Bath is the perfect destination if you’re searching for a couple’s trip idea with its natural landscapes, rejuvenating natural spring spas and decadent food scene.
Bath is a World Heritage Centre known the world over for its stunning Georgian architecture, hot springs and more recently the location of a number of scenes from popular Netflix TV series Bridgerton. However, a recent three-day staycation to the historic city proved that it ticks virtually all the boxes for a relaxing and enjoyable couple’s break too.
I’m sure I’m not alone in my new-found enthusiasm for exploring UK tourist spots in recent years, Covid, the various lockdowns and the astronomical upsurge in the price of foreign holidays has seen many erstwhile long-haul travellers opting to explore the sights and experiences of UK destinations.
The historic city of Bath is right up there in terms of popularity. Figures in 2020 showed that Bath is within the top 25 most-visited places in the UK, and has the third most-visited attraction in England outside London (the Roman Baths).
Keen to prolong the last few days of summer 2022, myself, hubby and another couple, close friends of ours, sorted out childcare and embarked on the 165 miles road trip from our end of Essex to the city of Bath for a three-day staycation.
Read on for our couple’s break guide on what to see and do in Bath.
Travelling to Bath
As with any trip, getting there is often the least fun part. Bath is located in Somerset, England, so it took a three-hour drive to get there from our end of Essex. Stopping a couple of times for comfort and meal breaks though, it was a pleasant enough journey.
Alternative travel options are via train and bus. Bath is well connected by rail, and it takes just over an hour to reach Bath Spa train station (the city’s primary railway station) from London. Up to nine coach journeys travel to Bath from London Victoria to Bath Spa Bus Station every day.
Where to stay
Having spoken to a couple of friends who had visited Bath previously, Hotel Indigo came up both times as a top choice for accommodation in the city.
Arriving at the hotel, it was good to see the hotel was also made of the now familiar sandstone blocks that is the hallmark of Bath buildings [more on that later]. Hotel Indigo is a stone’s through away from the NCP car park which costs £15 for 12 Hours. So, our three days worked out at £45). We ended up leaving the car there for the duration of our stay as everything was within walking distance of our hotel.
Arriving slightly earlier than our 3pm check-in time, we were greeted warmly by the friendly hotel team. While waiting to be shown to our rooms, we took the opportunity to explore the enthralling hotel.
Clearly going for a quirky aesthetic, Hotel Indigo is a breath of fresh air and couldn’t be more different from a commercial hotel. Filled with artistic renderings and literary references, the hotel has a wonderfully quaint and charming boutique feel.
We were made to feel very welcome by the hotel team, and the manager Magda even offered us complimentary drinks while we waited to be shown to our rooms.
In keeping with our couple’s break theme, we both opted for the ‘Romance and Mischief’ rooms. These premium king rooms were very spacious, clean and the power shower in the bathroom was top-notch, as were the gorgeous-smelling bath skincare freebies.
Perhaps disconcerting for some, but a fun fact that I enjoyed, were the series of portrait paintings above the bed. Each of the subjects in the portraits are either looking into the distance or their faces splodged with painted colour! According to the guy that showed us to our rooms, it’s because a guest had said they didn’t like the ‘people’ of the paintings to look at them. The room was peaceful and serene and was a welcome respite after our busy days.
Other amenities to note at Hotel Indigo include a well-appointed gym available for guests to use. The hotel doesn’t have its own restaurant, but breakfast, and dinner should you choose to dine there are on site and provided by The Elder.
However, one of the best things about the hotel is that it is situated slap bang in the centre of town, within walking distance to a lot of the main tourist attractions within Bath.
2-8 South Parade, Bath BA2 4AB
Things to do
I’ve said it before and I’ll probably say it again, it was a real bonus to have all of the main tourist destinations, and restaurants on our list within easy walking distance of each other. This meant that we didn’t have to drive for the three days that we were in Bath.
On our first night we strolled around within the vicinity of the hotel and were pleasantly surprised to note some of the tourist spots on our list to explore in the following couple of days.
Despite it being such a popular destination, and our visit coinciding with the last few days of the school summer holidays, Bath didn’t feel overcrowded, particularly when you consider how condensed the city is.
With numerous walks, museums and experiences, it’s a good idea to plan your itinerary before coming down as you can easily start to feel overwhelmed by everything that you want to see. In addition to the free experiences, like walking along Bath’s most famous building, the Royal Crescent, and the opportunity to stand in the centre of The Circus [did you know it has the same outer diameter as Stonehenge?], we chose to visit the Roman Baths and spend time in the Thermae Bath Spa.
Ticket price per adult: from £23
Although the estimated time suggests you spend one or two hours at this attraction, we easily spent closer to three or four hours there. In my view, this is the number one tourist attraction in Bath. Described as an opportunity to explore the remains of the ancient spa and to view the ancient roman treasures, this attraction is so much more. The well-thought-out experience gives deep insight into the people of that era, their customs, beliefs and general way of life.
Life really did revolve around the spa back then and everyone, from the king to his servants had access to it.
A humorous perspective was how little things have changed when it comes to being petty and vengeful. Roman visitors to the spa back then were encouraged to write (for a cost) a curse tablet containing messages to the goddess which were then thrown into the sacred springs. Some truly laugh out loud moments during our visit was reading out some of these curses: “May the person who has stolen ‘Vilbia’ from me become as liquid as water [hope the Vilbia was worth it!]”; “Do not allow sleep or health to him who has done me wrong, whether man or woman, whether slave or free, unless he reveals himself and brings those goods to your temple”. Or my personal favourite, “The person who has lifted my bronze cooking pot is utterly accursed. I give him to the Temple of Sulis, whether man or woman, whether slave or free, whether boy or girl, and let him who has done this spill his own blood into the vessel itself”. Ouch!
