Nestled into the hollows of its seven enfolding hills, honey-hued and historic Bath – all Regency splendour and Jane Austen ambience amid Somerset’s comely countryside – is best seen from on high.
Bathe above Bath
There has been a settlement in the area
for nearly 3,000 years, since King Bladud reputedly wallowed in the local mud
and was cured of his leprosy. In 44 AD the Romans founded Aquae Sulis on the
site, building a grand complex around the healing waters – which you can still
addition, the freshly refurbished Thermae
Bath Spa is the impressive 21st-century incarnation of a Roman bathhouse.
It is also one of the best places to get an overview of the city as the rooftop
mineral pool, a constant 33.5 C, looks over the
Abbey and surrounding streets; visit at twilight to stew in the waters as
the sun goes down over the city.
Walk and ride the Skyline
The city’s seven
hilltops offer countryside on the doorstep and the chance to see Bath from
Walk is the best way to discover both. Though popular – in 2010 it was
revealed as the guide most often downloaded from the National Trust – this 10km
circuit feels far from crowded.
Starting from the University of Bath, the
trail links quiet woodland, rare wildlife, an Iron Age hill fort and
architectural glories. The best views of the city are from Bathwick Hill and,
just off the route, the 18th-century “Sham Castle” – like a Hollywood film set,
a magnificent-looking facade with nothing behind it.
the walk, stop off at Prior
Park. The landscaped gardens (part designed by Capability Brown) encompass
a lake, blooming flowerbeds and a rare Palladian bridge – plus great lookouts
over the city’s spires.
word of caution – Bath’s hills make for steep walking. The Skyline
open-top bus tour, a hop-on, hop-off drive linking some of the same sites,
takes the strain out of visiting the city’s higher reaches.
without leaving the city centre, climb the 212 steps of Bath
Abbey on a Tower Tour. This guided trip grants access above the vaulted
ceiling, behind the clock face and up onto the roof of the grand 15th-century
An alternative lookout, 40m-high Beckford’s Tower was built
as study-with-a-view for a 19th-century eccentric. Today you can ascend the 154
steps to the top, via the first-floor museum.
more refreshing outlook, the roof terrace of the Halls and Woodhouse bar and
restaurant may not be the city’s highest point, but it is a good place to
toast your surrounds.
Park, south of the train station, is at the top of Beeches Cliff – it is a
breathless slog up Jacob’s Ladder, but the panorama from the top is worth the
Victoria Park, west of Bath’s show-stopping Royal Crescent, does not have the
same altitude advantage as Alexandra Park, but it is where the city’s hot-air
balloon operators launch their baskets, offering floats above the city and
northeast of the city, 191m Solsbury Hill – celebrated by Peter Gabriel in his
eponymous song – is a prime spot for views over Bath and the Avon Valley. A
flat-topped summit, site of another long-gone Iron Age fort, it is also a good
place to look for chalkhill blue butterflies and skylarks.
finally, who can argue with a name? Just behind Camden Crescent, a Regency
sweep with its own impressive vistas, sits the city’s most ideally titled
lookout: Perfect View Road – which does exactly what it says on the tin.
The article 'Bath from above' was published in partnership with Lonely Planet.