Car-free adventures aroundBathSomerset
Natural hot springs have been luring travellers to Bath for two millennia. You can get there by train from London Paddington with GWR in an hour and twenty minutes. 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.
1. Take the boat to Bathampton…
Ten minutes’ scenic stroll from Bath Spa railway station is iconic Pulteney Bridge. Robert Adam, the celebrated 18th-century architect, designed it in the fashionable Palladian style and it gives Bath its distinctive Venetian feel. Cross over this city landmark, between rows of shops and cafés, and take the steps on the right down to the water’s edge. Here you can find the Pulteney Cruisers to take you on a peaceful boat trip.
- The boat runs from Pulteney Weir to Bathampton from April to October and sets off quite frequently.
- On the way, you’ll pass rowing boats and weeping willows, grey herons and gold-stoned houses.
- Bathampton Mill, right by the landing stage, overlooks another elegant bridge and weir.
2. …and stroll (or ride) back along the canal
You can take a different boat trip back along the beautiful Kennet and Avon canal or simply stroll along the gentle waterside path. Walk straight through the car park of Bathampton Mill and turn right over the main road (see map below).
- At the George Inn turn right again, along the side of the canal. (Unless you want to visit the Café on the Barge first, which is a few steps left.)
- Two miles of delightful walking take you back along a flat, sandy towpath into Bath, with views over the city.
- The towpath is a great place to cycle peacefully too, away from bus roads. You can rent bikes (or boats!) from Bath Narrowboats or use the bikes for free if you book floating B&B on one of their boats. They also recommend the Bristol Bath railway path – traffic-free and 13 miles long.
- If you’d rather glide than walk or cycle, seasonal boat trips run too.
3. Holburne and other museums
Bath has a ridiculous number of museums, covering an extraordinary number of subjects: architecture, astronomy, America, Jane Austen, even the postal service.
- 1¾ miles along the canal-side towpath from Bathampton, you reach a series of elegant bridges near the Holburne Museum. Turn right through the park past the neoclassical temple to this gem of a gallery (one of the locations for Bridgerton!), with a lovely garden café.
- Highlights include Thomas Gainsborough’s classic portrait of the Byam family. Gainsborough moved from his native Suffolk to Bath, in 1759, to capitalise on the city’s fashionable clientele.
- The city’s other interesting museums include the American Museum, which can be reached on bus U1 or U2 or via the Skyline Walk (see 4 below). The museum, in a 19th-century manor house near Bath University, showcases historical items, folk and decorative arts from America, from maps to quilts.
- Back in the city centre, there’s plenty more to see, including Bath Abbey with its extraordinary fan-vaulted ceiling.