The Roman Baths, Abbey Church Yard, Bath BA1 1LZ
Thermae Bath Spa
Ticket price: For a Thermae Welcome which includes a two-hour spa session and use of towel, robe & flip-flops is £38 (Mon-Fri) and £43 (Sat-Sun).
Now a modern bathing experience, the Thermae Bath Spa experience is much more luxurious than it was 3,000 years ago when pigs wallowed alongside men in the spring waters.
Set in a rooftop site with stunning views of the local area, we spent a good couple of hours enjoying the very warm temperatures of the natural thermal waters, which we were told bubbled up from 2km below the city.
The natural thermal mineral-rich waters have run on this site long before the Romans built their settlement here. Since the first bathing structures were built in 60AD people have visited it for health, wealth and wellbeing. Today, the experience is a remarkably slick operation. Set over a number of floors, visitors have access to unisex changing rooms, and you are provided with white towelling robes and slippers, and given lockers to store your clothes. A couple of flights to the roof (the lifts were out during our visit) and then you are rewarded with gorgeous views and the lovely warm spring waters.
You can use your two-hour time limit to relax, chat or sit upon the jet bubbles when the machine is switched on periodically. There really is something very relaxing about bathing in the open air in very warm waters on the roof top on a warm summer’s day.
After “taking in the waters” you can enjoy a light snack in the café on one of the floors before heading back to the changing rooms. This was an enjoyable experience.
What else can you do?
Who else always checks out the local high street when on holiday? In and amongst the usual familiar high street shops, we explored the numerous independent businesses like the Bath Aqua Glass shop, an eclectic collection of glass, all hand blown in the city. We also spent a small fortune on fudge from the talented guys at Fudge Kitchen.
Stop by the City of Bath World Heritage Centre
Another highlight of the trip was an impromptu visit to the Bath World Heritage Centre. Initially to ask for recommendations on the best places to visit, the helpful guide gave us a mini lesson on the history and background story of many of Bath’s most celebrated people and its buildings, which are based on an architectural style called Palladian. The now familiar sandstone coloured, column building style is named after an Italian architect called Andrea Palladio, who was inspired by ancient Roman temples.
Prompted by our questions, our helpful guide talked at length about the importance of acknowledging the shameful history that lurks beneath the sculpted beauty and pristine order of this historic city. There’s no getting away from the fact that many of the beautiful Georgian buildings were funded from money derived from the profits of the transatlantic slave trade. A good example is the city’s Beckford Tower, which houses a serene and peaceful cemetery with views across the lush countryside. However, it is known that William Beckford built his tower with wealth gained from the slave trade and the enslavement of African people on Jamaican sugar plantations. Our guide didn’t hold back from telling four African tourists about the city’s dishonourable past links with the slave trade. We just wished that this history is acknowledged more openly and the contributions of the enslaved given more status and recognition.
Where to dine?
All four travellers on this trip are self-confessed foodies so in the interests of through research we did our very best to sample a wide range of cuisines while in Bath! The city has a well-deserved reputation for having an exceptional food and drink scene. From casual places to eat, welcoming gastropubs, cosy cafés and chilled out bars and restaurants, Bath has the lot and you won’t be disappointed.
Read on for a roundup of where we dined.
Square Grill House Piano Bar
Square Grill House and Piano Bar was the perfect pit stop for a light late lunch before our dinner reservations at 7pm on our first day in Bath.
Located next to Bath Abbey and opposite the Roman Baths, we ordered a light meal consisting of chicken wings, king prawns and the most delicious chips. Keen to keep it light, we opted for juices and lemonade for drinks. An enjoyable and tasty meal.
Square Grill, Abbey Churchyard, Bath, BA1 1LY
For our first night’s dining experience, we headed to Boho Marché, which serves the dining needs of the Francis Hotel Bath.
In their own words, they “celebrate the culinary cultures along the hippy trail to Marrakech – followed by rock stars, top fashion designers, artists, and writers in the Sixties and Seventies. It’s wildly Bohemian and creative – an indulgent feast for all the senses.”
It’s all true. We enjoyed a decadent three-course feast.
Boho Marché, 6 Queens Square, Bath, BA1 2HH
Sally Lunn’s (Oldest House in Bath)
The oldest house in Bath, built in 1482 but named after Sally Lunn who came to the existing bake house in 1680 and started to make a rich, round light Bunn. Made with fresh eggs, local butter and warm milk it was a type of French brioche, people came from far and wide to eat her ‘bunn’.
This restaurant serves an extremely varied menu made up of savoury, sweet, breakfast and all-day meals. So good, we visited again the following day!
Be sure to check out the museum attached to the restaurant to learn more about Sally’s set up back in the day.
4 North Parade Passage, Bath BA1 1NX
Mantra feels like a well-kept secret, we only knew about it from a friend recommending it as THE best place to enjoy authentic Indian cuisine in Bath. Packed with flavour and serving the best onion bhaji we’ve ever eaten, this restaurant must have a place on your list of foodie places to visit
5, Bladud Buildings, The Paragon, Bath BA1 5LS
It says a lot about a holiday when the days fly by and you feel rested and rejuvenated at the end of it. Our Bath trip, with its long walks, marathon meals and unhurried, leisurely sight-seeing lent a wonderfully romantic atmosphere to our stay. We thoroughly enjoyed our couple’s break to Bath and look forward to coming back again soon!
For more information on things to see and do, go to the Visit Bath website.