Bath in Somerset is normally the kind of place people head to for day trips and Jane Austen tours. But we discovered that there’s a lot of fun to be had in this little city!
I’m pretty hungover, but cruising along the River Avon is definitely helping to soothe my brain. In fact, it’s positively tranquil – what a way to spend a Thursday morning!
“The thing I love about stand up paddleboarding is it’s so much more sociable than kayaking”, says Kyle, the founer of OriginalWild. I’m inclined to agree. Having been kayaking relatively recently I was assuming that paddling along a river was going to be hard work, but… SUP’ing, as it’s called, is actually quite zen.
“You get to see all sorts of things you don’t see from any other vantage point too”, says Kyle. We spot old school Georgian graffiti on the riverbank, a sunken boat that hasn’t been removed since it sank years back, the haunt of a peregrine falcon and a whole Roman era construction you wouldn’t even know was there if you walked across it.
Yup. I’m sold on stand up paddleboarding and Kyle is too. Originally from Bristol, Kyle moved to Bath to be with the woman who is now his wife and chase his dream of living the outdoors lifestyle. Now he offers kayaking, rock climbing and rafting among the many fun offerings around this beautiful city. From £15 per person it’s definitely one of the best sightseeing tours I’ve been on in terms of involvment, plus Kyle’s enthusiasm for his job and city is infectious!
Original Wild are one of the many fun things that we found in our 24 hour visit to Bath and I highly recommend checking them out at www.originalwild.com.
The previous day we arrived and set off on the obligatory tour of the ancient Roman Baths. They are, after all, the reason the city exists and actually the complex is a fascinating look into the life of Roman Britons. Personal highlights are the complaints that locals made to the Goddess Minerva, often about the theft of bathing clothes. My friend Mike is pretty sure there’s some more sordid complaints that aren’t on display. Maybe there are. Maybe that’s just Mike.
We’re actually staying at the University of Bath student halls. Now, I haven’t been in student halls for a long time and despite the fact they’re not the most Playboy surroundings, the rooms are actually quite comfortable.
A double bed, ensuite shower room, decent wifi, access to world class sports equipment? You know what, this isn’t a bad place to set up camp for an leisurely visit to Bath.
For rooms from £36 in the summer months, check out BathSummerAccommodation.co.uk.
From the University it’s a short bus ride into town (£1.50 single journey, buses from the Uni every ten minutes) and we start by sampling the local tipple. By which I mean, cider. I’ll confess, I didn’t keep track of the brands of ciders we had. Or really where we ended up. But, we had some fucking fantastic cider.
We start at the Apple Tree on North Parade (it doesn’t seem to exist on Google Maps but does in real life). They have some great cider and a slightly nonplussed barman, but that doesn’t bother us. Al fresco drinking on next to Bath’s main square makes for an enjoyable spot for quaffing and checking out the local talent (there’s lots btw).
After a few ciders and a tour of the Roman Baths, it’s time so sample the culinary offerings of the city. So we ask Mike at Savouring Bath for his recommendations – and of course he has several including Tagine Zhour and a Thai place by the Pulteney Bridge.
We end up at Jars Meze (6 Northumberland Pl, Bath BA1 5AR). A Greek place hidden down near the Pulteney Bridge. This turns out to be a fabulous choice, with a great option of Greek small plates. But my meatatarian travel companion opts for the Meat Platter to share, which turns out to be a lot of (very tasty) meat.
I’ve had a lot of Greek and Levantine food in my time, but this is genuinely one of the best I’ve had (outside of the Levant). And with generous portions, we’re turned loose into the night very satisfied.
It’s the World Cup and England stand on the cusp of a possible momentous win to take them to a first final since, well, years ago. I’ll spare you the details but we drink a lot of cider and England lose. Hence the hangover.
So where did we drink?
We have at least one in The WestGate (38 Westgate St, Bath BA1 1EL), a big plush pub which proudly proclaims GIN, in large letters by the bar. They have cider. Mike orders two of them at about 8%. I call him names and grimace every time I sip.
