One of the main attractions, if not THE main attraction, in Bath, England is the 2,000-year-old site of the Roman Baths. It’s here that you can roam ancient ruins, soak up the culture of Aquae Sulis (named for the goddess Sulis) and photograph one of the best preserved sites in England.
The Roman Baths haven’t always been this accessible. Falling into ruin after the 5th century, the site was reconstructed in the 1800s by John Wood, the Elder and John Wood, the Younger who also designed The Circus in Bath. But if you meander along the pathways besides the Great Bath, you could be standing on the very stones where Romans once stood.
The main attraction, of course, is the water itself — hot, geothermal water that flows over and percolates through limestone aquifers — the same water that enticed Romans to gather and bathe together. Today, the water is deemed unsafe for public bathing due, in part, to the fact that it flows through lead pipes. But if you long for a safe, lavish spa experience, Thermae Bath Spa is a nearby alternative.
If, however, you’re wishing for the restorative effect of mineral water, you can treat your body to a swig of something safe from an urn in the Grand Pump Room near the entrance. (We were told that some people show up every day for a free drink from the fountain.)
A walk around the terrace offers views of Bath Abbey and up-close encounters with Roman statues (suitable for today’s selfies, as it were).
Notably outstanding are curated exhibits you encounter while following the marked paths up and down, over and through the baths — like this one with over 12,000 Roman coins found at the baths (possibly cast into the water by guests) and now mounted for posterity.
Recreated on one wall of an underground alcove is a triangular section from the Bath Roman Temple. Columns, friezes, and a partial pediment surround the still intact Gorgon’s Head medallion.
Be sure to take advantage of the audio tour detailing stops along the way in easy-to-understand detail. As a pleasant surprise to us, we could choose the channel featuring the impressions (and humor) of an author we love, Bill Bryson (Notes from a Small Island, Road to Little Dribbling), just by punching in the numbers designated on the signs throughout the exhibits.
Also making the Roman Baths come to life are the Romans themselves. Well, not real Romans, of course. But those who come to work there, dress in period garb, and demonstrate what Romans did in their spare time while talking, always in character, with tourists like us.
The Roman Baths offer something for everyone — history buffs, lovers of art and archeology, and photographers. Even children can have a great time talking with a Roman or reading some of the curse tablets posted on the wall — no doubt lambasting those who had stolen articles of clothing from bathers in the healing waters! (For more on what to do with little ones in tow, check out “Visiting the Roman Baths with toddlers” from Tin Box Traveller.)
And check out the Roman Baths website for how you can hold an event of your own or attend one of theirs right where Romans played 2,000 years ago!
Who knows? You may be returning often — just to sip that mineral water.
Thanks for traveling England with us — Bert and Rusha Sams
For more information:
The Roman Baths: https://www.romanbaths.co.uk
Facebook: The Roman Baths