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Bath encounters with a difference: what to do on your trip to the West Country

23/04/2019 philip Tourism

The historic roman city of Bath has been attracting visitors for centuries. For a small place, it is packed with exciting and unusual activities to delight the whole family.

A historic UNESCO treasure

Originally named Aqua Sulis, or Sulis’s Water after its famous waters by the Romans who settled in Bath, the city acquired its current name in the Anglo-Saxon period when it was known as Hat Bathu, (meaning hot baths). Bath became a UNESCO world heritage site in 1987. Of course, the springs that make Baths famous today are still visited by thousands of people each year at Thermae Bath Spa. Be sure to make a stop here during your trip.

Bath is also famous for its remarkable Victorian-era architecture. Its yellow-coloured stone work is admired the world over, as are its architectural wonders built in this material. The utterly photogenic Royal Crescent and nearby Circus designed by John Wood are no exception. These and other landmarks, including the 18th-Century Pulteney Bridge, and Bath Abbey, can be explored from the skies on a breath-taking hot air balloon ride organised by local hot air balloon trip experts, enabling you to catch unique pictures of these iconic monuments.

Tours of the city for every taste

After soaring from a birds-eye vantage point above these landmarks, why not visit the sites from below? For those who prefer their urbans encounters at a bit of a faster pace, a river-based tour might be just the thing. Local company Original Wild offers stand up paddle board excursions past the landmarks that line the River Avon. This, along with kayaking and canoeing the river, afford a remarkable and distinctive way to roam the city.

Walking tours with a difference are also wonderful ways to explore Bath. Bath Ghost Tours offers an eerie introduction to ghoulish goings-on in the city after dark. Encounter tales of murders, witch-trials, and duelling monks. For an opportunity to put your investigative skills to the test, hop on to a Bath Detective Tour to be taken around some of the lesser-visited places in the city as you solve a mystery crime.

Bath has a proud gastronomical reputation, too. Visitors on a Savouring Bath tour enjoy encountering the city’s innovative food scene. Partake of unusual artisanal snacks as you explore Bath’s coolest eateries and drinking-holes. Why not take the opportunity to sample some of Baths locally-made gin, at the Canary Gin Bar?

Meanwhile, given its links with the world-renowned author Jane Austen, it is no surprise that Regency-era walking tours are a perennially popular way to visit the city. Complete with Austen-era costume, knowledgeable guides introduce the highlights of this remarkable city.

Naturally, the most breathtaking way to encounter Bath is from the skies by hot air balloon, where you will see all these points of interest against the panoramic delights of the Avon Valley.

Exploring further afield

Bath is a great jumping off point for some of the more remote – and most famous – points of interest in the country. The nearby Dryham Park House is set in ornamental gardens and parklands, so why not visit the remarkable optical illusions within this 17th-Century home? Lacock, a nearby medieval village, is also a point of interest for those interested in the history of photography.

Of course, no visit to this part of the world would be complete without coming face to face with the iconic Stonehenge. So much mystery surrounds this prehistoric monument, which, when seen from the comfort of a hot air balloon, looks much smaller than you might expect it to!

More remote, and less well-known, but arguably more significant, are the standing stones at Avebury. The village here is the only one in the world which is encircled by one of these ancient henges. Visit at dawn or dusk to make some remarkable photos of these stony plinths.

Party time in Bath

Plan your visit to coincide with some of the many festivals and fiestas Bath hosts annually. Bath Folk Festival takes place in early May and features a Spring Ceilidh, which is sure to get the heart pumping. Meanwhile, later in May, the Bath Festival combines a celebration of music, comedy, and books to entertain the whole family. The festival draws in acts from around the world. With 10 days of activities planned, it is a great opportunity to get immersed in culture.

September is when the annual Jane Austen festival takes place, and let’s face it, what is Bath without Jane Austen? Don your Regency era costumes and practice your Regency-era dancing to make the most of this seven-day literary extravaganza.

In early November, as the nights draw in, it is the perfect time to let the magic of the Bath Mozartfest enthral you. Listen to some of Europe’s finest orchestras play a week-long programme of Mozart’s oeuvre. This time of year is also perfect for starting a bit of Christmas shopping at Bath’s enchanting Christmas market. Hundreds of stalls dotted around the Georgian streets transport you to the magic of Austen’s Bath. Enjoy the mulled wine, hot chocolate, and Christmas carols as you mingle around the artisanal gift stores.

Spoilt for choice

With so much to do in Bath, it’s no wonder that one visit to this remarkable city is often not enough. Visitors tend to return to the city again and again to appreciate it throughout the year. Similarly, if you decide to book a hot air balloon flight over the city, whether you do so in spring, summer, winter, morning, or evening, your impression of the place, and the sights that you will see will change each time. This is why exploring a rich and exciting place like Bath from the skies is such a rewarding experience.

Hot air balloon flights depart throughout the year (weather permitting), and the few hours that you spend soaring over Bath take you out of the hustle and bustle of the town to enable you take in the city, the river, the valley and the surrounding landscape in all its majesty.

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