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Spotlight On: The Roman Baths

Spotlight On: The Roman Baths

5 December 2017 | Nicola Freedman

Attracting over a million visitors each year, The Roman Baths are a fantastic way to learn about the city’s history and how the Romans liked to relax thousands of years ago.

When in Bath, there are a few must dos. Marvel at Bath Abbey, tour the Jane Austen Centre, have a Bath Bun and, of course, visit the Roman Baths. Constructed around 70 AD, the Roman bathhouse and temple are one of the country’s most spectacular sites, and play a key role throughout the Georgian city’s history. Founded on the site of Britain’s only hot spring, the complex is comprised of the Sacred Spring, the Roman Temple, the Roman bath house and finds from Roman Bath. Thanks to the remarkable preservation efforts of the Heritage Services, and the huge £5.5 million redevelopment in 2011, these sites are open to the public, and offer a truly unique experience for all ages.
 
To begin, pick up the award-winning audio guide on your way in, which is included in the price of admission. Available in twelve languages, and with a separate audio tour for children, the audio guide provides a fascinating commentary about the various sites and goes into great detail about individual items. While there is a defined route to follow through the complex, the combination of the audio guide and clever layout ensures that visitors are able to explore the site at their own pace. However, for a more comprehensive overview, join one of the free guided tours that run hourly starting at the Great Bath. Alternatively, the recent addition of ‘Above and Below Tours’ provides another way to experience the baths, taking visitors to some of the tunnels under the site and nearby streets.
 

Image credit: The Roman Baths/ via Facebook
 
Flowing with natural hot water, the baths themselves are truly spectacular. Walk around where people bathed nearly 2,000 years ago, take photos, and admire the steaming pool from the surrounding neoclassical terrace, which is also lined with incredible 19th Century Victorian sculptures of Roman emperors and governors of Britain. While visually breathtaking, the steaming water is also reputed to be able to cure illness which, perhaps unsurprisingly, attracted visitors from all over the Roman Empire.
 

Image credit: The Roman Baths/ via Facebook
 
While the baths may be the main attraction, the museum also displays artefacts discovered on site, which place the extensive ruins in a more historical context. Key objects include the bronze head of the goddess Sulis Minerva, temple pediment and Gorgon's head, curse tablets and a range of other incredible sacred objects. The site is made up of ancient pavements and glass floors, which brilliantly display the labyrinth of underground passages beneath. You’ll also notice a range of visual projections – imagined figures of Romans projected on the walls - which further transport the viewer back to the Roman times and lives of the Aquae Sulis people. Likewise, the actors who wander around in Roman costume bring the stories of the past inhabitants to life as they interact with visitors, answering questions and chatting about their life in Roman Britain. This combination of audio, film, projections and interactive displays effectively adds another dimension to the overall experience, and is a great way to actively engage children.
 

Image credit: The Roman Baths/ via Facebook

At the end of the tour, there is an opportunity to taste the famous spa water from a fountain in the West Baths. Although the water contains 43 minerals, it’s certainly an acquired taste! For something slightly tastier, stop by the adjacent Pump Room Restaurant and enjoy a meal and a glass of wine, or their decadent afternoon tea.

Given that ticket prices are on the slightly more expensive side, the Saver ticket is a great deal, with additional entry to the Fashion Museum Bath and Victoria Art Gallery.
 
Both informative and highly engaging, the magnificent temple and bathing complex is simply a must-visit.
 
 
The Roman Baths can be found at Stall St, Bath BA1 1LZ.

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