Self-guided tour of Bath’s parks & culinary outlets
Two of the things I love the most about Bath are the city’s green spaces and artisan produce from independent businesses. So I decided to create an itinerary for a self-guided walking tour around the city taking in some of the best parks and gardens along with a selection of food & drink suggestions from some lovely artisan businesses!
Click on the below tabs with the times to find your way around each section, and use the tabs at the bottom to find out more info on each location. Find your way around by clicking the links marked ‘Google Maps locations’ in each section. Further links in the text offer info about the independent food businesses I used, and more background about some of the locations on this route around the city. You can also find a shopping (& price) list at the bottom of the page.
9:00am Prep my bag for today!… I’ll need: a little cutlery & crockery + napkins & hand sanitiser; something to drink from (in my case I just used a collapsible, reusable coffee mug); I’m also taking a flask of Dong Ding tea which I brewed at home. Dong Ding (real name!) is an Oolong tea I got from Comins on Monmouth Street.
9:30am Headed out to my first stop for a fabulous view over the city from Bath Lookout in Alexandra Park. This is quite a climb but definitely worth it for the view!… The shortest way up (only slightly steeper than the longer alternative) is to go out the back of Bath Spa train station and over the footbridge towards Widcombe; cross at the pedestrian crossing and instead of turning left towards Widcombe Parade, head right and up Lyncombe Hill; a little way up, turn right into Calton Road and just ~10 yards on, you’ll see some steps on the left… follow them all the way to the top!
10:00am Out of breath because I never watched workouts on YouTube during lockdown!… enjoy the view with a home-baked brownie from a selection I ordered for home delivery from Good Day café (another vice & reason why I’m out of breath!). The view from here looks north over Bath towards Lansdown (click the Lansdown tab below for Pop-up History!)
10:45am We walk back to town via Widcombe where we crossed the road earlier. You can go back the way we came or there is a pleasant but longer (marginally less steep) footpath through the woods in front of the lookout – follow the footpath to the left from the lookout, and down into the woods and you’ll eventually come back on to Calton Road. Once back in Widcombe, instead of heading over the footbridge walk along the riverside path to the right. Here, we cross a little stone bridge over the entrance to the Kennet & Avon canal (click the Kennet & Avon Canal tab below for Pop-up History!).
Next we continue along the riverside path under the railway bridge and to the next bridge (North Parade bridge). Under the bridge we stop to admire the Pulteney Weir, with Pulteney Bridge in the background, then head up the steps in the little tower on the right. Heading over North Parade Bridge and turning right at the traffic lights we reach the entrance to Parade Gardens (entry fee £1-2/person, or free for Bath residents with a Discovery Card). There’s a lovely photo op here of the statue of Prince Bladud, legendary founder of Bath, with the Pultney Bridge & Weir in the background (click the Sydney Gardens tab below for Pop-up History on Prince Bladud!).
Loo stop! There are some public loos to the right as you look towards the park entrance from the bottom of the steps.
11:45am After also checking out the 1991 statue of Mozart (the city has an annual Mozart festival) our route takes us out of the gardens, past the Obelisk in Orange Grove, keeping the Abbey to the left to walk along Cheap Street and Westgate Street. Turning right at Sainsburys supermarket and walking up the slope past the theatre into Barton Street, we stop at the Thoughtful Bakery to pick up lunch (they have sandwiches in their own bread, amazing veggie or meat sausage rolls and lovely sweet treats & drinks).
12:00pm At the top of Barton Street then turn left to head to the diagonally opposite corner of Queen Square, and up Queen’s Parade through the gates into the Royal Avenue to Royal Victoria Park. The area in front of the Royal Crescent on the right gets popular, so we chose the the lower, quieter part of the park on the left, to enjoy a leisurely lunch (click the Royal Victoria Park tab below to read some quirky Pop-up History on this area!).
Loo stop! Follow the footpath next to the mini golf course, into the car park – turn right in the car park and walk about 50 yards and you’ll see them. You’ll need 20p. If you’re reading this and cafes are open for business, then you could also try the Pavillion Café which you passed on the Royal Avenue (also a charge to use the toilets here).
