British Travel Journal
Pictured left- right: The Henge Shop, Marlborough; Great Chalfield Manor, Wiltshire and Caen Hill Locks at Devizes Images courtesy of greatwestway. co. uk
“Bath also offers the perfect base from which to explore the local region – in essence, to discover England.”
a visit to Great Chalfield Manor is a must. Owned by the same family who've held it since the early 1800s, it is now partially maintained by the National Trust so open to the public, but available for private viewings. Lunch or drinks on the lawn with Patsy and Robert is a spectacular experience worth investing in.
However you choose to fill your day, the next stop is Bath, and there is no better way of heading into this fabulous historic town than by climbing aboard a narrow boat at Bradford on Avon and making the gentle cruise into Bath over a matter of four or so hours. The canal was built to facilitate the movement of goods in the industrial revolution but today, travelling the stretch of canal from Bradford on Avon to Bath offers one of the most relaxing and interesting experiences you could hope for. Say hello to other canal residents, stop at one of the pubs or cafés enroute, journey over great stone viaducts, through picturesque tunnels and deep locks, and pass creamy coloured stone rows of Georgian houses, emerging in the heart of Bath. There's no better way to enter the city.
When it comes to accommodation in Bath, there simply is no better choice than the Royal Crescent Hotel. Located at the centre of one of Europe's most recognised and celebrated residential buildings, the hotel provides luxury, comfort and an oasis of peace for visitors to this extraordinary city. Boasting period rooms and décor as befits a building that symbolised the zenith of Georgian architecture and British imperial confidence, the Hotel's restaurant is firstclass as are its spa and facilities. Its greatest asset to me though, is its gardens. Located at the rear of the building and enclosed by the converted coach-houses behind, the hotel's gardens are a hidden gem in themselves and the perfect place to enjoy an afternoon tea. Just minutes from all of the attractions of Bath, yet purposefully designed as a suburb to the city in the 1770's, so that the residents could enjoy the pleasures of getting a sedan chair into, and out of town, the
Royal Crescent Hotel offers the opportunity to stay in a world-famous heritage building, alongside the service, facilities and tranquillity expected of a 5-star hotel.
Bath itself is a city that deserves a stay of several nights. Though it can be seen in a day, a more leisurely stay to explore its UNESCO world heritage protected architecture, incredibly well-preserved Roman Baths complex, majestic Abbey, and plethora of art galleries, small museums, restaurants, bars, streets, independent shops and one of the best theatres in the country, a single day in Bath is a little miserly.
Bath also offers the perfect base from which to explore the local region – in essence, to discover England. Located at the southern tip of the Cotswolds, Bath is less than an hour from Stonehenge, Glastonbury, Cheddar Gorge, Bristol and Wales. The region is
teeming with history, landscapes, artisans, food and beverage producers, gardens, grand houses, steam railways and more. In fact, Bath and the region offer so many interesting choices for those looking to do something unique and different, from private dining whilst enjoying the historic ` Cross Bath', to enjoying private tours of its galleries or museums, to caving, boating, ballooning or a private steam train ride with dinner served in a historic dining car, Bath and the region offer almost anything you can imagine.
Bath's larger neighbour, Bristol, is the end point for the Great West Way, and is just as worthy of a stay as Bath.
The two cities are connected by a 15 minute train ride, and are often seen as twin cities. If that is so, they are more
Danny Devito and Arnold Scwartzenegger than identical siblings. Bristol, just inland from the mouth of the River Avon, was historically England's second port (after London) until the industrial revolution made larger ships and deeper ports Liverpool, Glasgow and Belfast more relevant. Whereas Bath is small, genteal and homogenous (both in its architecture and residents), Bristol is diffuse, edgy, industrial and creative. Bristol is a city of neighbourhoods and diverse experiences. It's an incubator for art and creativity (Banksy, Wallace and Gromit, Portishead and the Chemical Brothers all originate in Bristol) but the city is also known for its industrial innovation; The world's first suspension bridge, the world's first fully steam powered screw-propelled steam ship as well as one of the few remaining Concordes all reside there.
Whatever it is about `England' that engages and excites you most, the Great West Way most likely has it and probably offers the best experience of it you're likely to find. It is a true treasure trove of discoveries, possibilities and experiences. For those wishing to go beyond the generic and formulaic - and to do it in style… Welcome to the Great West Way.
Jules Mittra is the founder of Around and About Bath ( aroundandaboutbath.com), an innovative tour company transforming the local travel experience: From sightseeing to discovery, meaning and connection.