Bath, Stonehenge, Avebury, Lacock and Castle Coombe
Our first stop on our U.K. trip is the beautiful city of Bath. We landed in London, made our way through a very long line at U.K. boarder control, picked up the rental car and headed out. The trip to Bath was uneventful, however while making our way to our B&B I clipped the side of a parked van. Right hand drive, narrow lane way and me misjudging the turn. Dealing with that after a long flight and a three hour drive was not great. Hopefully that’s the end of our bad luck for the trip.
We’re staying at Marlborough House we met with Peter the owner of the B&B and he had lots of great ideas for things to do and places to eat. One of the great things about staying at a small inn/B&B is the personal touches and contact with someone that knows what they’re talking about. Peter was born in Bath.
Our room is very nice, large bed en-suite bathroom. Decent WiFi, everything we need.
We headed out for a walk to get a lay of the land and find a bit to eat. The core of the city is beautiful. It’s only city in the U.K. to have the designation of a World heritage site from UNESCO. Many of it’s buildings were constructed using Bath stone in the Georgian period. It’s core is quite small and makes for a very pleasant ramble about. All the major sites and things of interest are within a 30 minute walk. Still feeling the affects of jet lag, we opted to get a couple of Subway sandwiched for dinner on Wednesday night. The fellow serving us was very nice, inquiring about our travel plans and asking a bit about Canada. Bath is a major tourism city and they get a bunch of visitors (over a million?) a year.
I spent most of Thursday night looking at the ceiling listening to Deanna sleep peacefully. She has the gift of being able to sleep pretty much anywhere, any time and the time difference doesn’t affect her very much. This was the case when we flew to Italy in 2011. It took me a good two/three days before I was fully on local time, I suspect that will be true on this trip as well.
Thursday dawned with a bright sunshiny day and after a hearty breakfast of yogurt, fruit, toast, and omelets with cheese and mushrooms, we headed out to explore Bath properly. Our first stop was at the local Vodafone store to get U.K. simcards for our phones. This is still a novelty for us North Americans who deal with carriers that don’t have the competition, have exorbitant prices and plans that are just ridiculous. Here, we walked into the shop and Christopher had two new sim cards installed and ready to go within 15 minutes. For 10 each, we get 150 UK talk minutes, 250 UK texts and 50 ! GB of data. Yes 50 GB. That’s insane, and very helpful as most of our phone usage will be navigating and looking up &8216;stuff’.
That bit of administration taken care of, we headed to the reason that Bath exists, the Roman Baths. What we see today is was built in the late 1780’s and through the centuries, as archaeology techniques evolved, the deep history continues to be uncovered. It’s quite humbling to be standing in a place that has seen continuous human habitat since well before the Romans came and decided that these hot waters would make their stay in chillyBritannia a bit more bearable. It fell into disuse after the Romans scampered back to Italy and was really hit it’s prime when
in In June 1688, James II’s wife, Mary of Modena, gave birth to James Francis Edward Stuart (the Prince of Wales) nine months after bathing in the Cross Bath
See History of Bath’s spa for more of it’s fascinating history.
The ticket we purchased enabled us to visit the Fashion Museum. It’s a relativly small museum filled with period clothes from the Georgian time period to current. If you really love fashion and clothes, I suspect you could spend quite a bit of time here. Deanna and I, really aren’t into that sort of thing, but it allowed us to pass the time between our visit to the Roman baths and our next activity which was a free walking tour hosted by The Mayor of Bath’s Corps of Honorary Guides. This was a fantastic guided tour put on by a fellow named Bob who took us through the history of bath for well over 2.5 hours. The guides are volunteers and each (apparently), put their own spin on the history based on their interests. Bob’s interests included the people of Bath and he told the story of many of the major events and time periods through the lens of a few people. It was really excellent and something we would highly recommend doing if you ever find yourself in this beautiful little city.
After being on our feet since 9:00 am, we were quite tired (Deanna’s iPhone indicated we walked about 12,000 steps), and settled into](http://cote-restaurants.co.uk/Cote_Restaurant_Bath.html) , a restaurant that Peter recommended. It was just ok. Deanna had a two course meal that started with cod croquettes that were pretty tasty and I opted for a couple of starters (stomach still not in local time). I had some French Onion Soup and Prawn Gratine?e. The prawns were tasty, but the soup (meh, I make better). Deanna also ordered baked brie which was good when it arrived but we thought they forgot about her as it took 30 minutes for it to arrive.
Friday we were up and at ‘em out the door at 8:00 am (no B&B breakfast for us today), to head out on a full day tour that I booked before we left. Stonehenge, Avebury Stone Circles, Castle Combe & A Cotswold village & Lacock National Trust village tour was hosted by John a Bath resident who spent time in many places all over the world. It was a small van tour, 10 of us or so. We were on the road shortly shortly after 8:30, fortified with tea and pastries from a local coffee shop. Deanna had a mint chocolate milk, ice convocation similar to a chocolate chiller back home.
Our first stop (on our day of visiting rocks as Deanna put it) was Stonehenge. Steeped in millennia of history Stonehenge is one of those places one has to visit sometime in their lives. One can’t get close to the stones any more (they get 1.3 million visitors a year), but it’s very interesting to see and the audio tour helps explain much of the known history. After spending time wandering around the stones, we spent a bit of time in the interpretive center, that has displays of some of the artifacts found and a recreation of what a typical village might have looked like back when Stonehenge was erected. All very interesting and worth a visit.
Second stop on our rock tour was in the town of Avebury. It has a massive stone circle, so large in fact that the entire town sits within it. It’s just over a mile in circumference. The interesting thing with Avebury is that it’s not all roped off, you can walk right among the stones, touch them and feel apart of ancient history. After the throngs of people at Stonehenge with all their buses and tour guides, Avebury is very quiet and introspective. The town is very quaint with a few shops, restaurants etc.
Deanna and I actually knew of Avebury after watching a four part BBC program called The Manor Reborn a few years ago. We quite liked the show, which chronicles the restoration of the 16th century manor house by the national trust, the BBC program hosts and the local townspeople. Unfortunately we didn’t have enough time on our Avebury stop to tour the house, but we did see the restored gardens and saw the outside of it. Maybe on a future trip.
Along the drive John kept us entertained with information regarding the towns and some history as the miles flew by. Between Avebury and Stonehenge is one of the Wiltshire white horses. There are apparently 24 of these horses, found over the countryside. They were created by diging through the topsoil to the white chalk below and dug out into the shape of (massive) horses. They’re quite the site to see. We saw one heading into Avebury and another heading out to Lacock, our lunch stop.
Our tea and sugar fix from 8:00 was fading fast as 2:00 approached. Lacock is a charming little town on the cusp of the Cotswolds. Deanna and I opted for fish and chips at the Red Lion Inn. Aside from finding a label on my fish, it was pretty tasty. After lunch, John offered to take those interested in a bit of a walk about explaining a bit of history and answer questions that anyone had. A number of](https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lacock#Filming_location) have been shot in Lacock including Pride and Prejudice, a couple of scenes from Harry Potter and at the time of this writing, an up coming season of Downton Abbey.It’s very picturesque, mostly untouched by time and easy to turn into a period location for filming. They just haul in a bunch of dirt to cover the roads, remove a few modern bits and voila, instant period town.
Our last stop was atCastle Coombe which is a charming little Cotswold village. It oozes charm and quaintness. It too has been used as a set for movies and TV shows. Most notably, War House in which a good portion of the film was shot in the village.
We arrived back in Bath around 5:30 p.m. It was a good day, full of interesting sites and commentary.