Newest Review: ... want to go on one rather than walk around yourself and listen. The Roman Baths are wheelchair accessible, but I did not use the facilities... more
Roman Baths Museum (Bath)
Member Name: lellagrace
Roman Baths Museum (Bath)
Advantages: Interesting insight into the Romans
Disadvantages: Not suitable for disabled people
The leaflet advertising this attraction, in the heart of the city of Bath, advises that you allow at least two hours for your visit. I would certainly agree with them, there is so much to see and it really is a fascinating glimpse into the world of the Romans.
Don't let the fact that this is called a "Museum" put you off. It is not at all boring and very suitable for all ages, and especially educational for children. In fact, I would recommend any child interested in history and the Romans, would thoroughly enjoy themselves here. It is a great place to explore!
We visited on a sunny weekend recently and there were lengthy queues as we arrived at the entrance, but we got to the ticket desk within ten minutes and were surprised by how quickly the queue moved.
The roman baths have a website
www.romanbaths.co.uk or you can phone on 01225 477785. There is also a 24 hour information line on 01225 477867
The baths are sited in the centre of town, a few yards from the Pump Room.
The baths are open daily throughout the year and are only closed on Christmas Day and Boxing Day. In fact, it would be a pleasant experience to visit in the winter months, more will become clear later in this review!
Opening times vary throughout the year, but throughout July and August the baths open at 9 am and close at 9pm, last admission one hour before close.
THE ROMAN BATHS
So what are the Roman baths? Well, they are the stone remains of what used to be a spa in Roman times. The Romans believed in bathing on a regular basis, in communal baths, often with men and women sharing. This fact horrified many people and was described in the 18th century as "an instance of barbarity that cannot be equalled in any part of the world".
Today you can see the remains of this spa, where the Romans made offerings to the Gods around 2000 years ago.
The "King's Bath" is believed to be built on the foundations of a reservoir which was fed from a hot spring. It is these thermal springs that were reputed to have healing qualities and believed to be a cure for many conditions, particularly arthritic ones.
You can almost imagine how soothing the warm waters would be. After a tour of the city I was aching and would have welcomed a dip! And just imagine how soothing it would be on a cold winter's day to languish in the warm waters.
Today as you enter the museum you look down into the King's bath and then as you walk around the gallery you can see various panels explaining things in simple terms.
Descend the stairs and you can actually walk around the edge of the bath. The water looks a disgustingly greeny yellow colour and you can indeed feel the heat even more. Of course, you are not allowed to enter the water, but on our visit there were people sitting on the edges of the bath, almost as if they longed to take a dip.
Signs warn that the water is not to be entered or used for drinking, obviously considered a health and safety issue in today's nanny society!!! As the source of the water is from springs they are taking no chances, but spring water is supposed to be the purest.
As you enter the museum, next to the ticket desk, you can collect an audio guide where you listen to information as you wander around.
This is easy to use and as you wander along there are signs on the walls telling you which number to press to listen to the appropriate commentary.
There are several commentaries available, so you are not obliged to listen to the same voice throughout your tour.
Bill Bryson has recorded a commentary of his thoughts on the baths, but I preferred the more official one. This was very informative and interesting. I have never been particularly interested in Roman history before, but listening to this commentary as I walked around the baths has inspired me to take more of an interest.
There is also a Children's Audio Tour where they can listen to a special commentary, more suited to younger visitors. Again, there are signs indicating which number they need to press on their audio guide to listen to the relevant information.
The audio tour is available in eight languages and the Roman Baths certainly seem to have their share of visitors from around the world. We encountered French, German, Indian, Japanese, Italian and of course American tourists on our visit and somehow it made me very proud of our heritage to see them all taking an interest.
As you walk around the museum you will come across the hot springs. You can actually watch the water bubbling away and the heat is felt as soon as you approach.
Sections have been arranged to show visitors how the springs flowed into the baths and there are the remains of different sections, very well preserved.
OFFERINGS TO THE GODS
As you walk around, the audio guide explains about the Romans making offerings to the Gods and tells you about the gifts they made or the messages they sent.
Inscriptions and carvings in the stone show how the Romans made their dedications to the Gods.
As you leave the museum there is a gift shop where you can buy souvenirs of your visit. Some of it is the usual "tack" but there are other items which are better quality.
I bought some books (I just can't resist them!!!) and also picked up a carton of what was described as something like "Roman Bath salts". Don't be fooled, the jar inside was just very ordinary like you could buy at any high street store!
There was also an opportunity to buy a glass of water from the spa, or buy a small souvenir bottle. I overheard some visitors remarking how they had tasted the water, after spending 50p on a glass, and their verdict was that it "tasted horrid".
If you are in Bath, then I would recommend a visit to the Roman Baths. I was not particularly bothered about going myself, as I said earlier I have no deep interest in the Romans. However, having spent a couple of hours wandering around at my leisure, I now have a clearer knowledge of this period of our history and can honestly say I didn't find any of it as boring as I had expected.
One word of caution - as to be expected, some of the walking surfaces are very uneven and sometimes slippery. If you take young children or disabled visitors do take extra care.
Summary: Great place to visit
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