Bath is, quite simply, one of the loveliest cities in England. Surrounded by beautiful countryside, it’s the only city in the UK to be classed as a World Heritage Site. It’s not hard to see why when you first glimpse the gorgeous honey-coloured stone of the Georgian buildings and visit the spectacular Roman Baths. There are delights on every corner, from the numerous museums and parks to the wonderful independent shops and restaurants.
It’s a fantastic city to visit as a family. It’s small enough to explore on foot and there’s more than enough to entertain children and adults alike. What’s more, it makes an ideal base to see more of the local area – the cities of Bristol and Wells, Stonehenge, Longleat and the Cotswolds are all nearby.
Walk in the footsteps of the Romans at the Roman Baths
A visit to the Roman Baths is an absolute must – it’s one of the finest spas of the ancient world. Naturally hot water has been rising up from the spring here for thousands of years. In the 1st century AD, the Romans built a magnificent temple and bathing complex where they came to bathe in the sacred waters, pray and seek healing.
You can still tread on the ancient stone pavements where the Romans walked, see the ruins of the temple to the Goddess Minerva and the various bathing rooms. It’s a great place to find out more about the Ancient Romans as there are displays of all the items that have been excavated from the site – thousands of coins, jewellery, writing tools, drinking cups, perfume pots and, best of all, the Roman Curse Tablets, on which the Romans wrote messages to Minerva on lead and pewter, cursing people who wronged them.
The children’s audioguide is excellent and there are characters in costume at the Baths every day to help visitors learn more about Roman Britain. During the school holidays there are family activities on Mondays and Tuesdays.
Don’t forget to taste the spa water at the end of your tour. You’ll probably find the warm water as revolting as we did!
The Roman Baths are open every day from 9am until 6pm. You can see them by torchlight in July and August when they remain open until 10pm. Adults, £15; children, £11.25; under 6s free.
Try the Bath Bun at Sally Lunn’s
You can’t leave Bath without trying the original Bath Bun, created over 300 years ago by a French refugee. Part bun, part cake, part bread, Sally Lunn’s bun was really popular in Georgian England, where it was served for breakfast and afternoon tea.
Sally Lunn’s is in one of the oldest houses in Bath. You can visit the original kitchen used by Sally, with its faggot oven and Georgian range. The buns themselves are delicious and served with a sweet or savoury topping. We chose lemon curd, ginger butter and the most incredible cinnamon butter we’ve ever tasted.
Sally Lunn’s, 4 North Parade Passage, is open every day from 10am until 9.30pm. Sundays, from 11am until 9pm and on Fridays and Saturdays until 10pm.
Raid the dressing up box at the Fashion Museum
You can try on corsets, top hats, Victorian dresses, bonnets and wigs in the brilliant dressing up room at the Fashion Museum. The museum has one of the world’s best collections of historic and fashionable clothes so you’ll find everything from Tudor shirts, 18th-century French silk dresses with hooped petticoats, Jane Austen-style Regency muslin frocks and beautiful satin shoes from the 1800s right up to the Roland Mouret Galaxy dress.
The Children’s Trail showcases ten historical fashion looks for kids and there are family workshops in fashion design on Tuesdays during the Summer holidays.
The Fashion Museum at the Assembly Rooms, Bennett Street is open every day from 10.30am until 5pm, until 4pm from November to February. Adults, £8.75; children, £6.75.
Dance around the ballroom at the Assembly Rooms
My two boys could not resist dancing around the ballroom in the Assembly Rooms. This is where thousands of people gathered for parties and balls, including a fair few of the characters in Jane Austen’s novels. The ballroom is the grandest of the three rooms and contains the finest set of 18th-century chandeliers in the world. They are more than 8 feet high and in Georgian times they would have been lit with 200 candles.
The Assembly Rooms are free to enter on the days when there isn’t an event going on.
Have afternoon tea at Bea’s Vintage Tea Rooms
Afternoon tea is a Great British tradition and has always been popular in Bath. You could have your tea in the elegant surroundings of the 18th-century Pump Room but Bea’s Vintage Tea Rooms is a far more fun and laid-back setting for kids.
The entire restaurant has been decorated in the style of wartime Britain of the 1930s and 1940s so it’s all embroidered tablecloths, knitted tea cosies, wartime posters and mismatched china. The waitresses wear old-fashioned pinafores and headscarves and the afternoon tea is an absolute delight: a selection of finger sandwiches, scones with jam and clotted cream and huge slices of homemade cake.
Bea’s Vintage Tea Rooms, 6-8 Saville Row, is open every day from 10am until 5pm.
Take a boat out on the River Avon
Have fun messing about on the river for an hour by hiring a punt, rowing boat or canoe from the Victorian boating station at Bath Boating Station. You can take one of the Pulteney Cruise motorboats there from the centre of Bath.
If you’ve got more time, don’t miss spending the day cruising along the picturesque Kennet & Avon Canal in a narrowboat.
Be a history detective at No 1 Royal Crescent
Find out what life was like for Bath’s richest and most fashionable residents by taking a tour around the first house to be built in Bath’s famous Royal Crescent. The rooms at No 1 have all been furnished as they would have looked in the late 18th century and children are given a History Detective Pack complete with magnifying glass, worksheet and fun activities to do in every room.
My two really enjoyed finding out that the Georgians didn’t leave the dining room to go to the toilet – the flush toilet hadn’t been invented so they had to go behind a folding screen and wee into a chamber pot. We also visited the Gentleman’s Retreat and the Lady’s Bedroom where we laughed at the wig scratcher which they needed because of all the head lice they had underneath their wigs.
Down in the Servants’ Hall you can dress up in Georgian clothes. There are additional craft activities on Family Fridays.
No 1 Royal Crescent is open every day until 5.30pm. Mondays, from 12pm; Tuesdays to Sundays, from 10.30am. Adults, £10; children, £4; under 6s, free.
Have a picnic in Royal Victoria Park
The large park in front of the Royal Crescent is a suitably grand place for a picnic and great for watching all the hot air balloons on a summer’s evening. The 57-acre park was opened by Queen Victoria when she was only 11 (before she became queen) and boasts a botanical garden, crazy golf, duck pond, bandstand with live music and a brilliant adventure playground with a zip wire and pyramid climbing frame.
For more information about visiting Bath, take a look at the Visit Bath website.
Disclosure: We were very kindly given free admission to some of the sights mentioned but all opinions are honest and my own.