Rome wasn’t built in a day. Neither were the baths the Romans built in the beautiful city of Bath but they are still there, still using the hot spring water that bubbles up from deep underground at a constant temperature of 46 degrees C.
A tour round the Roman baths is fun and interesting and the whole place has been brought back to life. How the Romans controlled the 250,000 gallons of water a day pouring out of the spring and developed the site is complicated but the information provided in the audio tour makes it easily understandable. The audio commentary has a choice of eight languages and there is even a sign language option.
When we visited the Christmas Market was in full swing and the rest of Bath city centre was very busy with shoppers. The Roman baths are right in the centre so they are really easy to get to and perfect if you want a relaxing hour or two to take in a great experience and get away from the bustle and clamour of a busy shopping centre.
The Roman baths are below the modern street level and there are four main features: the Sacred Spring, the Roman Temple, Roman Bath House and the Museum holding finds from the Roman bath. The buildings above street level date from the Nineteenth Century.
The Romans built things to last and the baths are no exception. They have been there for 2,000 years although the first known reference is from 836 BC when King Bladud discovered the spring.
The spring is now housed in Eighteenth Century buildings designed by renowned architects John Wood the elder and John Wood the younger, father and son. Visitors drank the waters in the Grand Pump Room and you can still do this.
The entry fee is £12.25 for adults and £10.75 for seniors. A combined ticket with the Fashion Museum would be £15.75 and £13.50 for adults and seniors respectively.
The organisation of the Roman Baths tour is excellent. The audio guide is a must and all features and points of interest around the whole bath complex are numbered. You just key in the number displayed and the commentary tells you all about that part of the Baths. If you don’t want to know about everything, you can pick and choose which bits you want to be told about.
Don’t be surprised if you see some Romans wandering about because there are people dressed in period costume. Also, there are interactive displays of Roman life and how builders and craftsmen worked on the baths and temple projected on to walls in various parts of the baths.
We visited the Baths late in the afternoon and the Great Bath is out in the open, the original 20 metre high ceiling having fallen in a long time ago. Subtle lighting created an evocative atmosphere amongst the steam rising off the hot water. If it’s raining, remember a brolly for this part of the visit and if it’s cold, take warm clothing. You may need this even in the covered areas because inside parts of the baths it can be cold and a bit damp.
The rest of the Baths are under cover so you can put your brolly away for this! It’s also at different levels but disabled access is very good including ramps and lifts.
At various points around the Baths are models showing what the place looked like in Roman times and there was a lot more than just baths. There was a steam room, cold plunge pool, a number of smaller baths, meeting areas, an alter and a temple dedicated to the goddess Minerva. Work continues on the excavation of the site and new artefacts are being discovered all the time adding to the already impressive collection contained in the museum and around the site. The courtyard area leading past the alter to the temple has been revealed so you really are walking in the footsteps of Romans.
Perhaps the most prized finds are the stunning life sized bronze head of Minerva that has been placed on a pedestal in front of where the temple steps are and the stone Gorgon’s Head from the temple pediment.
After the tour is over, there is the obligatory gift shop but you can rest those weary legs over a cup of tea, sandwiches and cakes in the 18th century Pump Room which are delicious or go to the Thermae Bath Spa for a pamper.
This is a great place to visit, right in the city centre, easily accessible for those with limited mobility and close to other attractions in Bath. A ‘must see’ for that short break to Bath. For further information, please visit www.romanbaths.co.uk or ring either 01225 477785 or 01225 477867 (24 hour line).