1:30pm Time to walk up through the park to see what’s in bloom in the Botanical Gardens! We walk along the Royal Avenue, cross Marlborough Lane and past the obelisk unveiled by Princess Victoria at the opening ceremony of the park. Walking straight ahead we eventually come to the lake on the right. You can walk around the lake in either direction to come to the Botanical Gardens entrance at the back. There’s no admission cost here so it’s worth taking time in this quiet corner of Bath to enjoy the tranquillity. Out the back and across the road is the Great Dell (another former stone quarry) also worth seeing with a woodland garden, Shakespeare memorial, and a small ‘aerial’ walkway.
2:30pm At the back of the park and Botanical Gardens turn right on Weston Road. High Common and the Approach Golf Course is on the left as we walk past the pedestrian crossing – look up the tree-lined footpath on the left at the golf course: this is part of the 102 mile Cotswolds Way walking route which starts at the doors of Bath Abbey and ends at the church in Chipping Campden. We continue straight ahead to walk past the back of the Royal Crescent (click the Julian Road tab below to read some Pop-Up History about what used to stand here!).
3pm Following Julian Road to the end we use the pedestrian crossing on Lansdowne Road and then turn left. A little way up the hill, we find the entrance on the right to our next green space, Hedgemead Park (click the Hedgemead Park tab below to read more quirky Pop-Up History on this park).
Strolling through Hedgemead Park, we find a spot with a clear view through the greenery across the city. We’re now looking south across Bath, towards Claverton Down which has even more incredible views of the city than we’ve seen today. You can take up to a day to walk the Claverton Down area on the National Trust’s Bath Skyline Walk which includes a chance to visit Prior Park Landscape Garden. Speaking of the National Trust, we picked up some pre-ordered mini scones, jam & clotted cream at Thoughtful Bakery to have at our next stop so we press on!
3:30pm Leaving the park on Margaret Hill we walk to the end of Walcot Parade and cross the road at the traffic lights/pedestrian crossing. Turning right on the other side we cross Cleveland Bridge and cross over to pass St John’s church on the right. Further along, behind St John’s are the ruins of the old St Mary’s Church and graveyard. Turn right into Henrietta Road passing the graveyard entrance – there are information boards on a short tour in here if you fancy a quick look to find the final resting places of some of Bath’s colourful characters from the C18th and C19th.
We continue along Henrietta Road to Henrietta Park. There are benches or you can sit on the grass, or continue further along Henrietta Road until you come to the Garden of Remembrance on the edge of the park. Time for those scones with jam & cream plus whatever’s left in our flask! (click the Henrietta Park Memorial Garden tab below to read more Pop-Up History on this area)
4:15pm We’ve almost done a full circuit around the city, but there’s one last green space we can’t miss! From Henrietta Park we make our way out of the back of the park into Sunderland Street and turn left on Great Pulteney Street, crossing over where we can (before you cross, click the 29 Great Pulteney Street tab below to read some Pop-Up History about a world-changing event which took place here!).
At the top of Great Pulteney Street, there’s a. pedestrian crossing to take us over to the Holburne Museum. Walking around the building, through the garden and out of the gate takes us into the last Pleasure Garden in England still more or less intact – Sydney Gardens (click the Sydney Gardens tab below to read some Pop-Up History about Pleasure Gardens and this important park!).
Loo stop! There are toilets in the Holburne Museum, but there is an admission fee to get in here. Otherwise, turn left as you leave the garden gate at the back of the Holburne and there are public loos on the left in the low stone building (20p to get in).
4:45pm After a stroll around the gardens we went over the railway bridge and through the white gate on to the canal towpath. Following the tow path to the right and through the tunnel, we cross the canal to the towpath on the left bank to lead us on to Bathwick Hill. The pedestrian crossing gets us back to the tow path down the steps beside the supermarket. Walking along the tow path for a few minutes more, past a couple of locks, there’s a big gap to admire the incredible panorama over this beautiful city while we reflect on its green spaces and sip the remains of our tea!
