As soon as I read that Bath was a feasible day trip from London, I was sold on the idea. I've grown up reading and watching most of the Jane Austen collection, and from that I know that Bath used to be the place of choice for high society in England to vacation. What I didn't know is that Jane Austen herself lived there 1801-1805, and you can actually stay in her old residence.
That was just the tip of the iceberg when it came to all Bath had to offer. Alex and I went on a perfect day—it was drizzling rain the entire train ride there through the English countryside, with fluffy little sheep dotting the hillsides. Once we arrived, the greenery was so lush and dynamic that a camera couldn't even capture it (although Alex did pretty darn well).
Photos: Alex Ry
Neither myself or Alex are big on organized tours, which is why this post is titled "do-it-yourself." We made the travel arrangements and put together the schedule for the day all on our own. It's the way we chose to travel. I enjoy "slow travel," which means I could have stayed in Bath and moseyed around for a few more days, but we worked with the time we had.
Alex and I were staying in the London neighborhood of Marylebone, so we took the tube to Waterloo station where our train was departing from. I cannot stress enough:
GET. THERE. EARLY.
Especially if you aren't familiar with London's train stations, it'll take you a bit to get to where you're going and get confirmation that you're at the right platform. You want to be sitting on the train five to ten minutes before it's scheduled to depart—not running around the ticketing lobby.
We pre-booked our tickets through Megabus, even though, yes, we did take the train. It ended up being about £33, or $40, for one person's round-trip ticket. And we actually had to end up paying a little more because I messed up: I thought our train back was at 4:30 p.m, but it was actually at 4:00 p.m., so we definitely missed it. Luckily, the fix was as smooth as possible: we bought another ticket to Salisbury station where we could catch our original train all the way back to London. Booking the entire trip yourself gives you patience for the screw-ups: we were that much more prepared to roll with the punches, rather than depending on a tour guide or organizer to get us home if we had we messed up.
The list of things to see in Bath is not extremely vast, but it's enough. You can see a lot of them just from walking the town: the striking Pulteney Bridge, the Royal Crescent, the Circus, and the Bath Abbey are all able to be appreciated streetside. Alex and I decided to buy tickets to go inside the Roman Baths, which cost about $18 and was a cool walk-through without the audio tour. Pro-tip for twenty-somethings with limited attention spans: always skip the audio tour. See, look, watch, appreciate, and then write down things that you have questions on or you want to know more about. It'll save you time on your day out and you won't look ridiculous wandering around staring off into the distance while a stranger whispers in your ear through a cord.
Jane Austen's residence is a bit of a walk, so go if you have energy or take a cab. The Jane Austen Centre is much closer, so if you don't need to pay homage to the exact location where the lady laid her head, you can get your fill of Jane Austen's England right in town.
Herschel Museum of Astronomy, the place where William Herschel literally discovered a planet. So legit.
Royal Victoria Park, 57 acres of blissful beauty.
Topping & Company Booksellers, where I hear they always have coffee on plus signed first editions.
Old Time Vintage Tea Rooms, because you can't be in England and not have tea.
Thermae Bath Spa, if you liked the Roman Baths and actually want to get in.
Transit ends up running about four hours total, so prioritize your activities and don't worry about missing something and switching up the plan. The best part of traveling is exploration and adventure, and not knowing exactly what might be waiting around the corner.
Questions? Ask away in the comments or shoot me an email!