It goes without saying that every visitor to the city of Bath, a world heritage site, needs to visit the Roman Baths, that gave the city its name. The springs have been an attraction of the city for centuries, with the first shrine on the site said to have been built by the Celts in honour of Goddess Sulis. When the Romans arrived in the town they called Aquae Sulis during the 1st century, they built the temple for Minerva and the Bath complex. Since the Romans, the Baths have gone through a series of redevelopment efforts, the latest being the £ 5.5 million project in 2011 to preserve the Baths for the next 100 years.
Visitors to the Roman Baths museum are given an audio guide, which lets one go through the museum at one’s own pace and the choice of selecting what details one wants to hear more about. From the entrance and ticket area, I walked on to the terrace of the Roman Baths, with the 19th century statues of Roman emperors and governors of Britain lining it, and had my first glimpse of the Great Bath.
Before descending the stairs to the different museum exhibits, a glance through a window gives a glimpse of the sacred spring. According to a poster at the museum, the hot water in the spring rises at a rate of 1,170,000 litres each day at 46°C. This natural phenomenon was attributed to the Goddess Sulis Minerva during the Roman times and there was a temple next to the spring, dedicated to the Goddess.
The exhibit area of the museum starts with the ‘Meet the Romans’ section, which had models of how the Baths would have looked during the Roman times. I enjoyed the film projections on how daily life at the Baths would have looked like then.
I next walked to the area with the temple pediment, where one can sit in the small amphitheater style seating area and listen to the audio guide explain the features of the surviving front of the temple in front of you.
The floor below leads to different interesting sections of the Roman Baths that have survived. It is amazing that the plumbing and drainage system installed during the Roman period is still largely in place and continues to direct the spring overflow to the original drain and onto River Avon.
The various artifacts showcasing life during the Roman times is very intriguing, particularly the numerous curse tablets that have been unearthed. The curse tablets had been thrown into the pool by visitors and most curses were against thieves who had stolen the clothes or other personal belongings of the bathers while they were in the pool.
The most atmospheric area of the museum is the Great Bath area, which is enhanced by the costumed characters, based on real people who lived and worked at Aquae Sulis 2000 years ago, strolling around the pool.
Emerging from the Roman Baths museum, one comes across the famous Pump room.
Quite hungry after spending the afternoon enjoying my exploration of the Roman Baths museum, I made my way over to North Parade to Sally Lunn’s historic eating house and museum.
I decided to try out the mushroom toast trencher, with half a Sally Lunn bun topped with herb mushrooms and their historic mushroom ketchup/gravy. The trencher meal was served on a plate fortunately, instead of the trencher bread serving as a plate as it would have centuries ago.
After my delicious and filling dinner, I made my way down to the basement where the Sally Lunn’s kitchen museum is.
According to the museum’s website, this is the original kitchen that Solange Lyon, aka Sally Lunn, a Huguenot refugee worked in when she came to Bath in 1680. She made her brioche buns in this kitchen and sold them, around the neighbourhood, in a basket.
The menu of the old eating house is now focused on meals and snacks with the famous Sally Lunn bun and is certainly a place worth visiting and having a meal.
Disclaimer: The Bath Tourism Office kindly gave me a complimentary pass to Bath and regional attractions, for the purpose of this post. This pass allowed me free entry to the Roman Baths. All opinions are my own and I only recommend experiences I have enjoyed.
[I am linking this post to The Weekly Postcard and Cultured Kids January 2017]