Summer in the city, and beyond…
While there’s no shortage of things to do in summer in Bath (far from it, keep reading) it’s also true that part of the city’s value lies in what we’re close to, as well as what’s right here.
You might not be familiar, for example, with the Mendip Hills: outcrops and gorges, meadows and hilltops, caves, monuments, plateaux and slopes, and beautiful lakes too. Its’s one of 46 Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty (AONB) in England, Wales and Northern Ireland, and easy to see why.
Apart from how easy on the eye and peaceful it all is, it constitutes important habitats for birds (Chew Valley Lake’s a Special Protection Area for them) and is one of those places where traces of human habitation reveal themselves in partially-hidden layers. Our earliest ancestors probably lived here 500,000 years ago; henge monuments, barrows and hillforts are evidence of this, and of later developments. Roman and Victorian mining also left their marks, as have sites used during World War 2, all of them reclaimed to varying degrees by nature.
Walking, rock-climbing, star-gazing, bird-watching, cycling and just non-specific drinking-in of natural loveliness are all available, as are, of course, less physically-taxing diversions in the area’s many fine pubs and restaurants.
Of course, you might be thinking of more traditional things to do in a summer city break in Bath, in which case it’s almost inevitable your thoughts would turn to our fabulous Roman baths.
The city’s hot springs deliver more than a million litres of mineral-rich water every day, and, unlike anywhere else in the UK, that water is naturally hot. Roughly 10,000 years ago it fell as rain which sank to around 2km below the earth, where hot rocks gradually heat it before it comes back up through the city’s three springs, one of which (The King’s Spring) feeds the Roman Baths, where there’s a variety of tickets you can buy to enjoy the waters – and associated treats – at different times of the day (such as brunch, afternoon tea or the sunrise tour).
For something slightly more educational than recreational – we don’t judge, merely point out – there’s the Roman Baths Museum next door too, where you can find out more about ancient beliefs and practices, the Sacred Spring and the Roman Temple.
Thermae offer a modern, luxurious take on the thermal waters; visitors can enjoy the open-air Rooftop Pool, the Minerva Bath (their largest, all columns, curves and whirlpool), the Wellness Suite (featuring an Infrared Room, a ‘Celestial Relaxation Room’, an Ice Chamber, and two aroma steam rooms) as well as Springs Café.
And Bath’s waters are not limited to the hot stuff from deep underground. Our bridges and riverside walks being as lovely as they are might obscure the fact that our waterways provide their own potential for experiences, exertion and enjoyment. Businesses exist to enable you to – among other things – paddleboard, kayak (by day, evening or night), build rafts and paddle along quieter out-of-town waters too. Some of the same companies also offer bespoke packages for small or large groups, as well as helping you either discover – or indulge an existing passion for – rock-climbing, abseiling, code-breaking, archery and running. (And however much like hard work some of that sounds, they also run trips which combine working up a hunger on the water with satisfying it in a pub straight afterwards … )
Many activities like these are offered for most of the year, but for quite a few of us, chances are they’ll never seem more attractive than they do when the weather warms up. Summer in Bath is certainly a time when you’ll never lack for opportunities to make the best of a beautiful, busy city as well as its immediate, sleepier surroundings.