Roman Adventures in Bath

Roman BathsBath is an incredibly beautiful place, however you pronounce it. Southerners insist there is a silent 'R' lurking in the middle of the word, northerners disagree. But both agree Bath is something special. We headed out to the mild, mild west to find out more. 

The first thing that hits home about Bath is the architecture - the Romans may have been and gone but marks of their stay, and proof of subsequent inhabitants dedication to the sort of city the Romans built, are everywhere. So too is Bath stone. And while this distinctive sandy-coloured material may not have been used by the Romans themselves, it still creates a feeling that Bath is a city built on very ancient foundations.

We headed, first, to the historic Royal Crescent, a swooping, curving row of wonderful houses built in the 1700s and set - as much of Bath is - in the midst of a beautiful patch of pristine green space. For a long time, rumours persisted that Johnny Depp had a house here. Most people wrote them off as idle gossip but really, it wouldn't be too much of a surprise. Who wouldn't want to live on this incredible crescent?

From the Crescent, we took in further works of Georgian genius in the form of the Circus, Assembly Rooms and Pump Rooms, and from the Georgian era we travelled back in time to the famous Roman Baths, and watched steam rise from those historic waters as it has done since somewhere around AD 60. In much the same way as Oxford feels like a city determined to stay one step out of sync with the modern world, so it is with Bath. Both cities are, in a good way, what Americans imagine every inch of England to look like.

Feeling suddenly too touristy we started walking, aimlessly and idly, through the city, just soaking up the atmosphere of the town. We trekked uphill until the tumbling, undulating city spread out before us. Again, the feeling that Bath is a city built on so many layers of ancient and modern history was impossible to ignore.

After a while, we freewheeled back down the slope and back into the centre of town, to Pulteney Bridge, overlooking the gently hissing waters of the River Avon. Busy with tourists, we decided now was the time to rely on a little local knowledge. The Pulteney Arms was nearby, and we were hungry.

The food was great, the beer and cider event better and after a few hours of happy inactivity - save for a surprisingly intense game of Scrabble with a very competitive local whose knowledge of the famous faces that had visited The Pulteney was either encyclopaedic or completely invented  - we were left with the feeling that The Pulteney is Bath in a nutshell: a little quaint, faintly archaic, but welcoming and cosy and memorable.

And In case you were wondering, the two most famous names our mate for the day had seen in the pub were Harry Styles and Zara Phillips. 'Not together, of course,' he was quick to point out. 'Mike Tindall would batter him.'