Built on seven hills, the resplendent city of Bath in North Somerset has been a centre for recreation for more than 2,000 years – becoming famed for its honey-toned Georgian architecture and picturesque Regency-era streets. Home to one of the UK’S few natural thermal springs, the area has been the stuff of legend since King Bladud allegedly cured his leprosy by bathing in the warm mud some 3,000 years ago. But it was the Romans who really established the city – naming it Aquae Sulis and creating a grand complex so they could bathe in its balmy waters. The baths have more or less remained at its heart, and today you can still immerse yourself in these relics of the Roman Empire. But there’s more to Bath than the Romans: during Saxon rule, in a crowning ceremony that shaped the one carried out today, Edgar – the first king to rule over a united England – was coroneted in the city’s monastery. In the 18th century, Bath was the place to see and be seen after Queen Anne visited in the early 1700s, leading to grand developments such as Queen Square and Prior Park. The city was also home to Jane Austen for five years and featured extensively in Northanger Abbey and Persuasion. So rich is its history, the entire area has been designated a UNESCO World Heritage Site, the only one of its kind in the country.
Visit: Bath is culturally rich, but history lovers will appreciate Pulteney Bridge, the landscaped lawns of Prior Park and the Regency-era splendour of the Royal Crescent. To see it from a whole new perspective, don sensible shoes and set out on the Skyline Walk – a 10km footpath through hidden valleys and tranquil woodlands (visitbath.co.uk).