One of the most intriguing and interesting historical sights in South West England is The Roman Baths in Bath, England. While it might be difficult to imagine a life where public baths were an integral part of community life, that was certainly the case for the ancient Romans who built the baths more than 2000 years ago. Visiting the baths gave us a unique perspective on what it would have been like in those times.
The city of Bath as a tourist destination has a lot to offer, both in terms of historical and modern attractions, as we learned recently on our tour of South West England. We could have easily spent a full week in Bath, even though it is a relatively small town. We stayed very close to the city center, at the lovely Brooks Guesthouse, which made it very easy for us to walk to the main attractions, including the Roman Baths, which are just one small part of this incredible place. Bath is less than a 2-hour drive from Heathrow, but you can also take a train that will bring you right to the city quickly and easily.
We really enjoyed walking the streets of Bath, admiring the Georgian architecture all around us. The center of the action, which includes the Roman Baths, The Pump Room, and surrounding buildings, were all mere steps from the Bath Abbey and the modern Thermae Bath Spa, which I can guarantee you’ll also want to visit.
The building that houses the Roman Baths, aside from being obviously historic and grandiose, doesn’t give away much from the exterior, but once you get inside you’ll see just how impressive this place is, especially The Great Bath, in the center of the building.
I won’t go much into the history of the baths because that information is readily accessible and will be explained in detail upon arrival. Suffice to say that the Roman Baths were used as a public bath house where the Romans bathed together for health purposes and for socializing. The water comes from natural hot springs below the surface that were discovered on that location long before the Roman invasion.
You can walk all around the complex for a good two to three hours listening to the commentary that explains pretty much every aspect of the baths. The thing I liked most was that the hand-held audio device, which you listen to as if talking on a phone, can be rewound or fast-forwarded to suit your preferences. When you come upon something you’re interested in, you just locate the number corresponding to the commentary and punch it into your handset. In this way, you can meander through the baths at your own pace and listen to as much or as little of the historical information as you want.
We spent a few hours walking through, taking pictures, and listening, and we never felt rushed or at a loss for answers to our questions. You’ll see that some sections of the complex have been restructured throughout the centuries to suit the current inhabitants, and some sections have been preserved to keep them from crumbling, but with the use of a little imagination, you’ll get a very good idea what it might have looked like for the Romans who once bathed there.
Another section of the Baths is The Pump Room, which was used much the way it is today, as a separate gathering place in conjunction with the Baths. It’s directly next door and can be reached easily through a set of stairs at the end of the tour. Drop off your audio headset, walk up the stairs and you’re ready for afternoon tea at The Pump Room.
We visited the Roman Baths on a Friday in March, which is by no means the height of the tourist season, so it was a very pleasant time walking around, but I can imagine that June to August would not afford the same leisurely visit that we had. If you can visit outside of the high season, I would really recommend it, as you will definitely have a better viewing experience and less traffic inside the tight spaces to contend with.
It helps to buy your tickets in advance on the website, especially in the high season (June-August). Opening hours vary, so check the website for that information as well. An adult single ticket is currently £15. There are family ticket prices available, as well as some special deals which combine other attractions and give you a small discount. The combination that I like the most is the Spas Ancient and Modern package, which includes tickets to the Roman Baths, lunch or afternoon tea at The Pump Room, and a 2-hour session at the Thermae Bath Spa.
If you’re going to be visiting Bath or the nearby area you really won’t want to miss seeing The Roman Baths. They are quite interesting and leave a lasting impression. I don’t think a trip to Bath would be complete without it.
(As always, all thoughts and opinions expressed in this post are my own honest reflection on our travel experiences.)