Car-free adventures aroundBathSomerset

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Natural hot springs have been luring travellers to Bath for two millennia. Visitors can still see the famous Roman bath with the remains of a huge temple complex, still fed by a steady flow of geo-thermally heated water. You can bathe in the warm mineral water at the neighbouring Thermae Spa, enjoying views across the city from a rooftop pool - and for twice as long if you come by train (see 7 below). Besides some of the world's best preserved Roman remains, Bath boasts glorious Georgian architecture dating from its 18th century incarnation as a fashionable resort. Enjoy boat trips, waterside walks, museums, gardens, parks and panoramas. And reach them all without a car.

  • County: Somerset
  • Great for: architecture | art | boat trips | cycling | flowers | gardens | history | museums | riverside walks |
  • Refreshments: pubs, cafes and restaurants
  • Please note: researched/updated September 2021. If anything’s changed or you have tips to share, do get in touch: features@goodjourney.org.uk
  1. 4. Skyline Walk

    A six mile walk along the hills near the city gives visitors some of the best views across Bath. The National Trust’s page has directions from Bath Abbey or you can catch bus U1 from the city centre to Cleveland Walk on Bathwick Hill.

    • Turn left out of Bath Spa railway station. The bus leaves from the far side of Dorchester Street, from stop Bh. The bus makes a little scenic circuit through the centre of town before crossing North Parade and heading up to Bathwick.
    • Among the many highlights on the walk are the eighteenth-century Sham Castle, some spectacular panoramas across Regency terraces and some patches of ancient woodland.
    • The American Museum is also close to the route and has been known to offer a free hot drink and cookie at their cafe for walkers or cyclists, when they buy a ticket for the museum.
  1. 5. Prior Park

    Prior Park’s 18th-century landscape garden is a gem even in beautiful Bath, where it has so much scenic competition. A neoclassical mansion stands at the top of a steep slope above a lake and Palladian bridge. Ralph Allen, pioneer of the UK postal system, wanted to showcase Bath stone as a building material. The house is now a private school; but the park, designed by Capability Brown, is still very much worth exploring.

    • Bus 2 from Bath Bus Station leaves every 20 minutes and stops outside the entrance to Prior Park on Ralph Allen Drive.
    • You can stroll past the remains of the grotto, along the Serpentine Lake and into the sloping woods. Have a cream tea outside the Tea Shed. In spring, the paths are especially beautiful, bordered by thick carpets of white-flowered wild garlic. The hawthorn and chestnut trees are fretted with blossom and the lake is fringed with yellow flags.
    • Don’t miss the incredible views from the top of the estate – “a noble seat which sees all Bath”, one contemporary visitor called it. The views are still breathtakingly beautiful and definitely best enjoyed by bus or on foot since Prior Park has no dedicated parking.
  1. 6. Have a bus adventure

    The bus to Prior Park takes just five minutes, but there’s a great choice of routes for a longer journey into the hilly Somerset countryside. Buses from Bath’s bus station head regularly in all directions; here are a couple of bus rides that are richly rewarding.

    • The Bath Soft Cheese Company in Kelston is an organic dairy farm, making cheeses from their own cows’ milk, like award-winning “Wyfe of Bath”, which you can buy or sample in the on-site café.
    • Nearby is Kelston’s Old Crown gastropub, serving tasty small plates (spiced lamb chipolatas, smoked trout, roasted courgette). To get there, buses 19 and 37 to Kelston leave from Bath bus station.
    • A short, but strenuous walk up onto the Cotswold Way brings great views and an appetite. From outside the Old Crown, follow the main road past the interesting Italianate house with a tower. Fork left at a footpath sign; keep heading uphill and left at the farmhouse to find the Cotswold Way, which eventually leads to a viewpoint called Prospect Stile near Bath Racecourse and an ancient hillfort.
    • The well-marked, undulating Cotswold Way begins in gold-stoned Chipping Campden and reaches its literal highpoint, 1000 feet above sea level, on sheep-dotted Cleeve Hill, just outside Cheltenham. The hundred-mile route celebrates the hills’ millennial histories, passing a Neolithic long barrow at Belas Knap or the ruined, 13th-century monastery of Hailes Abbey, before ending in Bath.
    • Heading south instead, bus D2 leads through wooded lanes and pretty villages, past half-timbered inns and ancient priories, to the quirky town of Frome, packed with cobbled lanes, vintage shops and artisanal coffee houses.
  1. 7. Relax for longer in the Spa

    A car-free break doesn’t have to be all muddy boots and sore feet or bus rides through the countryside. You can bathe like a Roman in the warm, mineral waters of Bath’s luxurious Thermae Spa, with its outdoor, rooftop pool, eucalyptus-scented steam rooms and giant, curving jacuzzis. (Thanks to Thermae Bath Spa for the photo).

    • Next door are the famous Roman Baths, some of the world’s best preserved Roman ruins. They are also open every day – and late on summer evenings. They offer joint tickets with the spa or with the Fashion Museum and Art Gallery, which are all in easy walking distance from each other.
    • Midweek evenings are probably your best chance for a peaceful starlit swim in the spa – a spectacular place to relax as the floodlit turrets of Bath Abbey and neo-gothic spire of St John’s loom out of the thermal mists.
  1. Buses, bikes and places to stay

     

    Here’s a bit more practical info if you’re planning a staycation in Bath.

    • If you’re taking several bus rides, First buses offer day tickets giving unlimited trips across the city. And, if the bus journeys are on the same day that you arrive by train, get a bargain PlusBus ticket instead to add on to your train ticket for unlimited bus rides around the whole urban area.
    • You can hire bikes from Green Park bike station
    • There are lots of places to stay in Bath, including Brooks Guesthouse with doubles from about £80. It’s a boutique B&B in a limestone terrace round the corner from the Royal Crescent with a bus stop just outside the door. Bus 4a goes to (near) the station every twenty minutes. There are great breakfasts too that include homemade berry compote, layered glasses of granola, and cooked options like eggs Florentine and full English.
  • National Trust walk sign - Bath car-free adventures
  • Walkers on grass - Bath car-free adventures
  • tea and scones - Bath car-free adventures
  • Woodland walk - Bath car-free adventures
  • Bath soft cheese - Bath car-free adventures
  • Bath houses - Bath car-free adventures
  • Bath thermae spa - Bath car-free adventures