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Where the Romans rested: by canal and by river around Regency Bath.
Distance 4 miles (6.4km)
Minimum time 1hr 40min
Ascent/gradient 50ft (15m)
Level of difficulty Easy
Paths Surfaced paths and streets, no stiles
Landscape Canal and riverside, and England's most handsome town
Suggested map aqua3 OS Explorer 155 Bristol & Bath
Start/finish ST 758649
Dog friendliness Urban walk - dogs on leads (and fines for fouling)
Parking Street parking on Bathwick Hill
Public toilets Near canal, at Victoria Park, and behind Holburne Museum
1 Start where the Kennet and Avon Canal passes under Bathwick Hill. It does this almost unnoticed, one third of the way up the street. Turn right along the tow path, passing moored narrowboats. There are toilets signposted off to the right. After two sets of locks the tow path ends at the low bridge of the A36 (Pulteney Road).
2 Cross the canal in front of this road bridge and go down some steps to an underpass. Follow the canal under two more bridges to the River Avon. Pass under the railway and then climb to cross a concrete footbridge. Turn left across a dual carriageway, and return down a ramp ('Bath and Bristol Railway Path') to the riverside.
Follow the path under the girders of the Midland Bridge, the covered bridge known as the 'Sainsbury-Homebase', and a suspension footbridge. Then turn up right, just before a girder footbridge. Turn away from this bridge, to reach the busy Midland Road.
3 Cross and turn left alongside Victoria Park to a gate at its corner. Pass through a play area. Toilets are ahead by the boating pond if needed here; otherwise turn uphill on steps and paved paths and into the botanic garden.
4 Bear right and follow any of a multitude of paths to a pond. Pass round this to a gate near the Minerva Temple. (Directly opposite is another small garden, the Dell.
5 Now turn right, back into the main part of the park. Here bear right at a signpost on to a diagonal path across the park. At the park's edge a lane ('No Entry') descends past glasshouses, with the Queen Victoria Obelisk to its right. From here on you can explore at will through the elegant buildings of Bath; when lost, ask the way to Pulteney Bridge.
6 At the lane foot, cross slightly left into a bollarded tarred path, 'The Gravel Walk': this passes below Royal Crescent. Turn left to the end of the Crescent, then right, into The Circus. Turn left to the first exit, Bennett Street, and at once right, down a narrow pedestrian street. At its foot turn right and down
into George Street.
7 Turn left in George Street, and take the first right into the busy shopping area of Nilson Street. It bends left to become New Bond Street, but at once turn down right into the narrow passage of New Bond Street Place. This passes a pub (the Volunteer Rifleman) and crosses four streets to reach the Abbey churchyard. Pass to the right of the Abbey to the river, and turn left to Pulteney Bridge. Cross the bridge and follow Pulteney Street to the Holburne Museum. Pass to the left of this, into a small park (toilets just to the left). Cross either of two footbridges over a railway, and cross the canal just above. Turn right, out of the park, and cross below the Bath Spa Hotel into a waymarked path. This leads down to the tow path. Follow it until it climbs a cobbled rampway to Bathwick Hill.
The centre of the Earth is hot because its low-level radioactivity generates energy that has no way to escape. Surface water that trickles far enough down gets heated. Hot water rises, so it then starts to trickle back up again. Sometimes it gets right back to the surface. This natural phenomenon delighted the Romans, who built five baths and two swimming pools as well as the original Minerva Temple. In barbaric Brittania, Bath (or Aquae Sulis) was an oasis of civilisation, comfort and fun. So much washing didn't suit the medieval temperament; Henry VI visited the place around 1440 but was too embarrassed to take his clothes off. But for Celia Fiennes in 1687 there was no need to blush. 'The Ladies go into the bath with garments made of fine yellow canvas, which is stiff and made large with great sleeves like a parson's gown; the water fills it up so that it is borne off that your shape be not seen.'
It was under the influence of George I and Beau Nash that 'taking the waters' became the must-do and to-die-for of the fashionable 1720s. Thus Bath, like a peasant village but to very different effect, became a place built all at once out of a single sort of stone. Its superb Georgian street-building, around its medieval and Roman heart, classes it as a World Heritage City.
The 18th-century landscape garden at Prior Park has lakes, bridges and a view over the city; it's reached only by public transport or a 1 mile (1.6km) walk. The American Museum at Claverton Manor has an attractive display of crafts such as quilts. Then there are the Roman Baths, the Pump Room, the Abbey, the Jane Austen Museum, the rather more contemporary Impossible Microworld (sculptures visible only through powerful microscopes)?
At first-floor level are many small architectural details to delight those who look above the shop fronts: lamp brackets, carved street names, and niches with sculptures.
The Volunteer Rifleman is on the walk in New Bond Street Place. The city may have as many as a hundred cafés; one, the Pulteney Coffee Shop, is actually on Pulteney Bridge.