Look out for the Good Journey Mark – where car-free visitors are welcome and enjoy a discount
Car-free adventures aroundBathSomerset
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.
1. Take the boat to Bathampton…
Robert Adam, the celebrated 18th-century architect, designed Pulteney Bridge in the fashionable Palladian style and it gives Bath its distinctive Venetian feel. Cross over this city icon, between rows of shops and cafés, and take the steps on the right down to the water’s edge. Here you’ll find the Pulteney Princess ready to take you on a peaceful boat trip.
- The boat runs from April to October and sets off every eighty minutes from 10.20am to 5pm and costs £5 for a one-way trip to Bathampton.
- Just turn up at Pulteney Weir five minutes before it’s due to leave.
- 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, cross the lane ahead and turn right on the cycle track. Follow this tarmac path and then the pavement of Mill Lane, over the A4 and towards St Nicholas church.
- At the George Inn turn right 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 on the wheelchair-accessible John Knill waterbus leave every couple of hours from near the George pub and cost £5.
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, 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 his early 30s, in 1759, to capitalise on the city’s fashionable clientele.
- The city’s other interesting museums include the American Museum, which can be reached via the Skyline Walk (see 4 below), the U1 and U2 buses, or on its own free shuttle bus.
- 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.