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04,Feb,16 // Written by Mark Burnett

A Day Roman-around Bath

At the end of January we took a trip to the Beautiful city of Bath.
Best explored on foot, we left our hotel (which we will come back to later) and strolled through Sydney Gardens (1).
Situated to the north-west of the city, Sydney Gardens is Bath’s oldest park. Planned and laid out by the architect Harcourt Masters in 1795, it became very popular towards the end of the 18th and 19th century and was frequently visited by members of the Royal family and the famous author Jane Austen. In the same year the gardens were purchased by the city (1909) a replica of the Temple of Minerva was built to commemorate the Bath Historical Pageant.
Holburne Museum (2) is sited at one end of the gardens, housing fascinating collections by Gainsborough & Turner and supplemented by exhibitions by contemporary artists, this beautifully historic building sits at the end of the supremely elegant Great Pulteney Street
Pulteney Bridge (3) is one of the world’s most beautiful bridges. Started in 1769 and completed 5 years later it was built for William Pulteney by Robert Adam and is one of a handful of historic bridges in the world with shops built into it.
Some of the best views of Pulteney Bridge are from the centrally located Parade Gardens across the crescent weir.
Before heading to the Abbey and Baths we headed North-East to the Royal Crescent (4) one of Bath’s most iconic attractions
Built between 1767 and 1775 and designed by John Wood the Younger, this impressive landmark forms a sweeping crescent of 30 Grade I Listed terraced houses, and is without doubt one of the greatest examples of Georgian architecture anywhere in the UK.
This world famous landmark is arranged around a perfect lawn overlooking Royal Victoria Park and has an impressive ‘ha-ha’
ARCHITECTURAL FOOTNOTE: Ha-ha: a recessed landscape designed to recreate a barrier whilst preserving unobstructed views and preventing access to grazing livestock.
Alongside the Royal Crescent, another impressively rounded landmark is The Circus (5).
Originally known as The King’s Circus, this remarkable sight consists of three curved segments of Grade I listed townhouses, arranged in a circular shape. The striking attraction was designed by John Wood the Elder
Unfortunately less than three months before construction of The Circus began in 1754 John Wood the Elder died, leaving his son, John Wood the Younger, to complete the build in 1768
Wood took the Roman Colosseum as inspiration for his design
ARCHITECTURAL FOOTNOTE: Wood designed The Circus to face inwards,, as opposed to the Colosseum’s design, which is to be seen from the outside
Look closely at the detail on the stonework and you’ll see many emblems, such as serpents, acorns, nautical and masonic symbols. It’s thought that the acorns are tributes to the druids, creators of the stone circles that Wood admired so much
The grassy area with trees in the centre of The Circus was once a reservoir that supplied to water to the surrounding houses, although this became a garden for the residents in the 1800s.
Such an extraordinary landmark has been home to a number of famous people over the years. The artist Thomas Gainsborough lived at number 17 between 1758 and 1744, using the house as his portrait studio. More recently, Hollywood actor Nicholas Cage also lived at The Circus.
Whenever you decide to visit Bath, make sure you stand in the middle of The Circus and marvel at this inspiring and beautiful piece of architecture; you simply won’t find anything else like it (like I did).
From The Circus, we headed south down Gay Street towards the Jane Austen Centre (6).
The Jane Austen Centre is dedicated to celebrating Bath’s most famous resident. The Centre offers a snapshot of what it would be like to live in Regency times – the fashion, food, society – everything that would have inspired Austen’s timeless novels.
One of the most impressive buildings in Bath has got to be Bath Abbey (7).
Magnificent stained glass windows, columns of honey-gold stone and some of the finest fan vaulting (8) in the world create an extraordinary experience of light and space, but there is more to it than that. There has been a place of Christian worship on this site for over 1,200 years and the Abbey remains very much a living church today with services taking place throughout the entire week.
Since 757 AD, three different churches have occupied the site of today’s Abbey: first there was an Anglo-Saxon Abbey Church, pulled down by the Norman conquerors of England soon after 1066. Then a massive Norman cathedral was begun in about 1090, but it was larger than the monastery could afford to maintain and by the end of the 15th century was in ruins. Finally, the present Abbey church was founded in 1499, the last of the great medieval churches of England.
After the dissolution of the monasteries in 1539 by order of King Henry VIII, the Abbey lay in ruins for more than 70 years. The valuable parts of the building had all been taken away, for example the beautiful stained glass windows were ripped out and the roof was stripped for the lead. It wasn’t until 1616, that much of the building we see today was repaired.
Behind the Abbey is the World Heritage site of the world famous Roman Baths (9).
The ancient ruins depict Bath’s spa culture 2,000 years ago when the Romans once bathed in the natural thermal spa water, resulting in an unmissable, memorable experience for visitors today.
Bath was founded upon natural hot springs with the steaming water playing a key role throughout its history. Lying in the heart of the city, the Roman Baths were constructed around 70 AD as a grand bathing and socialising complex. It is now one of the best preserved Roman remains in the world.
1,170,000 litres of steaming spring water, reaching 46 °C, still fill the bathing site every single day. The Romans believed that this was the mystical work of the Gods, but we now know that the water source, which comes from the King’s Spring, fell as rain water around 10,000 BC.
The Great Bath is the magnificent epicentre to the complex where you walk on the ancient pavements as the Romans did 2,000 years ago. The Great Bath that lies below street level can also be viewed from the Terrace, which is adorned with statues and shadowed by the great Abbey. Other chambers to explore include the remains of the ancient heated rooms and changing rooms as well as tepid and plunge pools.
Not only can you walk among the extensive ruins but you can also explore many treasures that transport you back to Roman times and the lives of the Aquae Sulis people.
The Romans built a temple high over the courtyard in honour of the goddess Sulis Minerva.
Just a short stroll from the heart of the City of Bath is the Macdonald Bath Spa Hotel (10). Formerly a family home, the majestic Georgian mansion (set in seven acres of beautiful landscaped gardens) combines contemporary style with timeless elegance and traditional values. Fine dining, a luxury contemporary Spa and the Imperial Suites private residence with Butler Service made the hotel the ideal destination for our stay while we were in Bath.

by Mark