My dear friend who I visited in Wales was smart enough to book us a couple of nights in Bath, with one full day to explore the city, we were sure to hit the highlights starting with, of course, the Jane Austen Center. Jane lived in Bath for about 5 years but the city clearly mattered greatly to her as it appears in every one of her novels. In fact, Bath hit its height in the 17th century and walking around the city you could believe you were still in the Georgian era. The architecture is so clearly from then, it’s as if the city itself just transported through time. I am sorry to say I didn’t get a ton of pictures of the city itself but here are a couple.
The main attraction for us in Bath is the Roman Bath itself. As a history nerd, I was delighted to see three eras come together in this exhibit. Visitors start in the modern period, viewing the baths from a new platform built rather recently. Walking around the main bath, there are additions from the 1700’s, statues of famous Roman men. And finally, looking all the way down, you see the original Roman bath itself. You can also see where the water level was raised in the 18th century for deeper immersion.
What I didn’t expect was how large the complex is. Walking below, to the level of the main bath is a series of rooms, saunas, and cool rooms for a full spa experience. I had been to a Roman bath before, both in Italy and in Turkey, but I had seen nothing this complex and so well maintained through the centuries.
The water in the baths comes from deep underground aquifers where is it warmed by geothermal energy to 156-204 degrees Fahrenheit! It’s possible the site of the baths were used by the Celts, but we know for certain that the Romans dedicated the site to the Goddess Sulis (Minerva). The Temple was built around 60 AD and the baths were added over the next 300 years.
The baths were used throughout the medieval ages as a site of healing by local monks. But their full glory didn’t come into being again until it became a popular spa town and later a fashionable vacation place.