Going to the UK for a holiday? Don’t miss the South West of England. This is where you’ll find thatched cottages, clean beaches, high moorland, world-class surfing and a mass of interesting history. This is a microcosm of everything the United Kingdom has to offer the interested tourist.
What better place could there be to start than Bath. About twenty kilometres east of Bristol, here you'll find two distinct historical periods living happily together and drawing tourists from all over the world, numbered in their millions each year!
First there’s the Roman period, from around 60 AD, when the hot springs, for which the City is famous, were discovered, though there is good archaeological evidence to suggest they were used much earlier by people of the Bronze Age.
The Romans believed the waters had healing powers and they built a magnificent temple there, including a bath complex, much of which still stands today.
In fact the Roman Baths are now rated as one of the best tourist sites in England, and you can still sample the waters here, not for bathing, but for drinking! And it must be good for you because it tastes dreadful!
The second interesting period in Bath’s history happened when the Georgians rediscovered the hot springs after the long period since Roman times. The Georgians were great believers that hot water pouring out of the ground must be good for you and they proceeded to knock down the small Norman town situated there — just a few interesting streets and buildings remain — and built a magnificent new city, incorporating some of the finest architecture ever developed in England, one of the first attempts at modern city planning.
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The Royal Crescent is a superb example and is symptomatic of most of the buildings of the period scattered throughout the city, all of them designed by famous architects, such as the two John Woods, (father and son), and Robert Adam. Such is the quality of these buildings that Bath is now listed as a World Heritage Site. But Royal Crescent isn’t quite what it seems.
Although the wonderful frontage was designed and built by the younger John Wood, that was as far as his interest went because the actual structures behind the ornate façades were erected by numerous other builders, to their own designs, producing a variety of styles and quality of workmanship.
But Bath can offer the visitor much more, with a wonderful, compact shopping centre, fantastic restaurants, the Theatre Royal, which produces plays to be tried out before major West End openings, plus four other theatres. Bath Abbey was built in the 15th century, again displaying some superb architecture and an unusual front façade, which has a stone ladder up the east tower with angels climbing up and down it.
If you get tired of Bath and it’s architecture, the surrounding areas offer more delights for the visitor, including Bristol. It is again steeped in history — where in England is there anywhere not steeped in history? — with Isambard Kingdom Brunel’s iron ship the ‘Great Britain’ on display, plus lots of shopping for the shopaholics and many other interesting sites. Also within easy striking distance are Stonehenge, Glastonbury, Cirencester, and Weymouth, as well as the Cotswolds.
I think Bath and its immediate environs will be enough to keep a visitor busy for several days on their own, but certainly the other parts of the West Country will reward the visitor for the effort to find them, including the whole of Devon and Cornwall!