Overview: Once again, you'll need an early start to have a full-day in Bath. It's about 70 miles from Oxford using a combination of country roads and the M4 motorway and will take about an hour and a half. Try the Automobile Association (AA) route planner to map your route.
Bath is an old city with lots of confusing one-way lanes around its most interesting sights. It's also very popular and there are only 3,500 parking spaces in the city. So you might want to use the one of the economical and convenient Bath Park & Ride areas on the outskirts.
The journey is well worth the effort. The whole city of Bath is classified as a UNESCO World Heritage site and a visit is like a journey through time from:
- the 2,000 year old Roman baths
- through the 18th and early 19th century landmarks of Jane Austen's world
- to modern and stylish boutique shopping - some of the best outside London.
Morning: Start your visit with a free guided walking tour of Bath. A two-hour tour that covers most of the key World Heritage sites starts in the Abbey Church Yard at 10:30am every day, rain or shine. You don't have to book. Just look for the signboard in the churchyard that says "Free Walking Tours Here."
Itinerary Tip: If you'd rather not walk, Bath's Hop On Hop Off Buses cover 15 stops over two different routes. Book the Hop On Hop Off Bus Direct.
After your tour, depending upon your interests, spend an hour or so:
- Seeing how Georgian high society lived in the 18th century at No. 1 Royal Crescent.
- Doing some unusual shopping. Robert Adam designed Pulteney Bridge, with shops along both sides of it, in 1773. It is one of only three bridges designed with shops in the world. The Ponte Vecchio in Florence is probably the most famous. Look into the gift shop and the flower shop more for the ambiance than for the merchandise. Then aim for the Upper Town area between the Royal Crescent and the Circus for art galleries, antiques dealers and independent fashion boutiques in the network of small lanes. Check out Bartlett Street, George Street and Margaret's Buildings.
- Immerse yourself in 18th century to contemporary style at the Fashion Museum or the Jane Austen Center
Lunch: Lunch in Bath can put you in a bit of a quandary. If you want to linger over fine food for a long and beautifully prepared lunch, you'll have to leave the center of the city for one of the heralded restaurants a few miles out - like The Moody Goose in Midsomer Norton. But if you're in Bath to see the sights, stay in the center and grab a bar lunch, upstairs at The New Moon in The Moon & Sixpence on Milsom Street. An even better idea is to fill your whole afternoon with the Roman Baths and spa package that includes lunch in the famous Pump Room.
Saving the Best for Last
Afternoon at the Baths: The 2,000-year-old Roman baths at the heart of the World Heritage site and built around Britain's only natural hot springs, are what gave this beautifully little city it's name and its popularity. It's likely that an ancient British, pre-Roman tribe had already set up a shrine to the goddess of the spring when the Romans arrived. On a visit to the very well preserved Roman baths,costumed guides help you understand how Romans of the 1st and 2nd centuries relaxed, conducted business and cured their ailments in Bath.
In the 18th century, high society flocked to Bath to take the waters and marry off their children. The Pump Room, where you can now take breakfast, lunch and tea (or try a free sample of the sulfurous spring waters), is where they socialized during the "season."
In honor of the Millennium, a new public facility, the Thermae Bath Spa, opened (a little late) in 2006. Its several thermal baths include an open air, rooftop pool where you can swim surrounded by magnificent views of the ancient site, medieval cathedral and abbey, 18th century and modern city. Across the street, the smaller Cross Bath is a smaller pool for a quick dip. It's fed directly by the original spring dedicated to the Celtic goddess Sul.
For your afternoon in Bath, take advantage of the excellent value Bath Thermal Waters Package. It includes two hours at the Thermae Bath Spa, admission to the Roman Baths and a three-course lunch in Pump Room for about £63.00 per person (in 2012). The package must be booked and paid for in advance through the Personal Booking Service at the Bath Tourist Information Centre, +44 (0)844 847 5256.
Nighty Night: Tomorrow's itinerary starts at the crack of dawn at Stonehenge, so leave Bath after an early dinner - (try the romantic Bathwick Boatman, or the exotic and highly recommended Nepalese restaurant Yak Yeti Yak) and aim for Salisbury, about 40 miles away. The Holiday Inn Salisbury-Stonehenge is predictable and characterless but its Amesbury location is very convenient for both your visits on Day 3.
Read visitor reviews of the Holiday Inn Salisbury-Stonehenge on Tripadvisor
Extra Day OptionBristol is a small and attractive university city just 12 miles north of Bath. In the early Middle Ages, it was one of England's four largest cities - alongside London, Norwich and York. An important port, it was the departure point for John Cabot's explorations of North America and the first transatlantic trade expeditions between England and North America. Today,visitors linger around the Floating Harbor and Temple Quays where most of Bristol's museums, and trendy restaurants and bars are located.
- Go for lunch on The Glass Boat.
- Follow the Banksy trail. The world famous graffitti artist is a Bristol native and several of his earliest works are scattered around the city. Visit Bristol has put together a list of Banksy's works that make a good walking tour for street art fans.
- Take a Bristol Packetboat Tour down the Avon Gorge and under the city's symbol, the Clifton Suspension Bridge designed by Isambard Kingdom Brunel.