Sampling The Unexpected Side Of Bath
By Oliver Lynch
Bath in Somerset is usually the sort of place people head to for day trips and Jane Austen tours, which is why we were surprised by how much fun we had in this tiny city!
I'm nursing a hangover, but cruising along the River Avon on a paddle board is definitely helping to soothe my brain. In fact, it's positively tranquil.
"The thing I love about stand up paddle boarding is it's so much more sociable than kayaking", says Kyle, the founder of Original Wild.
I'm inclined to agree.
Having been kayaking relatively recently I was thinking that a cruise along the river was going to be the thing of hangover nightmares, but “SUP'ing,” as it's called, is actually quite zen.
"You get to see all sorts of things you don't see from any other vantage point too", says Kyle.
We spot Georgian graffiti on the riverbank, a submerged boat that sank years ago and hasn't been removed, and a whole Roman-era construction you wouldn't even know was there if you walked across it.
I'm sold on stand up paddle boarding and Kyle is too. A native of Bristol, he moved to the city to be with his now wife and chase his dream of living the outdoors lifestyle. Now he offers kayaking, rock climbing and rafting among the many fun offerings around this beautiful city. From £15 per person, you're looking at a great way to see the city, plus Kyle's enthusiasm for his job and his city is infectious!
Original Wild is actually one of the many things that we found in our two-day visit to Bath. Here are a few more highlights.
Paddleboarding was actually part of the second day of our tour in Bath, so let’s get back to the beginning.
We're actually staying at the University of Bath student halls. Now, I haven't been in student halls for a long time and despite the fact that they're a little way out of town and are sparsely decorated, the rooms are actually quite comfortable.
A double bed, ensuite shower room, decent wifi, access to world class sports equipment? You know what, this isn't a bad place to set up camp for an exploration.
For rooms from £36 in the summer months, check out BathSummerAccommodation.co.uk.
Off We Go
Having set up camp and heading into town, we start by sampling the local tipple. By which I mean, cider.
I'll confess, I didn't keep track of the brands of ciders we had. Or really where we ended up. But, we had some fucking great cider.
We start at the Apple Tree on North Parade (it doesn't seem to exist on Google Maps but does in real life). They have some great cider and a slightly nonplussed barman, but that doesn't bother us. Al fresco drinking on next to Bath's main square makes for an enjoyable spot for quaffing and checking out the local talent (and there's lots, by the way).
Of course, we had to do the obligatory tour of the Roman Baths. These are the reason the city exists and, actually, the complex is a fascinating look into the life of Roman Britons. My personal highlights include the complaints that locals made to the Goddess Minerva, often about the theft of bathing clothes.
After the Roman Baths, we're hungry. So we ask our contact Mike at Savouring Bath for some good dining suggestions. He hits us with a few options including a Thai and a Moroccan place called Taghine Zour.
We end up at Jars Meze (6 Northumberland Pl, Bath BA1 5AR), a Greek place hidden down near the Pulteney Bridge. This turns out to be a fabulous choice with a great selection of Greek small plates. But my meatatarian travel companion opts for the Meat Platter to share, which turns out to be a lot of (very tasty) meat.
I have had a lot of Greek and Levantine food, but this is genuinely one of the best I've had. And plentiful too.
This is during the World Cup and England stands on the cusp of a legendary win to take them to a first final since, well, ages ago. I'll spare you the details but we drink a lot of cider and England loses. Hence the hangover…
So where did we drink?
We have at least one in The WestGate (38 Westgate St, Bath BA1 1EL), a big plush pub which proudly proclaims GIN, in large letters by the bar. They have cider. Mike orders two of them at about 8%. I call him names and grimace every time I sip.
At some point we end up in Framptons (The Empire, Grand Parade, Bath BA2 4DF), a riverside bar with a massive screen for the football, lots of cocktails and cider and what looks like a decent food menu. We're keeping it liquid, but we vow to come check out the food when we're next in town.
As the night wears on, we end up in The Hideout (1 Lilliput Court, BA1 1ND). Mike and I like a wee dram, and despite not being very Somerset, we can't resist some primo whisky.
Our waitress is incredibly friendly and reels off a list of unpronounceable whiskies that we might like. We agree and order some. They're fabulous, of course.
The bar itself is very cool, a sort of basement bar with an outside area and hipster looking guys propping up the bar. By hipster I mean they have beards... A complimentary shot (cos I was cheeky and asked for one) later, we're heading back home cos we have SUP'ing in the morning.
Post SUP'ing we're feeling a lot better. Thank you, Original Wild.
I feel the need to actually see some of Bath's genuine sights, so we wander to Pulteney Bridge, Walcott Street (a sort of boutique street lined with little shops and bars) and then to the Crescent. Basically, we tick off tourist Bath in about an hour and a half.
But that's not the point of our visit! Yes, you can come and do the selfies by the bridge and do Harry Potter-themed stuff. I'm sorry…I missed out on Potter, so I don't know what the attractions in Bath revolve around the Boy Wizard, but there are certainly Hogwarts alumni aplenty.
Green Park Station
We head to Green Park Station where we're met by Alex, the owner of the Green Park Brasserie and the Bath Pizza Co.
It must be said, this is a great spot. This unused train station last saw a train in the 60's and now hosts street food stalls, a regular farmers market (the first of it's type in the UK) and the lively Brasserie.
Alex explains that the restaurant has been in his family for years, with his Dad being the original owner. There are pictures on the wall of the station in it's heyday and the whole venue has a cool faded grandeur vibe. The food looks incredible too.
Since it’s lunchtime and we still have the residue of a hangover, we go for a couple of pizzas from Bath Pizza Co,, which did the job. They're actually excellent, proper Neopolitan-thin bases with generous but not overwhelming toppings.
The Brasserie also plays host to regular live music events on Thursdays and weekends and the whole vibe definitely looks like a more refined place to hangout.
Bath is a popular tour spot, but there are more than the usual options. We're informed that the Bizarre Bath walking tours are a great way to see the underbelly of the city. At £10 a ticket you get to find out some of the dark side of the city plus get a good, humoured lesson in local history.
Check out www.bizarrebath.co.uk for details of tours and timings etc.
That said, we opt for a food tour. Mike, our guy at Savouring Bath, is passionate about the food scene in his adopted city. A Blue Badge guide, Mike has something like 20 years of experience working with tourists and he wears his love for his job on his sleeve.
At £40 a head, it seems like a bit of a spend, but considering the different foods you get to try and the knowledge that Mike imparts, it's actually a bit of a bargain!
The Food Heroes tour examines some of the best of the up-and-coming food scene in the city and, above all, allows you to meet the people making this happen. And the main thing we take away (apart from full stomachs) is the passion for their craft that these guys have.
A morning well spent!
Get in touch and check out the available tours at www.savouringbath.com
Stuff We Didn't Get To Do That Looks Awesome
Our tight schedule meant that we had to miss out on a few of the other well-known things to do in Bath.
Thermae Bath Spa
Bathe in the hot spring waters like the Romans used to! This pool with a view is the place to check out when you're in Bath. A must-visit, even though we didn't, with prices from £36. Visit: www.thermaebathspa.com
Hot Air Balloon Rides
A birds eye view of gorgeous Bath is one of the things we had to forego, unfortunately. But if you can, do it! Prices start from £117 per person. Visit: www.virginballoonflights.co.uk/location/bath/
For more information about the cool and unexpected things to do in Bath, go to visitbath.co.uk/unexpected
This article was written by Oliver Lynch of Gone Travelling and was posted here with permission. Check them out today!