“Oh! Who can ever be tired of Bath?” (Catherine Moreland, Northanger Abbey)
The Sea by Morcheeba
Sally Lunn's buns
The cult of Jane Austen is strong in Bath. The esteemed novelist lived here in the early 19th century; indeed, two of her novels are both rooted firmly in this most Georgian of cities, all mellow stone crescents, pleasant green spaces and wide pavements, perfectly laid-out for perambulations. The Circus, the Crescent, the Paragon; all are names dear Jane would have known intimately, and captured perfectly, in her clever societal takes on upper-class behaviour and manners.
Now you can take Austen walking tours, visit her museum, be appealed to by those dressed as she would have dressed. Bath is a perfect tourist city, historical in its groundings (Roman baths and ancient cathedral); perfect in its heyday (Georgian watering hole, Miss Austen and her novels); and refined in its modernity (preserved squares and crescents, new architecture thoroughly in keeping). Every door in the Royal Crescent is painted the same colour. It is a city that is utterly jewel-like in its perfection.
Yet behind the polished facades, the English cream teas, the parade of bonneted re-enactors and the groomed gardens, there is a darker side to Bath. Jane Austen wrote of this, the rain-swept streets, the sun refusing to break through the clouds. As she says, “the appearance of the place… was all vapour, shadow, smoke and confusion.”
The constant social whirl of the city was impermanent and never-ending, Jane felt. People coming and going. A sense of inferiority and class ever present. It is different now, of course. People still come and go, the faces changing, the streets populated with a rich cast of new characters every day. But the darker side, the vapours and the shadows, are still there. You just have to know where to find them.
Just outside the city centre, this cosy real-ale pub also has an amazing kitchen attached. Perfect for those rainy days when you can't be arsed to walk anywhere.
Rose & Crown
Up the hill in Larkhall, this is a marvellous spot after a long stroll around the city. Roaring fires and friendly locals make it complete.
The Black Fox
Once a grubby rock pub, this is now a chic space, with good food and nice rooms. Some long for the days when it was still a grubby rock pub.
Still a grubby rock pub, with live music nights, and a crowd that's well up for the fun.
The Hop Pole
A Bath Ale pub that does great food and has a lovely beer garden for those sunny days.
The Garrick's Head
An institution in the city. Next to the Theatre Royal, this is the perfect pub for a slightly posher night out.
Great coffee and even better breakfasts for those hungover city-centre mornings.
A fun little Indian up in Larkhall that serves up huge platters of thalis. It's BYOB too, which keeps it cheap.
Good atmostphere and great burgers. The Sunday roasts are also recommended.
Delicious Thai food in a glorious setting.
Same Same But Different
A cafe that's a cut above – their ever-changing menu makes this a treat.
A vintage shop where clothes are laid out perfectly, with friendly staff and an incredible selection. Recommended.
Afficionados of the print medium, rejoice! This is the shop for you. A fabulous choice of indie mags, where browsing is encouraged. And they have a cute shop dog. Even better.
Graham & Green
Gorgeous homewares, cushions, decorations and knick-knacks, in a splendid cavern of a shop in Walcot.
Dorothy House charity shops
The best in Bath! Always a good selection of clothes, and they have furniture shops, too.
British Heart Foundation charity shop
Another fabulous chazza shop, with a gorgeous and well-curated selection of stock.
Bath doesn't seem to have any record shops in actual, well, shops. But it does have Resolution, down at Green Park Station market, where this small-but-perfectly formed stall flogs a well-curated selection of vinyl to those in the know.
What we did:
Took a wander up to the Pump Rooms, and around to the Royal Crescent in the rain, following in the footsteps of Miss Austen. Headed down to the weir for a wander along the river, then it was time for a quick hop over to the cathedral and the Roman Baths. There’s so much to do here, a couple of days are needed!
Morcheeba – The Sea
Not thought of this one for a long time...
What we bought:
Plenty of Sally Lunn's buns! And an umbrella to escape from the infernal rain.
Where we stayed:
House Of The Dead / Crazy golf?:
You must be joking. Though we suspect Miss Austen might well have approved of such frivolous amusements.