Mini guide to Georgian Bath
Bath’s Pulteney Weir exemplifies the Palladian style from which much of Georgian architecture evolved. (Robert Cousins/Getty)
Sophisticated and stately, Bath’s streets are lined with the finest Georgian architecture. What better time to visit and feel part of high society than the 200th anniversary of Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice?
The crowning glory of Georgian Bath is the Royal Crescent, a semi-circular terrace of 30 houses overlooking Royal Victoria Park. Designed by John Wood the Younger between 1767 and 1774, the Grade-I listed terrace is the most important Georgian street in Britain. Despite the symmetry of Ionic columns and Palladian porticos, inside no two houses are the same.
The Building of Bath collection traces the city’s architectural evolution – from provincial community to a world-famous Georgian spa town. Displays detail everything from how to build a sash window, to the most fashionable wallpapers of 18th-century society (The Vineyards, Paragon; open 9 Feb–24 Nov; 2pm–5pm Tue–Fri, weekends 10.30am–5pm; £5 admission).
Capability Brown and the poet Alexander Pope both had a hand in the design of Prior Park, an 18th-century landscaped garden on the city’s southern fringe. Built by Ralph Allen, it was conceived as an architectural showpiece to demonstrate what could be achieved with the honey-hued Bath limestone (Ralph Allen Dr; Nov–Mar 10am–5pm weekends only, Feb–Nov 10am–5.30pm daily; £5.65 admission).
Jane Austen’s Bath
Bath was Austen’s home from 1801–6 and the city features in Persuasion and Northanger Abbey. The Jane Austen Centre explores the author’s connections with Bath through costumed guides, pictorial prints and exhibits. There’s also a Regency tearoom (40 Gay Street; Apr–Oct 9.45am–5.30pm, Jul–Aug until 7pm Thu–Sat, Nov-Mar 11am–4.30pm Sun-Mon, until 5.30pm Sat; £8).
Built in 1771 by John Wood the Younger, the Assembly Rooms were the heart of Bath’s busy social scene. Chamber concerts, card games and balls welcomed many famous visitors, including Jane Austen, Charles Dickens, Haydn and Strauss. You can wander around the card room, tearoom and ballroom, all lit by their original 18th-century chandeliers (Bennett Street; Mar–Oct 10.30am–6pm, Nov–Feb 10.30am–5pm; £2).
Gravel Walk was known as a ‘lover’s lane’ in Jane Austen’s time and was the setting for a love scene between Captain Wentworth and Anne Elliot in Persuasion. Along the walk, tucked between Royal Crescent and Queen Square, is the Georgian Garden, restored to resemble a typical townhouse garden of the 18th Century, with formal flowerbeds, stone-flagged paths and gravel walkways (9am–dusk; free).
Eating and drinking
Regency dandies were fond of taking to the Roman Baths and, although you can’t take a dip now, you can sample a glass of spa water, in the chandelier-clad Pump Room. Far nicer is the afternoon tea – fancy sandwiches, scones and a pot of tea or coffee (Abbey Church Yard; 9.30am–5pm year round, dinner 6pm–9pm Jul–Aug only; afternoon tea £18.50).
The elegant Georgian dining rooms of Casani’s are set on a pedestrian lane off George Street. There’s more of the customary chandeliers and white linen tablecloths, but it’s more bistro than stuffy. The food is Provençal, with dishes such as fish soup, chicken liver parfait and beef stew, plus there are reasonably priced set menus (casanis.co.uk; 4 Saville Row; 12–2pm, 6pm–10pm Tue-Sat; set two-course lunch £16).
Set in a row of Georgian houses but tracing its roots back to the 16th Century, the Star Inn has retained many of its 19th-century bar fittings. Beer is served in traditional jugs and you can even ask for a complimentary pinch of snuff in the smaller bar (23 The Vineyards off the Paragon; 12pm–2.30pm, 5.30pm–11pm Mon–Fr, 12pm–11pm Sat, 12pm–10.30pm Sun).
Direct trains arrive at Bath from London Paddington and Waterloo (from £19; 1½ hours) and Bristol (£14; 11 minutes), while buses arrive on Dorchester Street (55 minutes to Bristol). For drivers there are several park and ride schemes – at Lansdown, Newbridge and Odd Down (from £2.50 return). Bath is easily explored on foot but you can hire bikes to venture further (full day £10).