A literary tour of England: Bath
Tiffany Francis begins a literary tour of England, starting in Bath, home of the 18th century novelist Jane Austen.
This summer is the last batch of freedom I shall have before finishing my degree next year, and ambling reluctantly into the realities of being an ‘adult’.
I decided not to gallop off to a sun-drenched island across the globe. I ‘did’ Western Europe last year, and my rather pale, English skin was grilled like bacon in the sun.
Instead, I am visiting my favourite places: the sparkling rivers, rolling hills, vivacious forests and golden coasts of England. I am on a literary tour, in search of the spaces and places that inspired, influenced and housed the great literary figures of Britain.
I started in Bath.
I could not have begun my journey anywhere other than the home of Jane Austen, the queen of English wit and satire, and author of the nation’s beloved Pride and Prejudice, Emma and Sense and Sensibility amongst others.
Born in Steventon, Hampshire, Austen moved to Bath at the age of 25. Despite the beauty and fashionable society, her years in Bath were her least productive with regard to writing.
She did, however, enjoy her time there, participating fully in Bath life and later setting her third novel Northanger Abbey in the bustling, gossiping scenes of Bath’s high society.
Sightseers should visit the Royal Crescent, a sweeping line of stunning Georgian houses that have housed 18th century royalty, and appeared in the 2008 film The Duchess.
Bath’s center hosts a close quarter of beautifully-decorated buildings, famous for their significance in Regency society, and close to Bath Abbey, a magnificent architectural masterpiece which dates back to the Anglo-Saxon era.
I can’t go for long periods of time without a cream tea, so we visited the Pump Room, a stunning restaurant and tea-room that has been considered the heart of Bath society for two centuries. As we sipped Earl Grey tea and tucked into scones and Bath buns (obviously), a pianist, violinist and cellist accompanied our quaint experience.
‘Every creature in Bath…was to be seen in the room at different periods of the fashionable hours; crowds of people were every moment passing in and out, up the steps and down.’
Bath is famous for its geological location in Britain, as it is home to three hot springs of natural thermal waters, providing warm water underground that has been used for therapy and treatments for over two thousand years. Visitors can also drink the water, which is very high in iron. Being slightly anemic, I thought I’d give this a try. It tasted awful, but it was jolly fun.
A trip to Bath is not complete without visiting Gay Street, the home of the Jane Austen Centre and her former house. Aside from the fascinating tour, striking costumes and terribly tempting souvenir shop, the Centre is the hub of the annual Jane Austen festival, a week of Regency glory featuring various events, dances, talks and feasts.
For those wishing to enjoy the less energetic side of Bath, the surrounding countryside is exquisitely tranquil. The Bristol to Bath cycle-path is famed for it easy accessibility and stunning views, and provides nine miles of rural indulgence.
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