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Jules's England adventure: Bath and the Cotswolds

Thursday, September 9, 2010
After you've had a good look around London, it's no easy task to decide where to go next. There are endless places worthy of a visit, and Jules Lund narrowed his destination to four of them. First up, Bath and the Cotswolds.

Bath

One of England's most beautiful places, Bath is 2.5 hours south-west of London. Its rich history was created by the Romans, Celts and Saxons. Bath's natural steam baths date back more than 2000 years to Roman times and were one of the greatest religious spas of the ancient world.

They are heated by the extinct volcano the town sits on and there are four main features — Sacred Spring, Roman Temple, Roman Bath House and a museum containing finds from Roman Bath. The Georgian Pump room is on the ground level.

The whole of Bath is a World Heritage site and those lucky enough to live here have all the benefits of a cosmopolitan town with the bonus of amazing architecture and history. There are 5000 listed protected buildings, more than in London. Architecture has Anglo Roman and Georgian influences and includes many theatres from the 18th century. During that time, Bath was the party town. People flocked there to gamble, drink and dance.

To get the most of his visit, Jules took a Sulis Guides walk. He saw the impressive Georgian era Royal Crescent which overlooks the town. It has a collection of 30 townhouses dating backt to 1774, which were built as holiday homes for the wealthy.

Buildings in Bath can be divided into two periods — 200 and 2000 years ago. The Roman Baths date to around 60 AD. It's amazing to hear that the baths' lead pipes are the originals. They can't be bathed in these days, but the water can be drunk and is said to have healing properties.

The same water can be enjoyed at Thermae Bath Spa. Soak yourself in the same, but cleaner, waters. The water is heated by the earth's core to 46°C and bubble up at the rate of 1.17 million litres every day in three hot springs. To the ancients, the phenomenon was the work of the gods.

Other highlights include the 1773 Pulteney Bridge which crosses the River Avon. Abbey Church of St Peter and St Paul is an Anglican parish and former Benedictine monastery. It was founded in the seventh century, reorganised in the 10th and rebuilt in the 12th an 16th. It is a beautiful example of perpendicular Gothic architecture.

The Cotswolds

Less than an hour north of Bath is the beautiful region of the Cotswolds. Dotted with little villages, rolling limestone hills, valleys and lush countryside, it makes for some of country England's most pleasant driving. Known as the Heart of England it's just 145km long and 40km across. The British government has designated it as an Area of Outstanding Beauty.

The Cotswolds lies mainly in Gloucestershire and Oxfordshire, but extends into parts of Wiltshire, Somerset, Worcestershire and Warwickshire. Some people include Herefordshire as part of the region.

Two things you first notice are the very narrow streets and difficulty in parking and the amount of grazing sheep.

Bourton-on-the-Water is the Cotswolds' most-visited village. Its attractions include a perfume factory, car museum, model railway station and model village that is a 1:9 replica of the town. Not only that, there's a model of the model.

It's one of the few villages with an architectural style of its own. Most houses and buildings have steeply thatched roofs, stone mullions and dormer windows. They're all built from warm yellow Cotswold stone. Many date back 400 years.

Known as the Venice of the Cotswolds, Bourton-on-the-Water's bridge-spanned stream runs through the village.

The Swan at Southrop is a beautiful, ivy-covered 17th-century inn. It took out this year's UK's Good Food Guide's Restaurant of the Year. The philosophy of owner Sebastian Snow is "turf to table", meaning almost everything is sourced from the area. They still serve the old favourites such as bangers and mash, but there are some very impressive gourmet dishes on the menu.

The quintessential English pub in the village of Southrop in the Leach Valley is simply beautiful. Apart from the restaurant and separate bar, it has open fireplaces, a skittle alley and accommodation in gorgeous cottages on Southrop Manor Estate.

Warwick Castle

The medieval Warwick Castle is in the small town of Warwick on a bend in the River Avon. It was built in 1068 and has been rebuilt and updated many times. Today it combines castle ruins, largely of the 14th century, and one of the finest great houses of England. Two small projecting towers of the late 15th century were built as artillery platforms.

Jules was fascinated by Warwick Castle's trebuchet. The working siege engine is 18m tall and is a full-scale working replica of a trebuchet used in the Middle Ages to bring down castle walls.

To load a 15kg rock takes eight men half an hour of very heavy winding to load. It is designed to hurl projectiles up to 300m and as high as 25m.

The castle is a major tourist attraction open to the public. It was also the 2009 Winner Best UK Attraction at the Group Leisure Awards.

Stratford-upon-Avon

About 3.5 million people a year make the pilgrimage to Stratford-upon-Avon, the birthplace of William Shakespeare. The market town has more than 800 years of history and many buildings from the time of Shakespeare, including his own home on Henley Street and his wife Anne Hathaway's beautiful thatched childhood home.

Blue Badge Guides

Jules says that linking up with a Blue Badge Guide is worth every penny. There are around 1700 of them across the British Isles, offering guiding in 34 languages. They are professional, reliable, informative and entertaining and guide walking and themed tours, sightseeing, museums, galleries and more for individuals, couples, families and groups.

Related: UK's prettiest villages - part one

Location

Bath and the Cotswolds in the United Kingdom.

Cost

Sulis Guides two-hour tours of Bath cost $158 per person. It includes a walking tour of the city.

Emirates has flights to London from:

  • Perth $1905
  • Melbourne and Adelaide $1958
  • Sydney $1977
  • Brisbane $1980

These fares are available only online to the first 100 people to book. Conditions apply.

Prices correct at September 9, 2010.

For further information

Emirates
Ph: 1300 303 777
www.emirates.com/getaway

Blue Badge Guides
The Guild House
52d Borough High Street
London SE1 1XN
United Kingdom
Ph: +44 20 7403 1115
Fax: +44 20 7378 1705
www.blue-badge-guides.com
guild@blue-badge.org.uk

Bath Tourism
www.visitbath.co.uk

The Swan
Southrop
Lechade GL7 3NU
United Kingdom
Ph: +44 13 6785 0205
www.theswanatsouthrop.co.uk

The Cotswolds Visitor Information
www.visitcotswolds.co.uk

Visas: Visas are not required for Australians entering the UK for tourism for stays of less than six months. If you wish to work, you must obtain the appropriate two-year visa in advance.

Electricity: 220V with a three-point plug.

Time zone: GMT.

Currency: The British pound sterling.

International dialling code: +44.

User comments
Even taking into account that Britain is expensive, $158 for a guide of Bath is LUDICROUS!! I lived in Bath for 5 years. Go to the Roman Baths, Jane Austen centre (free admission), the bath thermae spa's (rooftop pool!)- £24 for 2 hours, treatments more expensive. See the royal crescent and the abbey, buy something at the bath sweetshop. Even take a tour on one of those red double decker tourist buses, departing next to the abbey, they're worth doing- £6 including a skyline tour. All that together is much cheaper than what 'sulis' is offering. For shopping there's Southgate, Milsom Place, the Podium, the indoor market plus the many steet shops. When to go? Bath is absolutely stunning in summer. No doubt it is also beautiful in winter, particularly at night when all the christmas lights & market stalls light up the streets, however the crowds are just too much, not helped by the fact a carousel is erected every year in the very centre. Many websites offer 2 for 1 deals on attractions.

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