10 reasons to visit Bath this summer – from paddleboarding to a pop-up beach

Fred Mawer
Make the most of summer in Bath - Manfred Gottschalk mago-world-image

Swathes of golden sand, hammocks strung out under a palm tree, a Caribbean-style beach bar serving rum punches and margaritas. Welcome to Bath – but not as you know it. 

This Saturday, on July 21, Bath on the Beach (bathonthebeach.co.uk) will be appearing in Royal Victoria Park, not far from the landmark Royal Crescent. If you're in a competitive mood, games will feature prominently, with a beach volleyball court (book ahead), as well as boules, lawn bowls and table tennis.

The atmosphere promises to be quite grown up – there will be cabanas to rent and Mexican food to enjoy – but families will be welcome too. What the sizeable set-up won't have is any water to cool off in, but if it's a lazy soak you're after there is always Thermae Bath Spa's rooftop pool (thermaebathspa.com).

But Bath's pop-up beach is by no means the only way to enjoy the city this summer. Here are 10 other recommendations for getting the best out of a visit. 

On the water

Another new activity this summer is stand-up paddleboarding and novices can wobble their way along a section of the River Avon that loops around the city centre. While part of the journey is not especially scenic, you finish below Pulteney Weir, and beside photogenic Pulteney Bridge (Bath's version of Florence's Ponte Vecchio). One-hour escorted sessions cost £15pp; originalwild.com

It's a hoot

Over the years sculptures of pigs and lions have appeared on Bath's streets. This summer it's the turn of owls – the bird was the symbol of the goddess Minerva, to whom the temple at the Roman Baths was dedicated. There are 80 oversized owls dotted over the city, locatable using a printed trail map or a free interactive app. Each is individually, and beautifully, decorated by a local artist or school. minervaowls.org

The best UK sculpture trails to keep the kids busy this summer

Out and about

One of the things that makes Bath so special is that it is fringed by scenic, hilly countryside. To the south, the city gives way abruptly to sloping meadows and woodland, which you can explore on the National Trust’s six-mile Bath Skyline walk (nationaltrust.org.uk/bath-skyline). The section across Bathwick Fields has the best city views, and is ideal for a picnic. 

Pedal power

The Bath Two Tunnels Circuit is a brilliantly varied 13-mile circular route, taking you out of the city via two former railway tunnels (one is the longest cycle tunnel in the UK), through the pretty village of Monkton Combe, then back into Bath along a bucolic stretch of the Kennet and Avon Canal. See sustrans.org.uk. Bike rental at bath-narrowboats.co.uk

Stay late into the evening at the Roman Baths Credit: Getty

Roman Bath minus the crowds

Through to the end of August the Roman Baths stay open every day until 10pm (last entrance at 9pm). It is well worth going late in the evening, when lit torches projecting off the pillars around the main bath add to the atmosphere, and you can buy glasses of champagne and prosecco from the little bar beside the bath. Equally importantly, the popular attraction is usually a lot less busy in the evenings. romanbaths.co.uk; £16.50. 

Cider in the sun

Any Bathonian will tell you that the best pub garden can be found at the Hare and Hounds (hareandhoundsbath.com). The revamped Victorian pub sits high up on the northern edge of the city in posh Lansdown, and from the large lawn, picnic tables and terrace, a magnificent, sweeping view eastwards is laid out before you – of rolling, patchwork countryside, including the Iron Age fort of Solsbury Hill. It serves up good grub too. 

Pub walks | Routes that start and end at a characterful inn

Time for tea?

Visit the pristine garden of The Royal Crescent Hotel. Hidden away from the hoi polloi behind a neo-classical facade, it has neat lawns, mature trees and striking modern statues. The teas themselves are fabulously indulgent (as they should be at £37.50 a head). Book ahead – and when you do, be sure to specify that you want a table outside (away from the rather formal restaurant). 

Chill out

Swoon (swoononaspoon.co.uk) on Kingsmead Square is without doubt the number one choice for ice cream on a hot summer day. Expect memorable home-made gelati and sorbetti – the head chef used to be a tutor at Carpigiani Gelato University in Bologna. Among the regular offerings is the pistachio gelato – made with pistachio paste imported from Sicily (it has an amazingly intense flavour). There are also monthly specials, such as the very moreish July creation of carrot cake gelato. 

Unwind at Thermae Bath Spa Credit: Getty

Enjoy a free knees-up

Promising a fusion of Rio, Caribbean and Mardi Gras themes, the annual Bath Carnival (bathcarnival.co.uk) takes place on July 21. Sydney Gardens (once frequented by Jane Austen, who lived across the street) will be the venue for the free 12-hour Party in the Park, with live bands performing a range of world music, and a colourful parade will pass through the city streets in the afternoon. 

Turn in or turf out

A number of Bath hotels and b&bs have lovely gardens. Along with The Royal Crescent, there is The Bath Priory, with an outdoor swimming pool in its beautifully maintained and expansive gardens. And Tasburgh House has the loveliest grounds of any b&b, with its seven acres of lawns and meadows running down to the Kennet and Avon Canal. 

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