A Taste of the Roman Baths

Have you ever visited a public bath or natural hot spring?

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Most people visiting Bath, UK do so to see its namesake attraction: the Roman Baths. Though entry is steep (about £20 per person, depending on season), it’s not something we could have reasonably skipped. Fortunately, it comes with an audio guide packed with a wealth of information about every facet of the space, including the history, the customs, and the architecture.

Due to the drive from Bristol (and restrictions on how early we could pick up the car), we weren’t able to arrive much before midday, when the place was already quite populated. We usually prefer to avoid crowds whenever we can, but we were out of luck on this one.

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This site marks one of the farthest reaches of the Roman Empire, and people from all over would flock here to benefit from the healing waters of Aquae Sulis. Dedicated to the goddess, Sulis Minerva, ancient visitors would also beseech the deity to exact revenge on thieves by writing notes on thin sheets of lead and tossing them into the spring.

The tour was more involved than I had remembered from my last visit for a school trip. We saw the various rooms, from dedicated men’s and women’s, hot and cold, soaking, sweating, and swimming. The ingenuity behind the heating system (hot air under floors raised by stone pillars) and the plumbing really highlights the impressive skills of the Romans.

We couldn’t touch the water, due to it being untreated, lead-lined, and full of algae, but we did sample the fresh mineral water from the Pump Room. Being warm and a touch salty, it wasn’t exactly “refreshing;” I’d personally rather bathe in it… which we later did at the Thermae Spa (hey, we couldn’t visit Bath without getting in a little pampering!).

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