The River Avon forms a horseshoe shaped loop that encloses the city of Bath, which is on the border of the Cotswolds region of southwest England. We were looking forwarding to viewing its famous scenery and historic buildings.DAY 1 in BATH - May 13, 2012 - EXPLORING BATH
At around 2:30pm we arrived in Bath and the driver parked right outside our B&B while we unloaded our luggage. We were greeted at the door by Susan, our host at the Cornerways B&B, and shown to our rooms. After freshening up a bit we decided to walk down into the city, a short ten or fifteen minute walk away. The British pubs were the first things that caught our eye, as there seemed to be one every other block.
The architecture in Bath includes stone buildings from the Georgian, Edwardian and Victorian eras. The entire city is built out of quarried limestone that is white when new but over time it has aged to a golden beige colour. Soot still stains the front of some buildings whose owners didn't take advantage of government grants offered in the 1970's to wash the centuries of coal burning pollution off the walls. Everyone was ordered to switch to gas for heating and cooking to prevent further sooting. Some owners didn't want to undergo the month-long process of washing, so there are still some rather black looking buildings around.
The streets and sidewalks are almost totally paved with stone blocks. This makes walking on the uneven surface a bit tricky and hard on the feet. We walked around the city for a while, trying to get our bearings and find out where the Roman Baths, Bath's Abbey and interesting parts of town are.
We decided to have dinner at the Raven Pub and tried some samples at the Salamander Pub. The weather was dull, and overcast. We headed back to the B&B about 6:30 for an early night, needing to catch up on our sleep. DAY 2 in BATH - May 14, 2012 - TOURING BATH
After a long sleep we were up a 7am, we had coffee in our room before going down for our first English breakfast cooked to order - our choice of eggs, bacon (more like cooked ham), sausages, tomatoes, mushrooms and beans, with juice, fruit compote, yogurt and cereals on the side. Between the 2 of us we tried most of the options, but neither of us were even tempted with the baked beans that early in the day!
Although it had rained during the night and was still threatening the wet stuff, we headed out, prepaired for the weather. We walked downtown and joined a free walking tour of Bath which started and ended at the Roman Baths. An excellent volunteer guide took as past the Abbey and through the streets of Bath, all the while telling us about significant landmarks, the history of the city and its architecture - a very enjoyable walk. According to Terry's iPod pedometer, we walked 1.25 miles (2593 steps) in the hour and a half tour.
For a small donation we went on a self-guided tour of the nearby Bath Abbey which dates back to 1499 (although there were 2 earlier churches on this site). It is wonderfully majestic and beautifully decorated inside, from floor to ceiling - it was breathtaking. All the walls showcased high arches and stained glass windows, and there were beautifully carved memorials and graves throughout. Along one side of the abbey were impressive displays of framed needlework and calligraphy depicting specific scriptures from the bible. Bath Abbey
has an extensive website if you wish further information on this church.
Claudia and I found a small pub called the Volunteer Riflemans Arms Pub
on a very narrow side street, where the very friendly owner enticed us in to sample from a good selection of beers. We also met a friendly couple there from a nearby village - Simon, a train engineer, and his wife Bernie, and stayed for a short visit. We then headed off to find a "Carphone" mobile store where we intended to purchase some time for a borrowed cell phone we had brought along. It proved more economic to purchase our own cell phone for 15 pounds, which included 10 pounds worth of minutes on the sim card. At 5 pence a minute, we hoped this would last out the trip (it did). Thanks for the advice and good service from the salesperson Mark!
We met up again with Karen and Roy and visited a couple of different pubs before taking them back to the Volunteer Rifleman's pub, where most of the same customers were still enjoying themselves. Then it was time for an early supper, and we found a JD Wetherspoons pub - a restaurant chain the serves a good selection of inexpensive food and beer. It started to really rain on the way back to our B&B, so we nipped into the upscale Hall and Woodhouse restaurant/pub where we played Trivial Pursuit until the rain let up. We were back at the B&B by 8:10pm for an early night, but our sleep was interrupted (awake by 2am) due to the time change.DAY 3 in BATH - May 15, 2012 - DAY TRIP TO AVEBURY
The day was mixed sun and cloud, but cool and windy - at least not raining yet. Up at 7:30 and after another full English breakfast at 8:30, we walked to the bus depot where we bought all day tickets and got advice on how to take one bus to the town of Devizes, then transfer to another bus to Avebury. We traveled through several villages, many nearer Bath, having many older stone buildings. The countryside was very green and picturesque.
