Serendipity is fine but if you’ve a busy schedule, have to spend within a budget and don’t fancy taking your chances, here are a few shortcuts to enjoying the beautiful English city of Bath
There is no doubting Bath’s status as one of England’s most attractive cities, largely due to the cohesive architectural set piece at its centre plus the benefit of a valley setting and the natural beauty of the local limestone. The resulting popularity of the city attracts steady levels of visitors and, inevitably, a whole range of businesses intended to drain their wallets.
This is a toughie, Bath is an expensive destination and there are no periods with reliably lower room rates. However, there are some very good bed & breakfasts within walking distance of the city centre where you can enjoy superior accommodation and service without breaking the bank.
The Hollies is off Wellsway. It only has three guest rooms but each is beautifully furnished to English, Indian and Chinese themes. Joe provide a superb breakfast of local ingredients, which is served in their elegant dining room that overlooks the garden and adjoining church.
The location is far enough out to provide a peaceful setting with plenty of free parking. It’s an easy downhill walk into the centre but you might prefer a bus or taxi back! B & B rates at The Hollies vary from £65 to £85 per night.
Alternatively, Athole Guest House is again south of the centre but a little closer in. This is a popular B&B so book well in advance and your forethought will be rewarded.
Again there is free parking although it is a little busier in the surrounding streets than those around The Hollies. B & B rates at the Athole Guest House range from £60 to £95 with a £10 supplement for each additional foldaway bed in the biggest room.
As a complete contrast, don’t rule out Bath Central Travelodge on George Street. Note there is another Travelodge in Bath next to the river, you definitely want the central one, this is all about location!
This Travelodge is in a very good spot indeed, with good restaurants and shops all around it, including the upmarket stores in nearby Milsom Street. It is basic but rates can be very low if you book well ahead and there is even a public pay & display car park directly behind the hotel, reached from Broad Street. Room rtaes vary widely depending on how busy the hotel is but can be as low as £29 a night, (room only), if you book well ahead. Remember this is budget accommodation and you'll get a clean but rather empty room with no frills!
There are more places to eat in Bath than you’d ever need, but not all of them are worth your time or money. Those that stand out as being worth a visit are:
For a taste of Nepalese cuisine head for Yak Yeti Yak (www.yakyetiyak.co.uk) which is in a basement on Pierrepoint Street, having moved from another below ground location a year or so ago. The food and service here are great, although bills can mount up if you get too carried away with ordering. Best keep the quantity of dishes under control by taking a set menu option, (the Dal Bhat Masu is £15.50 each plus drinks), and save cash for another favourite - Café du Globe (www.cafeduglobe.co.uk) is in nearby North Parade and offers Moroccan food as well as a few alternatives, (like very good ribs). Not only do they serve excellent food in generous portions, you can also buy the attractive pottery used in the restaurant. This is displayed in their basement next to the toilets, doesn’t sound appealing but it can make trips to the loo expensive.
Cafe du Globe also do a set menu, offering two courses in the evening for £17.95. There are plenty of options within the set menu including delicious lamb meatballs (Kefta M'Kaoura) and a very tasty lamb tagine with caramelised prunes, saffron and ginger, (Lah'm Bel Barkouk).
A recommendation with a caveat goes to Sally Lunn’s (www.sallylunns.co.uk), a few doors away in North Parade Passage. The outside of the building is interesting, being very old, but the interior and food are less so. If you are determined to have the olde worlde experience, then expect to queue. Tour guides routinely direct their disorientated charges to Sally Lunn’s, so it is often busy.
Damage limitation can be effective if you limit your selection to one of Sally Lunn’s buns, either with jam and cream (inferior to a really good scone in my opinion), or toasted with cinnamon butter. Either of these will cost you under £6 and you still get the opportunity to visit the little museum in the cellar for free!
For a fine Sunday roast or more hearty evening dining, head just outside the city centre to the Ring O Bells (www.ringobellswidcombe.co.uk) on Widcome Parade. The food here is terrific and the atmosphere particularly conducive to a leisurely winter’s Sunday lunch, the exposed stonework glows in firelight and the house dog enjoys the warmth just as much as you will enjoy the hospitality.
Allow around £23 each plus drinks for a 3 course Sunday lunch at the Ring O Bells, this place is a fine choice for lunch or dinner 7 days a week if you have a big enough appetite!
Out and about
There are undoubtedly many things you could do, and the season of your visit will influence the choice, so here are a few suggestions to get you started:
Open top bus tour (www.city-seeing.com) - two trips available, one around the centre and another a little further out to enjoy some views back down to the city. Adult tickets for 24 hours travel are £11 each and can be booked in advance online or bought at the bus stop by the Cathedral, (although they don't take cards at the bus stop so you will need to pay in cash).
Roman Baths (www.romanbaths.co.uk) - a lot more interesting than you would expect plus the advantage of a very posh tearoom next door (the Pump Room). Entry prices to the Roman Baths are £11.50 for adults (increases to £12.25 for the months of July and August), or you can buy a combined ticket with the nearby Fashion Museum for £15, (same price applies all year).
If your budget can take it, afternoon tea in the Pump Room is splendid, (allow £8 per person for afternoon tea, around £15 per person for lunch). This is a classic posh dining room with service to match, so worth paying the extra for to avoid some of the rather poor nearby tearooms.
Out of town and a complete contrast, is the American Museum (www.americanmuseum.org) at Claverton, next to Bath University. You can take the open bus out to the university and back, so combine the two. The museum is a short, well signposted walk from the university and has a notable collection of crafts from the New World. Well worth a visit, adult tickets are £8 for entry to the house and garden, (or reduced to £5.50 for just the grounds and exhibition).