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Discover the Secrets of Remarkable Bath

Bath is, without a doubt, remarkable. With an impressive Roman legacy and stunning Georgian architecture, it’s no wonder the entire city is a World Heritage Site. However, look beneath the surface of Bath’s well-known history and you’ll find little-known stories waiting to be told.

Ever since its legendary beginnings, Bath has been home to a cast of colourful characters; from Anglo-Saxon royalty to an eighteenth-century dandy, these extraordinary historical figures each helped shape the city into what it is today.

Each landmark has its own secrets to tell too - whether it’s the curious offerings to Sulis Minerva at the Roman Baths, the enchanting paintings at the Holburne Museum, or the Francis Hotel’s illustrious guests. 

With so many stories to uncover about the city’s extraordinary past and present, browse the city's fantastic selection of accommodation and book your stay here in Remarkable Bath.

King Bladud – c.850 BC

Legend has it that Bath was founded by King Bladud in c.850 BC who, after contracting leprosy in Athens, returned home to England only to be imprisoned. Bladud made a great escape and went into hiding, finding work as a swineherd in Swainswick, about two miles from Bath, where he often took his herd across the River Avon in search of acorns.

On noticing that the pigs cleaned their blemished skin when they bathed in the hot springs, Bladud decided to roll around in the volcanic mud himself, and miraculously cured his leprosy!

He was then able to take his rightful place as King, and founded the city of Bath, building a temple to Sul (the local Celtic goddess of the springs) as thanks for healing him.

Bladud’s life unfortunately came to a tragic end when he summoned the spirits of the dead to construct wings, but fell to his death when he crashed into a wall.

Minerva – c.40 AD

Bath, or 'Aquae Sulis' as it was then known, is renowned for its Roman heritage, and the goddess Minerva was at the heart of the city’s culture.

When the Roman Baths Temple was built in c.70 AD, it was dedicated to Minerva, goddess of wisdom, healing and the arts, whose sacred animal was an owl. The temple also honoured the local Celtic goddess Sul, who the Romans combined with their image of Minerva to create Sulis Minerva - Bath’s very own deity. 

Over 6000 coins were thrown into the Baths as offerings to Sulis Minerva, as well as inscribed tablets with requests to the goddess, including curses on their enemies. One disgruntled victim of robbery wrote, "to Minerva the goddess of Sulis I have given the thief who has stolen my hooded cloak, whether slave or free, whether man or woman. He is not to buy back this gift unless with his own blood".

King Edgar – c.943–975

Bath also has royal connections dating back to the Anglo Saxons. The first King of England, King Edgar, was crowned at Bath Abbey in 973.

Even though Edgar became King in 959, his coronation took place in 973 to commemorate the end of his reign. The service itself was the first to be described in detail in the annals of English history, and was instrumental in providing the basis for all future coronations of English monarchs to this day, including Elizabeth II.

Known as Edgar the Peaceful, he maintained the peace established by earlier kings of the House of Wessex until he died in 975.

Beau Nash – 1674–1761

No one embodies Bath’s fashionable side more than Beau Nash. A celebrated dandy and leader of fashion in the eighteenth century, Beau Nash was the Master of Ceremonies in Bath from 1704 until his death.

Beau was notoriously naughty, with a string of mistresses and a gambling habit that left him in significant debt. He lived near what is now the Theatre Royal, but his money troubles forced him to move in with his mistress Juliana Papjoy, who was so distraught when he died in 1761 that she lived the rest of her life in a hollowed-out tree!

Beau Nash was highly influential in Bath, and played an important role in breaking down the rigid social barriers between the nobility and middle-classes. Many were moved by his death, and he was held an elaborate funeral to match his extravagant life, before being buried in the nave of Bath Abbey.

Ralph Allen – 1693–1764

As you wander around Bath, you will spot several streets and a school named after Ralph Allen, an entrepreneur and philanthropist who is renowned for his reforms to the British postal system.  

Ralph Allen became postmaster in Bath at the age of 19, and went on to work with the General Post Office to reform the postal service with great success. On noticing that profit was being lost from undeclared mail, he introduced a signed-for system to solve the issue, and improved efficiency by stopping mail going via London. It is estimated that he saved the Post Office £1,500,000 over a 40-year period!

