The Roman Baths - Review
Posted on: 2017-03-13
One of the most incredible examples of preserved history in Europe
Historically the thriving centre of Bath, the Roman Baths are situated in the heart of the city and contain within them one of the most incredible examples of preserved history that I have seen in Europe.
The Baths are an unusual mix of deeply historical content, and still-functioning interactive learning experiences. As you enter, it becomes clear that this place was built to last, with a thermal spring that still furnishes the Baths with natural hot water. Here is an early example of human affinity with nature, and our ability to turn it into something beneficial to us yet also respect its incredible beauty and force. After the £5.5mil renovation in 2011, the Baths is an educational and fascinating day out for all the family, complete with free audio-guides tailored to different ages, and plenty to touch as well as view.
In a world where you can’t get within spitting distance of Stone Henge, it is truly refreshing to come to a historical site and be allowed to immerse yourself so fully in the rich surroundings. Exquisite statues are replicated in resin for children (and curious adults) to feel, a pulley system is displayed with working ropes, and as you walk through there is a distinct lack of unnecessary caging-off of artefacts. For this reason, I would genuinely recommend all ages. Walking around felt less like a history lesson and more like stepping into a world inhabited by our ancestors, the musty smell of the baths mixing with the audio guide’s voice actors is a multi-sensory experience and a must for anyone – Ancient Rome buff or otherwise.
Although not entirely accessible in some small areas, it does have to be realised that the Baths are a historic building of great importance, and any kind of ‘knocking through’ is simply not going to occur. There are several lifts that can be used to access different floors, and every effort has been made to accommodate. As previously mentioned, the Baths are great for children, and every child I saw on that afternoon was enthralled, some even taking notes as they explored. There is an hourly guided tour, but those that opt for the self-guided option will get just as much enjoyment from the combined use of audio guides and information signs that give an insight into the life of people here, not just the building itself. In fact, the various language options available around the site have resulted in another award win in 2017 for the Baths: an "International Visitor Experience" Silver Award.
Speaking of awards, there are a few in the Baths' past that may help to further illustrate the sheer brilliance of the visitor experience here. Gaining an Autism Friendly Award from the National Autistic Society and an Access and Inclusivity Gold Award from South West Tourism, the Roman Baths are clearly one of the best places to visit if any additional needs are present. I could even envisage bored school-age children being captivated against their will at a place like this, and the sheer quality of the information available is a joy to adults of all interest levels.
Although the Baths get upwards of 1 million visitors per year, my visit was not unpleasantly crowded. A slow amble around the site, a lot of which is open air, was an absolutely enriching experience – one which I hope to follow up with a second visit soon. I was amazed at the incredible quality of the preserved artefacts, and how much we have potentially learned from those valuable fragments. I certainly feel that I left wiser than when I came in! The carvings and gorgeous mosaics have to be seen to be believed… along with ‘curse tablets’, stone reliefs, and pottery. All these things are presented beautifully, so that it doesn’t quite have a traditional ‘museum’ feel, but plants you squarely inside the culture as you learn about it. Towards the end of your trip, you can enjoy a taste of the Bath spring… a hot, metallic drink enriched with more minerals than anything available in a bottle, which will probably do you the world of good!
In short, the Roman Baths are a crucial part of Somerset’s history, and the UK as a whole. Possibly the most beautiful and accurate keyhole view into the life of the Romans anywhere in the country, I cannot recommend it enough as a family day out, student visit, even as a quirky date idea! I defy anyone not to fall in love with the Roman Baths, and urge anyone within travelling distance to go immediately.
To find out more about the Roman Baths and their events, head to their website here.
Miri is an English literature student at the University of Bristol who enjoys folk-punk & math-rock music, trailing round art galleries, and playing video games. She is a keen follower of politics and will read any science fiction you throw her way. Having lived near Bath for many years she has developed a keen interest in the music and literature scenes and independent restaurants. Miri is the Assistant Editor of 365Bath.com. Email firstname.lastname@example.org.