Not all cities involve crowds and concrete, says Sarah Marshall.
Lowering his voice, our guide glances over his shoulder to ensure we aren’t being overheard. “It was the monks,” he whispers to the small group of us who have gathered outside an ostentatiously ornate Bath Abbey, a striking structure that dates back to the 12th century. “They were at the centre of it all.”
It doesn’t seem the most likely venue for a raucous, all-night rave, but apparently that’s exactly what happened back in days gone by, when a gaggle of mischievous monks decided to create their own entertainment.
“They hosted wild parties here until the clergy caught wind of it,” adds our theatrical guide, who is leading a tour for travel company MakeMyDay.
If festivities seem like a wild idea in our current climate, back then, they were even more frowned upon. But scandalous tales still manage to raise a smile on our small group walking tour of the popular Somerset spot.
Jane Austen and thermal water-loving Romans were among the first to fall for this fabled city, but many more have since followed. Famed for its historic bath houses and cobbled streets, Bath is one of Britain’s most charming corners, offering a heady mix of well-preserved ancient landmarks and handsome sandy-hued Georgian houses, all wrapped up snugly by the finest countryside.
Although city breaks might not be top of everyone’s agenda, MakeMyDay have curated a collection of Covid-safe and socially-distanced activities which still give a flavour of the destination.
Here’s their pick of essential experiences in Bath and beyond…
Bikes and Bubbles
Bath is certainly a city that looks superb on foot, but for a totally novel perspective, try exploring it on two wheels on a 1.5 hour cycling tour. Leaving the city streets behind, follow canals and the picturesque River Avon, all the while hearing wonderful tales from the local guide. The best bit? There’s a leisurely pitstop along the way, in which a bottle of Prosecco is popped open and enjoyed from a scenic viewpoint overlooking the city’s rooftops. Price £30.
Walk on the Wild Side
If you prefer to discover the surrounding area’s natural beauty, it’s hard to beat an exhilarating hike through the pleasing countryside that envelopes the city. Setting off from the heart of Bath, take a rural ramble, swapping cobbled streets for lush meadows along a 12km trail that takes in stunning woodland, panoramic viewpoints and centuries-old waterways focusing on the flora, fauna and geology of the region. Price £25.
Food Glorious Food
Bath is fast emerging as a culinary hotspot with some of the best restaurants to be found in the West Country – be sure to make dinner reservations at The Circus (thecircusrestaurant.co.uk). Foodies keen to get a real insight should join a tasty tour that casts a light on local produce and producers. From artisan cheesemongers to gourmet bakers – plus a few surprises along the way – this Covid-safe stroll introduces you to the individuals driving the culinary trends in Bath and promises to be a treat for the tastebuds. Price £45.
The quaint Somerset village of Cheddar, best known for its ruggedly impressive gorge – is an easy day trip from Bath. The 25-mile journey is a scenic one through the winding Mendip Hills, well-known for its walking and cycling trails. The star attraction is, of course, its cave-aged cheeses. But there’s far more to discover, including the crystal-clear Cheddar Yeo river, alongside the dramatic limestone gorge.