Using his profits from the Post Office, he bought local stone mines, and commissioned Prior Park to be built. He also worked with the architect John Wood the Elder to develop much of the Georgian city using the famous Bath stone. 

John Wood the Elder and Younger – 1704–1782

Architects John Wood the Elder and Younger were instrumental in designing the way Georgian Bath looked, and still does to this day.

The son of a local builder, John the Elder had grand ambitions for Bath, combining his passion for Palladianism and ancient history to restore the city to its Roman glory. When he died in 1754, he passed his legacy onto his son, John Wood the Younger, who continued his work but pioneered his own style, which was less detailed than his father’s.

Between them they constructed Bath’s most famous landmarks during the eighteenth century, including Queen Square, Prior Park, the Circus, the Royal Crescent and the Assembly Rooms. Their extraordinary work played an important part in Bath being a World Heritage Site today.

William and Caroline Herschel – 1738–1848

Bath was home to pioneering eighteenth-century astronomers. William Herschel moved from Hanover to Bath in 1766 with the ambition of becoming a professional musician, and his youngest sister Caroline later joined him to help run the household.

Whilst living in 19 New King Street, now the Herschel Museum of Astronomy, they developed a passion for astronomy and turned nearly every room into a workshop for constructing telescopes. He became famous overnight for discovering Uranus and in 1782, George III was so impressed with his work that he awarded him the title of King’s Astronomer.

Caroline was known as William’s astronomical assistant, but she gained a reputation in her own right by discovering eight comets. She was only 4’3” after contracting smallpox and typhus as a child, which stunted her growth. She may have been small, but she was most certainly mighty and lived to the ripe old age of 97.

Jane Austen – 1775–1817

One of Bath’s most famous residents, Jane Austen, lived in the city for five years. When her father retired as rector from Steventon in 1800, Jane moved to Bath with her family and found lodgings at 4 Sydney Place. Living opposite Sydney Gardens, Jane attended glamorous society events such as galas and firework displays as well as balls and tea dances at The Assembly Rooms.

Her time in Bath wasn’t very productive and some argue she didn’t enjoy her time in the city. Her stay certainly ended on a sour note when her father died, leaving the Austen women in financial troubles which forced them to live in unpleasant lodgings, until they moved back to Hampshire.

Whether Jane was a fan of Bath or not, the time she spent in the city greatly inspired her writing and provided a vibrant setting for two of her six published novels, Northanger Abbey and Persuasion.

The Jane Austen Centre

Jane Austen and Bath go hand in hand, but there’s so much more to learn about her time in the city than you might expect.

Whether you’re a self-proclaimed Janeite or don’t know your Dashwood from your Darcy, the Jane Austen Centre is a fountain of knowledge for anyone looking to discover her story and secrets. Through an engaging exhibition and costumed guides, the museum tells the tale of Jane Austen’s time in Bath and examines how it impacted her writing.

Jane Austen made Bath her home from 1801 to 1806 and chose it as a backdrop for her novels Northanger Abbey and Persuasion but it’s believed that she didn’t enjoy her time in the city. Head to the Jane Austen Centre to get inside the head of one of our most-loved writers and decide for yourself how she felt about Bath.

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The Holburne Museum

The Holburne Museum sits majestically at the end of Great Pulteney Street and the building’s grand façade reflects the artefacts you can find inside. Grade I listed, the museum was originally designed as a hotel but has been home to Sir William Holburne’s collection of fine and decorative art since 1882.

Bath’s first public art gallery showcases Holburne’s outstanding collection of art, which has grown to include works by renowned artists, including Bath residents William Hoare and Thomas Gainsborough, as well as paintings by Stubbs and Turner.

Situated in the historic Sydney Gardens, Jane Austen lived opposite and would often stroll there, prompting her to set part of her novel, Northanger Abbey, across from the Holburne.

With so much to see and explore, head to The Holburne Museum to discover Bath’s history as a fashionable and artistic city.

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National Trust Houses and Gardens

Explore Bath and the surrounding countryside and you’ll come across magnificent historic houses, peaceful gardens, wooded trails and hidden treasures.  

Set in a sweeping valley, Prior Park Landscape Garden provides spectacular views of Bath and its famous Palladian bridge is one of only four of in the world. Local eighteenth-century entrepreneur Ralph Allen commissioned John Wood the Elder to showcase the beautiful Bath stone by building a grand house at Prior Park whilst the impressive garden was first laid out by poet Alexander Pope and later developed by eminent landscape architect Capability Brown.

