Back in September when Joe’s parents were here we decided to do a day tour of Bath & Stonehenge. There are tons of companies that organize tours from London which make it super convenient to just hop on a bus and you’re there in under 2 hours. There is also the extra bonus that the drive is through the picturesque English countryside, so rather than sleeping like Joe, I suggest you stay awake for the beautiful sheep filled pastures.
We arrived at Stonehenge mid-morning and quickly jumped in line to get to the monument. You can choose to walk up to the site or hop on a quick little shuttle ride which we opted to do as a time saver. When you arrive at the beginning of the trail, there’s a huge expanse which is the home to two large cursus which are basically causeways for travel. These barrows are actually even older than Stonehenge, and were the first Neolithic structures built in this area around 3500 BC! You really can only see their outlines from above and although we didn’t have the time to walk along the trails between the cursus, I think if we ever get to go back, it would be really interesting to get up close. The location of these causeways also were most likely the reason for the location of Stonehenge… they lead directly to the monument. It is said that they acted as an avenue from the river to Stonehenge.
There are actually two different types of stones that create the monument, larger sarsens that make up the outer circle and inner horseshoe and bluestones which are smaller and make up the inner double arc, which was later rearranged to make an inner circle. History tells us that Stonehenge was a place where Roman rituals took place, which makes perfect sense based on how grand this structure is. I was seriously stunned when we got up close. The stones are so huge, and seeing them still standing today was truly a ‘pinch me’ moment. Maybe because I’d always imagined visiting a Wonder of the World, seeing my first one in person was truly incredible. For most people joking that this site is basically just a bunch of rocks (which is not a lie by any means), I was still so awestruck by the whole thing. I think having the perfect blue sky as a back drop also added to whole experience.
After walking around the monument and a quick peruse through the gift shop, we were back on the bus and on our way to Bath. This drive was even prettier then the one from London. Through tiny little villages with all of the thatched roofs sticking out behind century old stone walls. Hard to believe there are people that live like that until you see it in person. About 50 minutes and many winding roads later, we arrived in Bath for an afternoon of exploring this ancient Georgian city.
Our tour included entrance to the Roman Baths, which are smack dab in the middle of the main square. This feels kind of odd at first, but after travelling through Europe, things are often left exactly how they were originally, with the newer parts of the city being built literally right next door. We did a self-guided audio tour, which was helpful to really understand what we were looking at. These were basically the public baths used by the Romans when they occupied Britain in the 1st century. For the years to follow they were used by citizens and carefully maintained until the Romans withdrew. They fell into disrepair for quite some time, but were later redeveloped in the 12th century. I know I sound like a broken record, but it is so crazy to see these buildings still standing 2,000 years later. We sat along the edge of The Great Bath and felt the warmth. Although the springs at the Roman Baths are no longer in use today, Joe and I are definitely going to plan a winter get away where we can take advantage of some thermal spas. There are tons in Bath and are a huge attraction for both foreigners and English people looking to relax.
With such limited time there, we didn’t get to see much more. There are lots of other things to visit in Bath including the Abbey, the racecourse, Alexandra Park, and the Jane Austen center to name a few. We have a whole agenda already in place for the next time we are in town.With just about an hour or so left on our trip, we decided to nip in to a popular pub, Crystal Palace, to get the McGlynn’s some authentic British fare. We sat in their back garden and each had some cider and a chicken, leek & ham pie. Hit the spot perfectly after a long day of sightseeing. At this point it was about time to catch the bus home, and although it was only a day, we’re so glad we were able to take this trip with them and explore a new part of England for all of us!