of this lovely city.
We visited the shop in the Abbey, which was very large and had a tiny peep through to the main Abbey.
Bath Assembly Rooms
In the city centre, near The Museum of East Asian Art, is the Bath Assembly Rooms. Currently the Fashion Museum is inside, but back in the day balls and dances were held here.
Mr B’s Emporium of Reading Delights
Of course I had to talk about Mr B’s Emporium of Reading Delights. Right in the city centre is this great book store where the staff are very helpful and informative.
They offer reading spas, which the hubby and I both both went to. Read how we got on here. If you’re an avid reader or simply want to get (back) into reading, then I highly recommend this place to check out.
The Pump Room
I had heard great things about The Pump Room and knew we had to visit. A pretty famous place to eat in Bath and in the same building as the Roman Baths.
We took afternoon tea here and it was splendid – you can read more about that here.
A thoroughly enjoyable visit to Bath – we loved this city. The places, the people, the architecture – ah, it was absolutely lovely. Everything was within walking distance, and there was enough green and flowers around too.
If you’re into history, of course there’s the Roman Baths, which we didn’t visit. If you’re into literature, then there’s the Jane Austen Centre as well as many good book stores.
What I wasn’t expecting was the amount of immersive experiences to be had here. There was No. 1 Royal Crescent, and there is also the House of Frankenstein too, which we might visit next time.
Definitely worth a trip if you haven’t been to this beautiful city before. I’d say there is something for everyone here.
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