One and a half hours later we arrived in the World Heritage site of Avebury
, which also seems to be a National Trust site
. It is approximately 5000 years old, much older and with a bigger stone circle than Stonehenge, and is reportedly the largest stone circle in the world. A deep earthen ditch and mound (now grass covered) surrounds the many large standing stones, built by the Celts as a ceremonial site. Inside the stone ring is a small village, a church, a museum and visitors centre and a handful of houses. We went on a chilly walking tour and listened to a volunteer guide tell us about the history of the site, the people who have studied it and what has been found there. Markers have been placed where stones used to be, having been recycled over time for other building projects. For more information on the Avebury World Heritage site, visit the Wiltshire Council
Roy and I walked up to the Red Lion Pub for something to eat while Claudia and Karen explored more of the historic manor grounds and took more photos of the village. While we were all waiting for the bus to go back to Bath, it started to rain, then it turned to hail and even a bit of snow! We did not have any shelter and so got pelted with the driving hail and soaked by the rain. By the time we got on the bus and back to Devizes we were a bit dryer, but we sat in the Pelican Pub by their fire with a hot drink to warm up.
The weather seemed to have cleared by the time we got back in Bath; it was sure nice to see the sun shining brightly on the Avon river. For dinner we went again to J D Wetherspoons. The rain had started again as we walked back to our B&B.DAY 4 in BATH - May 16, 2012 - WALK ALONG THE CANAL & ROMAN BATHS
Today we started off walking to the Bath train station, and onto the Kennet and Avon Canal path that starts from the River Avon just beyond. The weather grew sunny and warm, and we followed the path along the canal and locks that leads to Bathampton and beyond. We saw many long, narrow river boats using the canal and locks, or moored along its shores. Each was uniquely decorated and named, and many had potted plants on their roof or on deck - flowers, herbs and even vegetables to add colour and perhaps nutrition. For part of the way we walked between the canal and the railway tracks. Sometimes we walked through tunnels, and other times we walked up and over bridges. We enjoyed looking at the different houses and back gardens and imagining what it would be like to to live right on the canal. We saw swans on the river and the ever-present pigeons roosting on rock walls. And we greeted many friendly people coming and going along the path.
We walked about 4.5 km before coming to the George Inn , a 14th century Pub. Even though it not quite noon we had worked up a thirst! I had a Bombardier and Claudia had a Stella. Roy had a Brain and Karen had a ginger soda. We walked back to Bath along the same path, but Roy was having a cramp in his calf so he decided to take the bus back. We shopped a bit in Bath and bought a plug in adapter at Boots. We stopped for a drink and a snack in the Lamb and the Lion - I had a half of Piston Broke Ale and it was excellent.
We met Roy at the Roman Baths and paid for admission which including an audio guide machine. It is much more extensive than it appears from the outside so it took 2 to 3 hours to see it all. We talked to a man dressed in Roman garb who was demonstrating using a hand tool by the big pool, and he pointed out 2 ducks who had just flown in to land on the water. Apparently they are regulars every year. Very good!
We had dinner back at the Lion and Lamb Pub, then walked back to our B&B only to unload the backback before continuing on to the Hop Pole Pub nearby, but decided not to try any of their beer. So back to the B&B to pack, ready for an early departure in the morning.
We arrived at Heathrow in the late morning, local time, a little behind schedule due to our late departure from Vancouver. The driver and car that Roy had arranged were waiting for us just outside the arrival area and that made for a quick departure to the motorway that leads to the Salisbury plains and the city of Bath in Somerset County. We had been awake for over 24 hours at this point, but the new sights of the rolling countryside were still beautiful to look at, and we were eager to see Bath, get settled, and find some place to enjoy our first British ale and some pub food.