Following my time at Bath Abbey, I sprinted through the town square over to the entryway for the Roman Baths. A couple that I had met in the Abbey tower mentioned that there was an excellent guided tour of the baths that took place every hour, on the hour starting in the center of the baths following the museum portion.
Making it there with a few minutes to spare, I walked around the perimeter of the baths, exploring what appeared to be broken stone archways and an unusually smooth and pockmarked stone floor. Our guide, Brian, mentioned that the wear to the soft limestone floor was due to spikes placed on sandals by the Romans for inclement weather.
It was context such as this that made me very glad that I caught the tour. The Roman baths were initially constructed over the site of a Celtic shrine to Sul almost two thousand years ago. The term “Sulis” is a feminization of Sul as the Romans assimilated the area in honor of the goddess Minerva.
The baths themselves sit upon the only natural mineral hot water source in Britain. As such, it has been known for its restorative powers (and also for those who exploit that “fact” to their advantage). If you’re curious, the water (treated for bacteria) is on tap near the exit of the baths. It’s worth drinking to say that you did it, but it tastes dreadful.
The real highlight is walking around the baths themselves, closing your eyes, and allowing your senses to transpose your body into a different time. The baths may be the oldest construction that I have ever visited (some of the places that I have visited in Japan were close) and the baths were easily the standout location of my visit to the city.
(Up next, the Jane Austen Centre)