You’re spoilt for choice when it comes to picturesque walks in and around Bath. From the stunning scenery along Bath skyline and woodland walks at Tyntesfield to prehistoric routes past Bronze Age burial mounds and an ancient stone circle at Avebury, there are plenty of places to escape to for an outdoors adventure.

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The Roseate Villa Bath

Nestled in a leafy, peaceful corner of the city, just moments away from the centre, Roseate Villa is the perfect place to retreat to after a busy day of sightseeing.  

The luxurious boutique hotel occupies two converted Victorian houses with a grand staircase and plenty of period character. Set within its own private garden, Roseate Villa is an oasis of tranquillity and overlooks Henrietta Park, which was opened to celebrate the Diamond Jubilee of Queen Victoria in 1897. 

You’re guaranteed a sound night’s sleep on Egyptian cotton sheets in one of the 21 stylish bedrooms at Roseate Villa, tucked away from the buzz of Bath, and wake up to the smell of freshly baked bread ready for afternoon tea!

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Thermae Bath Spa

Visitors have flocked to Bath to bathe in its thermal waters since the city’s legendary beginnings. King Bladud is said to have founded Bath after discovering the healing properties of the natural spring waters. On noticing that his herd of pigs cleared their blemished skin when they rolled around in the volcanic mud, Bladud followed their example and miraculously cured his leprosy.

Fast forward almost 3000 years and you can still relax in the steaming springs today, but without the mud! Head to Thermae Bath Spa where you can bathe in Britain’s only naturally warm waters in a spectacular setting.

By day or night, unwind in the indoor Minerva Bath and open-air rooftop pool, with stunning views of the city, or treat yourself to one of their 40 pampering packages. Stylishly combining old and new, Thermae Bath Spa is a truly unique venue for an exclusive spa break.

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Francis Hotel Bath - MGallery Collection

Once home to eminent Georgian architect John Wood the Elder, Francis Hotel has a rich tapestry of history. Bath builder Solomon Francis first opened a boarding house on Queen Square in 1858 and within 30 years, had expanded into five more adjacent townhouses as Francis Private Hotel.

Since its eighteenth-century origins, the Grade I listed hotel has undergone several transformations, especially after it was blitzed by a bomb in 1942 during the Second World War.  However, the resilient hotel managed to retain its Regency style and has hosted celebrity guests, including the Beatles in 1963.

After a £6 million restoration in 2012, Francis Hotel now seamlessly spreads across nine townhouses with interiors that celebrate its heritage with an eclectic edge. Look out for the blue plaques which explain who occupied the houses throughout history and dine in style at Raymond Blanc’s Brasserie Blanc inside the hotel.

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Abbey Hotel

Centrally located with Bath’s attractions on its doorstep, Abbey Hotel is perfectly located for exploring the city and, as its name suggests, overlooks the stunning Bath Abbey. Originally three Georgian townhouses, the independent boutique hotel has 60 luxury rooms to choose from each with its unique interior style, blending modern elegance and historic charm.

You won’t need to go far for dinner and drinks either as an exciting new restaurant is coming to Abbey Hotel. Koffmann & Mr White’s, run by Michelin starred chefs Pierre Koffmann and Marco Pierre White, will be serving tasty, affordable English and French dishes in a relaxed environment.

Book your stay at Abbey Hotel for a comfortable, peaceful night’s sleep and be reassured that you’ll be looked after by their friendly staff.

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The Roman Baths

A stay in Bath isn’t complete without visiting the world-famous Roman Baths. Constructed in 70 A.D, Bath was then known as Aquae Sulis and the amazingly-preserved ruins of the grand bathing complex lie at the heart of the World Heritage City.

The temple at the Roman Baths was dedicated to Minerva, goddess of Wisdom as well as local Celtic goddess Sul, who were combined to create Sulis Minerva, Bath’s very own deity. The interactive museum is a treasure trove of artefacts that narrate the lives of its Roman regulars 2000 years ago. Amongst these are a collection of over 17,000 coins and tablets inscribed with requests to Sulis Minerva which bring Bath’s Roman residents to life.

After learning all about Roman Britain, head to the impressive Pump Room for a delicious afternoon tea or, if you’re feeling brave, sample the mineral-rich spa water which is said to have healing properties.

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