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A guide to the baths of Bath
Soaking in a unique destination
There are few destinations I’ve visited more unique than Bath in the English countryside. First of all, the city’s original settlement centered on a spa named Aquae Sulis, was built by the Romans in the 1st century. For nearly millennia now, Bath has been known as a place for healing, attracting visitors from far and wide. And today you can visit the ancient baths and also take a dip in the enriching spring waters at a modern spa.
There are three geothermal hot springs that run below the city: the King’s Spring, the Hetling and Cross Spring. Rain water from 10,000 years ago ran underground where it was heated to a temperature of 156 degrees Fahrenheit and then pushed back out to the surface. The waters at the mouth of the springs are approximately 113 degrees and fortified with 42 different minerals including calcium, magnesium, silica, and iron.
There are many claims to the benefits of soaking in mineral rich waters. The most commonly heralded are pain relief and healing of skin conditions. Some swear these waters help with arthritis and even high blood pressure. The one thing everyone can agree on, is that a soak in these waters calms the mind and relaxes the body. Sometimes feeling good is all the medicine you need.
Viewfinder Tip: When in bath be sure to make a reservation at The Tap Room where you can drink the mineral rich spring water with your lunch or afternoon tea.
One legend of the city of Bath goes back to the 9th century B.C., when Prince Bladud was cured of leprosy after bathing in the waters of the area. He went on to become King of the Britons and founded the city of Bath at the site of his miraculous recovery—or so the story goes. In the early 1900s, thousands of wounded soldiers came to Bath for rehabilitation post World War I.
Over the centuries, the baths themselves went through many reconstructions as the city grew. Today, the Roman Baths in the center of town let visitors take in the impressive ancient structures and learn of their history in an adjacent museum. Walking over the ancient stones, peering in on the green waters, steaming eerily, is a visceral experience. And it also left me yearning to have a mineral bath experience myself.
If you too want to take a dip, be sure to pack your bathing suits and head to the nearby Thermae Bath Spa. In 2006, this modern spa became open to the public reviving the ancient traditions of the city.
The complex of baths and steam rooms at this beautiful spa is filled with Bath’s mineral rich spring waters. Here you can book spa treatments from messages, facials, scrubs, and body wraps, to their signature Watsu treatment. The latter treatment is a cross between shiatsu and acupressure preformed while suspended in a warm mineral bath. I’ll take one of those please!
The baths at Thermae include the historic, open air Cross Bath. It is recognized as an official sacred site because this is where the Celts worshipped the goddess Sul, the same goddess that the Romans originally named their spa after. And today you can rent out this space for private events.
Also inside Thermae Bath Spa is the New Royal Bath which has two baths and aromatic steam rooms, infused with scents like eucalyptus or lotus flower. And there is the Minerva Bath, named after the Roman Goddess of Health and Wisdom. This is the largest of the baths, complete with a whirlpool, massaging jets, and a lazy river.
And finally, there is a rooftop pool where you can also take in wonderful views of town. Choosing any of these bathing experiences will truly submerge you in the heritage of this storied city.
What do you look for in a spa break?
Looking to plan your own trip to Bath? Check out our 365 Days of #OMGB for your go-to travel guide of Great Britain.
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