At some point we end up in Framptons (The Empire, Grand Parade, Bath BA2 4DF), a riverside bar with a massive screen for the football, lots of cocktails and cider and what looks like a decent food menu. We’re keeping it liquid, but we vow to come check out the food when we’re next in town.
As the night wears on, we stumble upon The Hideout (1 Lilliput Court, BA1 1ND). It might not be the most Somerset tipple, but we both find it hard to resist a good dram, especially after a night of disappointing football.
Our super friendly waitress reels off a list of unpronounceable whiskies that we might like. We agree and order some. They’re fabulous, of course.
The bar itself is very cool, a sort of basement bar with an outside area and hipster looking guys propping up the bar. By hipster I mean they have beards… A complimentary shot (cos I was cheeky and asked for one) later, we’re heading back home cos we have SUP’ing in the morning.
Post SUP’ing we’re feeling much more human. Thank you Original Wild.
Having not been before I insist on cramming in as many of Bath’s iconic sights before lunch, so we wander to Pulteney Bridge, Walcott Street (a sort of boutique street lined with little shops and bars) and then to the Crescent. Basically, we tick off tourist Bath in about an hour and a half.
But that’s not the point of our visit! Of course you can come and do the selfies by the bridge and apparently there is lots of Harry Potter themed stuff. I’m sorry I missed out on Potter so I don’t know what the attractions in Bath are for the Boy Wizard, but there are certainly Hogwarts alumni aplenty in town.
Green Park Station
We head to Green Park Station where we’re met by Alex, the owner of the Green Park Brasserie and the Bath Pizza Co.
It must be said, this is a great spot. This disused train station last saw a train in the 60’s and now hosts street food stalls, a regular farmers market (the first of it’s type in the UK) and the lively Brasserie.
Alex explains that the restaurant has been in his family for years, with his Dad the original owner. There are pictures on the wall of the station in it’s heyday and the whole venue has a cool faded grandeur vibe. The food looks incredible too.
Since its lunchtime and we still have the residue of a hangover we go for a couple of pizzas from Bath Pizza co, which do the job. Proper Neopolitan thin bases with generous but not overwhelming toppings, they definitely satisfy.
The Brasserie also plays host to regular live music events on Thursdays and weekends and the whole vibe definitely looks like a more refined place to hangout. Very much like Bath…
Have a look at the website for Green Park Brasserie at www.greenparkbrasserie.com and for Green Park Station www.greenparkstation.co.uk.
Bath is a popular tour spot, but actually there is more than the usual options. We’re informed that the Bizarre Bath walking tours are a great way to see the underbelly of the city. At £10 a ticket you get to find out some of the dark side of the city plus get a good humoured lesson in local history.
Check out www.bizarrebath.co.uk for details of tours and timings etc.
However, we opt for a food tour. Mike, our guy at Savouring Bath, is passionate about the food scene in his adopted city. A Blue Badge guide, Mike has something like 20 years of experience working with tourists and his love of his job is worn on his sleeves.
At £40 a head, it seems like a bit of a spend, but considering the different foods you get to try and the knowledge that Mike imparts, it’s actually a bit of a bargain!
The Food Heroes tour examines some of the best of the up and coming food scene in the city and above all, allows you to meet the people making this happen. And the main thing we take away (apart from full stomachs) is the passion for their craft that these guys have.
A morning well spent!
Get in touch and check out the available tours at www.savouringbath.com
Stuff We Didn’t Get To Do That Looks Awesome
Our schedule meant we missed out on a few of the other well know and cool things to do in Bath.
Thermae Bath Spa – Bathe in the hot spring waters like the Romans used to! This pool with a view is the place to check out when you’re in Bath. A must visit, even though we didn’t… Prices from £36. Visit: www.thermaebathspa.com
Hot Air Balloon Rides – A birds eye view of goregous Bath is one of the things we had to forego, unfortunately. But if you can, do it! Prices start from £117 per person. Visit: www.virginballoonflights.co.uk/location/bath/
For more information about the cool and unexpected things to do in Bath, go to visitbath.co.uk/unexpected