Pop-up history: Lansdown is the high ground directly opposite you, beyond the city centre, and is where the infamous Lansdown Fair used to take place in the C18th until it was stopped for becoming to bawdy! It’s also the site of the Battle of Lansdown (1643), when Bath was held by the Parliamentarians, but those loyal to the King (largely lead by a force of Cornishmen) tried to take Bath in battle. The Royalists had the lower ground at the north side of Lansdown and lost 200-300 soldiers, while the Parliamentarians on the high ground suffered only 20 losses. At a break in the fighting the Parliamentarians retreated behind a dry-stone wall in a field and left lights burning on the wall to show they were holding their position. The Royalists retreated downhill, but when they eventually sent a scout to look over the wall to see what was going on, the Parliamentarians had already left and gone back to Bath!… by this point the Royalists had run out of ammunition and suffered so many losses, they gave up and moved on anyway!
Pop-up history: Even though it had been mooted as early as the C16th, the Rivers Thames & Avon were finally linked in 1810 with the completion of this canal. Originally providing commercial transport between London & the south west, as well as coal from the Somerset coalfields to the cities of Bath & Bristol it reached its peak use in 1840 carrying goods to build the Great Western Railway. Ironic really, as the opening of the railway eventually brought the canal’s business to an end, although commercial use continued up to 1920. The canal is used for leisure today and it’ll take most of 2 weeks to navigate all the way from here to London but the scenery of Wiltshire, Hampshire & Berkshire is stunning. I’ve done it up to Pewsey and would do it again in a heartbeat. A canal holiday is like seeing the world you know from inside a bubble… the world is ‘over there somewhere’ and while you can see it, its just like a little bit of background noise while you chug along through the most stunning & peaceful countryside which you’d never get to see from this perspective in any other way.
Pop-up history: If Bladdud existed, he was the son of King Lear, of Shakespeare fame and was schooled in Athens. On his return home, he was exiled when found to have contracted leprosy and worked as a pig herder near here. The legend says the pigs also showed signs of leprosy but bathed in the thermal waters of the mineral springs which seemed to provide curative qualities to their issue! Bladdud did the same, his leprosy was cured, his people took him back and made them their king… and the rest is history. The statue of Bladude here, used to sit atop the fountain outside the Roman Baths in Stall Street (said fountain is now on Bog Island opposite the Abbey Hotel). He was moved here in the 1970s when a pig was carved in the style of the time to stand beside him… both roughly on the site they’d have bathed in the waters all those years ago.
Pop-up history: This was the first park to carry the name of Queen Victoria, although she opened it when she was just an 11-year old Princess in 1830. The Dell, which is the sunken area on the right in Royal Avenue before you see the Royal Crescent, is a former stone quarry which was planted out as part of the parks landscaping project. Just across the road ahead of this, is a large Bath stone urn with an unusual story relating to a large Georgian villa in Batheaston on the east side of the city. In 1778 Batheaston Villa was the home of Lady Miller, where she hosted a fortnightly poetry competition. Entries were dropped into an antique Italian vase and picked out at random to be read by a gentleman, judged by a committee, and the best was awarded a prize. This quirky gathering became well-known as it was patronised by famous names of the time, including the Duchess of Northumberland who submitted an entry written on the back of a buttered English muffin! The vase became just as famous and this giant stone urn is a copy of the original.
Pop-up history: The large patch of grass on the other side of the mini roundabout is the site of St Andrew’s Church, one of 2 churches which were completely destroyed in air raids over the city known as the Baedeker Raids. The raids had been named after the tourist guidebook series used by Luftwaffe Generals to plot their targets. The church was the work of the great Victorian architect Sir George Gilbert Scott but locals had objected to its spire spoiling the view over the Royal Crescent as it appeared over the roofs when viewed from the front. It’s destruction on the night of Saturday 25thApril 1942, was subsequently referred to as ‘happily bombed’! The other city church completely destroyed in the same air raids was St James, Stall Street, which stood roughly where Marks & Spencer stands today in the city centre.
