Day 10, Tuesday, July 3, 2018
Today was a big day! We were going to visit Bath and Stonehenge, including access to the inner circle at sunset! I was so excited!
When we were booking our trip to London, Stonehenge was the one thing we all knew in advance that we wanted to do. It’s a no brainer, really. You can’t go to England and not visit Stonehenge, right? We booked a tour with Golden Tours even before we departed for England. It would include a visit to Bath and admission to see the Roman Baths, and then the visit to Stonehenge, with access inside the inner circle, timed to coincide with sunset.
We met our bus at the main Golden Tours bus depot on Buckingham Palace Road, which meant an early wake up to make sure that we weren’t late for our morning departure time.
Our first stop was a tiny little village called Lacock. It was so cute! Apparently everybody thinks so because three Harry Potter movies, Downton Abbey and Pride and Prejudice (not sure which version) were all filmed here. We only had about 20 minutes to wander around and take some photos, before it was back on the bus. It would have been nice to have a bit more time there, as there were a few cute shops I would have liked to check out.
Our next stop was Bath. Bath is a historic city, perhaps known best for the Roman Baths built in the 1st century (circa 60 AD) after the Romans occupied England. I, of course, learned about Bath from reading Jane Austen novels… The baths are built using water from the only hot spring in Britain. They were dedicated to the goddess Sulis, a life-giving mother goddess. The Romans believed that the waters could heal all sorts of maladies if you bathed in it and drank from it regularly. The original baths were in ruins around the 6th century, because after the Romans left the baths were filled in with silt and erosion. The hot spring did continue to be used over the centuries, and were used by people in the late 1700s and 1800s for their restorative powers. The jury is still out on that though. More recent testing has shown that the hot spring water does contain a dangerous amoeba and a girl died in 1978 after contracting meningitis from the waters. They don’t allow visitors to swim in the waters now – makes sense.
They have done a great job stabilizing and restoring the original baths; visitors can see what it used to look like through a combination of excavation and restoration, and technology to show what it would have looked like. They also have artifacts that were discovered during the excavation. It was fascinating to walk through and check it out, and we spent a while there. At the end, if you want, you can have a sip of the (treated) water to experience what people would have tasted when they visited hundreds of years ago. I can’t understand how people managed to choke this stuff down! In large quantities even! It was gross; I’m not really a fan of water on my best day, but this warm, smelly, sulfuric concoction was disgusting!
If you are interested in taking in the waters, there is a modern spa nearby where you can bath in the hot springs water – after it has been treated, of course.
After we saw the baths, we had time to wander around the city before we had to get back on the bus. We walked around and checked out the river, and saw inside the Bath Abbey. The Abbey is another of those churches that has a history over 1,000 years old. This one was built beginning in 1090 AD, but lay in ruins by the late 15th century. It was repaired and rebuilt beginning about 1616, with the interior being completely renovated between 1864 and 1874, in a vision of Victorian Gothic architecture. It is stunning and very impressive to see!
We also checked out a few shops, and discovered that they have a collection of owls around town! I love that this is a trend, and apparently not just around the United States. In my travels, I have seen bison, horses, dogs and now owls. Everything in the historic section of Bath is adorably postcard perfect…
We also had ice cream! I got two flavors; salted caramel and raspberry sorbet. It was delicious! The service was a bit lacking though. I eat ice cream really slowly, and it was a very hot day (which is clinically proven to make ice cream melt fast), so I asked if I could have a cone and a paper dish in case it melted faster than I could eat it. You would have thought I had asked for free ice cream by their reaction! You only get one or the other!! They grudgingly agreed to give me a broken cone. Fine – whatever…
Soon enough – it was back on the bus to head to Stonehenge!
Tube Stations: Earl’s Court to Victoria
Costs: Golden Tours day trip to Bath and Stonehenge, with an inner circle sunset viewing – $175 (note: this price is in U.S. dollars), Roman Baths – 18 pounds (included in the cost of the tour), ice cream – 3 pounds for 2 small scoops