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.
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).
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
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).
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
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).
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).
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).
Where to stay
In a Grade-I listed townhouse in the centre of town, the Halcyon is style on a
budget. The 21 rooms are off-white with splashes of colour, bathrooms have
walk-in showers, Philippe Starck fittings and The White Company toiletries.
There are great cocktails to be had in the bar, Circo, and breakfasts are
organic (2/3 South Parade; from £69).
a terrace of townhouses, no two rooms at The Queensberry Hotel are the same:
some have modern fabrics, muted colours and throws, others large seating areas
and feature fireplaces (Russell St; from £112).
No 4 Sydney
Place, a nicely modernised 18th-century Grade-II listed Georgian apartment, was
once the home of Jane Austen herself (4 Sydney Place;
two-night minimum stay from £159 per night).
The article 'Mini guide to Georgian Bath' was published in partnership with Lonely Planet Traveller.