Pop-up history: This is the most recently designated park in our walk today, but it’s still over 100 years old having been laid out by the city council in the late 1880s. Like most of the other parks in the city, it was originally intended as a ‘pleasure-ground’… rather like a precursor to todays theme-parks but more refined! Pleasure grounds had all sorts of attractions and there are still traces of them in Hedgemead, such as the bandstand, and contoured walks and terraces, but this is all here at a cost. Above the park sits Camden Crescent which is an C18th development. It was never completed due to a series of landslips in this area, but houses were still developed on the slopes beneath it. In the 1860s a series of further landslips occurred which culminated with a massive slip in 1881 when 135 houses were destroyed. The plans for the park included a cliff railway from the front of the park all the way up to the residential area of Camden… but it was never built because its route passed through a field which had been offered for sale by someone who didn’t even own it!
Pop-up history: This little garden is dedicated to the memory of King George V, grandfather to our present Queen. On his death, the Queen’s uncle became the new King (Edward VIII) but was never crowned as he abdicated the following year, placing the Queen’s father as our new King George VI, and the then Princess Elizabeth as heir to the throne. The area covered by the park had been planned to be part of a residential development started in the 1780s, which was never completed due to a recession across Europe in the 1790s largely sparked by the French revolution of 1789. The only part of the estate to be completed was Great Pulteney Street which we’ll see next, and the last owner of the estate, gifted these 7 acres to the city council who made it into the public park we have today, opened as part of the Diamond Jubilee celebrations of Queen Victoria in 1897.
Pop-up history: On the 11th December 1799, at number 29 Great Pulteney Street, 3 men met over dinner and discussed the production of the first large scale geological survey in the world. The resulting map was produced (‘written’) by William Smith who remains known around the world as the ‘Father of Geology’. What happened in this room on that night changed the course of human understanding of the physical world, at a time when many still believed that the ground beneath our feet was last altered during the Great Flood when Noah was on his Ark. Sadly, the resulting map by Smith was plagiarised and he ended up in such debt that he sold his collection of rocks to the British Museum and it is now stored in the archive of the Natural History Museum in Kensington. Smith ended up in debtors prison until the Royal Geological Society eventually realised what had happened, paid his way out of prison and gave him a pension to live the rest of his life in Scarborough where a museum to his memory remains to this day, displaying his later life collection of rocks and minerals.
Pop-up history: The concept of Pleasure Grounds took off in 1785 with the Vauxhall Gardens in London. Entry was mostly by annual subscription and there were various attractions and entertainments such as carriage rides, mazes, balloon ascents, and concerts. As Bath was the place to ‘see and be seen’ at the time, it was essential we had a venue like this. ‘Sydney Gardens Vauxhall’ was built as part of the grand plan for the Pulteney Estate and opened in 1795 with: a hedge maze (you can still find maps for this online!); a hermitage; ‘Merlin’ swings (possibly similar to old-fashioned swing boats); a fake castle where mock battles were re-enacted… and much more!
Novellist, Jane Austen lived across the road at 4 Sydney Place for a few years from 1801 and seems to have spent much time in the gardens. However, she doesn’t seem to have been so enamoured by the regular, large gatherings here such as the concerts & public breakfasts. She was intrigued by fireworks though, as Jane writes that she came to one of the concerts, arriving only as it ended just so she could watch the fireworks, but it started raining so they never happened until the concert was restaged at a later time… bad luck Jane!
Suggested shopping list (all must be pre-ordered):
- Comins: Custom-Baked Dong Ding Oolong Tea: £3.50 for a 15g sachet (6 cups worth) + £3.35 shipping = £6.85
- Good Day Cafe: Brownie Box, mixed selection of 6 flavours: £17 + free delivery in Bath on Fridays = £17.00
- Thoughtful Bakery: Focaccia (Wild Garlic Pesto OR Rosemary & Olive) £3, Tomato & Red Onion Cheddar £3.29, Cold Brew Latte £2.50 = £8.79
- Thoughtful Bakery: Mini Sourdough Scones (pack of 9) £5, Bruton’s Organic Clotted Cream £3 (+ some jam from home) = £8.20
Not a cheap shopping list at £40.84 but there’s far more than enough here than just for today! Menus change seasonally at some of the above outlets so products listed may not be available when you visit, but there are always alternatives. Items/prices & delivery details/prices shown are based on advertised information in May 2020 and may have changed since.