The Jane Austen Fanatic’s Guide to Bath

Check out everything the Jane Austen fan should know about Bath, England! From the Roman Baths and Pump Room to the grand ballroom of the upper rooms, you'll feel like you've stepped into your favorite Austen novel!

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I am a huge Jane Austen fan! When asked which is my favorite Austen novel, most would expect me to say Pride and Prejudice, but it’s not. I’ve read all of her books and the ones I’ve read the most are Northanger Abbey and Persuasion. Which is probably why I dreamed for so long of visiting Bath, England.

Bath is the setting of a good portion of both of these books. The former paints the picture a younger, idealistic, vibrant and energetic Bath. Which reflects possibly how Jane Austen herself viewed the city when first visiting at the end of the 18th century.

“They arrived at Bath. Catherine was all eager delight – her eyes were here, there, everywhere… She was come to be happy, and she felt happy already.” – Northanger Abbey

But, Persuasion, set 20 years later, describes a shabbier and more low key Bath. The characters are also older and more mature and the book reflects a more jaded view of the city.

“She persisted in a very determined, though very silent disinclination for Bath; caught the first dim view of the extensive buildings, smoking in rain, without any wish of seeing them better; felt their progress through the streets to be, however disagreeable…” – Persuasion

       

On my first visit to Bath, I was in the same mind as Catherine and was in “all eager delight” to arrive. When visiting Bath we were in England for a week and staying in London. We went to Bath on a day trip and the train ride from Paddington Station only took about an hour and a half. The scenery on our way there was beautiful too and only increased my excitement and anticipation.

There are several sites in Bath that are a must do for any Jane Austen fanatic.

The Roman Baths and Pump Room

In Northanger Abbey they often attend balls and concerts and frequented the Pump Room.  Unfortunately, you can’t see the inside of the Pump Room for a leisurely social stroll like in Jane Austen’s time. You have to eat in the restaurant and on a busy day, you won’t get in without a reservation, which I unfortunately learned the hard way. So, I highly recommend planning ahead. But, you can still sample the high mineral content healing waters at the Roman Baths, be warned it may not be to your taste!

“and the Pump-room to be attended ,where they paraded up and down for an hour, looking at everybody, and speaking to no one.” – Northanger Abbey

The Roman Baths are a must see and are full of history and beauty. The baths were first discovered when they were excavating to build the Pump Room. The earliest shrine here was built by the Celts in 836 BC and the Romans built their temple to Sulis-Minerva and the roman bath houses starting around 60 AD.

The Baths were actually redeveloped in the 18th century and used by visitors. During Jane Austen’s day the Pump Room was a popular location and visitors drank the healing water socially. 

 

Bath Abbey

While your at the Roman Baths and Pump Room take a look at the majestic beauty of Bath Abbey. Although Jane chose not to worship here, she attended the Octagon Chapel on Milsom Street which was more modern, I’m sure Jane Austen appreciated the architectural magnificence of the Abbey.

Jane Austen Centre and No. 25 Gay Street

While heading north towards the Circus, you’ll walk along Gay Street, which is one of the places it is known that Jane Austen lived during her time in Bath. The museum isn’t located in her house at No. 25 Gay Street, but it is nearby. You can’t go inside No. 25, but you can take a picture.

The Jane Austen Centre is also on Gay Street. They have an Austen Regency Era dressed employee out front whom you can have your picture taken with.

The museum houses some of Jane Austen’s possessions and one of her letters written to her sister Cassandra. Jane Austen’s sister burnt many of the letters that they shared after Jane’s death, so letters written by Austen are considered precious.

The Circus

The Circus is one of Bath’s prestigious areas of residence. It’s Georgian buildings are quite beautiful and you stand in the center green and enjoy the view for a little while before moving on.

Upper Rooms and Fashion Museum

The Upper Rooms were visited by both our heroines of Northanger Abbey and Persuasion as well as Jane Austen herself. This is where balls and concerts where held.

“Sir Walter, his two daughters, and Mrs. Clay were the earliest of all their party at the rooms in the evening; and as Lady Dalrymple must be waited for, they took their station by one of the fires in the Octagon Room.” – Perusasion

“— “I have hitherto been very remiss, madam, in the proper attentions of a partner here; I have not yet asked you how long you have been in Bath; whether you were ever here before; whether you have been at the Upper Rooms, the theatre, and the concert; and how you like the place altogether…” – Northanger Abbey

It wasn’t hard to imagine the rooms filled for a ball.

The Fashion Museum is fun especially if you are interested in fashion. But, you do get to see how fashion has changed over the years. And, I for one like to look at the dresses from 300 years ago. They are so beautiful!

 

The Royal Crescent and No. 1

The Royal Crescent was high society lodging during Jane Austen’s day and is a coveted area even today. Walking along the Royal Crescent was also a social thing to do and Jane Austen herself did it often. You will have seen the Royal Crescent in many films set in Bath and the house at No. 1 used for filming as well.

No. 1 is now a house museum set up just as it would have been between the years of 1776 and 1796, during the hey day of Bath. Only the richest socialites would have resided here. I highly recommend touring No. 1 Royal Crescent.

Take a seat on the grand lawn for a rest and imagine Jane herself strolling through this area.

Pultney Street and Pultney Bridge

Head down Pultney Street where Catherine Moreland stayed while in Bath and head over the Pultney Bridge.

Sydney Gardens

Then make your way east towards Sydney Gardens which as Jane Austen loved the outdoors, she enjoyed walking frequently.

Sally Lunn’s Restaurant and Museum

On your way home enjoy breakfast, lunch or an early dinner (they close at 6 pm) at Sally Lunn’s, the oldest building in Bath and a frequent stop of many visitors to Bath including Jane Austen and Charles Dickens during their time. Sally Lunn’s is famous for the Sally Lunn bun, which Jane Austen herself over indulged in and from personal experience are actually quite good. Sally Lunn’s also takes reservations, although we did get in without one on a weekday in the month of June.

George Bayntun: Fine bindings and rare books

And, on your way back to the train station, stop over at the rare book store, George Bayntun: Fine bindings and rare books on Manvers Street. Catherine Moorland was an avid reader of gothic novels in Northanger Abbey.

“Oh! I am delighted with the book! I should like to spend my whole life in reading it. I assure you, if it had not been to meet you, I would not have come away from it for all the world.” – Northanger Abbey

I wanted to find a copy of one of Jane Austen’s novels since she was the reason I was in Bath, but I had to settle (sarcasm should be noted) for this 1927 copy of Jane Eyre by Charlotte Bronte, another of my favorite books.

They will even wrap it up in brown paper just like they did in Jane Austen’s day.

Are you interested in visiting Bath or England? What sights would you not want to miss while your there? Share in the comments section below!
Craving more British travel? Check out my other World Travels posts!

 

 

 

 

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