No, not that kind of Bath. Bath is a small city in Somerset located 100 miles west of London, named after the site of of a natural hot spring, which the Celtic tribes used to regard as a shrine. Then, when the Roman Empire extended its reach, they wisely decided to build on it and turn it into a full bathing complex. Capitalism, eh?
Note to film fanatics: If you’ve ever watched any kind of Victorian drama set in England and made in the last 40 years, you can bet money that at least one scene was shot there.
When the Romans had finished coming, seeing, and conquering, they christened it Aquae Sulis, which means “waters of Sulis” in Latin. An ancient myth has it that the waters were discovered when a pig farmer noticed that when his pigs clustered around a specific pool, they seemed to have fewer sores -which is why to this day one of the town’s main symbols is the humble pig. The bath complex as it now stands was finally completed by the Georgians over 1300 years later, right on top of the original foundations. People would come from far and wide to bathe and drink its waters, as they were considered to have healing properties, a tradition that continues today although whether the water is actually good for you remains a matter of some controversy.
But moving on, nowadays the bath complex is a museum, right in the town centre.
At all months of the year, with the exception of July and August, it costs £10.50 entry for a single adult, while a family ticket covering two adults and four children will set you back £30 – a little expensive considering that it only lasts a couple of hours, but well worth it in my opinion.
Upon payment, you’ll be given a headset delivering an audio commentary of your choice – the standard narration by an English bloke, and a more fun line for children. Bill Bryson also “lends his thoughts” with a merry but somewhat dumbed-down approach to commentating – really only suited for the complete non-intellectual.
You’ll be taken on a tour covering the main outdoor thermal pool, and then taken into the foundations of the structure – the spa rooms where a Roman might expect to have his back massaged – if he was rich enough. Often it feels like information overload as you’re bombarded with dozens of fairly lengthy commentaries covering everything from the history to the construction to the type of curses people would cast into the waters. Still, it’s an exceptionally interesting way to spend a couple of hours.
The tour concludes at an exquisite little café, where you are offered a free glass of spa water, which looks and tastes… well, musty.
Hope you enjoyed our trip to the Baths!
Photo of the Roman Bath Museum originally posted by cloneofsnake