“I live on the Circus in Bath.”
That statement is false, but it could be true for a week, because I found four vacation rentals on the Circus in Bath. Or I could live on the Royal Crescent, where there is a hotel and four vacation rentals.
I will show you my Bath vacation rentals “finds” later in this post, but first a bit about Bath.
Bath has been a popular destination for thousands of years. Bath was settled in 836BC when Prince Bladud (later to become King Bladud) and his pigs discovered the healing hot springs.
A thousand years later, those same hot springs drew the Romans to Bath (they were in the area anyway, conquering Britain). They built a large bath complex so they could enjoy the natural hot springs (the baths are still there and you can tour them). Like Rome, Bath is set in a valley surrounded by seven hills, so the Romans must have felt at home.
In the mid-1700s those hot springs again drew new visitors to Bath when it became a popular spa destination for the English upper classes. They came to Bath for the season and to “take the waters”. “Georgian Bath” was built to accommodate these new visitors (the Georgian era was from 1714 – 1836, when the rulers were Kings George I, II and II – with an interruption for the Regency Period from 1811 – 1820 when King George the III’s son took over while his father was ill). Bath changed from a medieval walled city of 3,000 to a Georgian city of 30,000.
These three men were important in the creation of Georgian Bath:
- Beau Nash was the “Master of Ceremonies” in Bath and set the social behavior, making Bath a popular resort for the wealthy of England. (1674 – 1762, buried in Bath Abbey)
- A local architect, John Wood the Elder, conceived of the design for the new neighborhoods in Bath, outside the city walls. (1704 – 1754, buried at Swainswick Church in Bath)
- Ralph Allen funded the project. He also owned the stone quarries on Combe Down that provided the stone to build Georgian Bath. He lived at Prior Park, now a National Trust site open to the public. (1693 – 1764, buried in Claverton churchyard, on the outskirts of Bath)
At the age of 21 John Wood the Elder had a vision for developing a new area of Bath to accommodate the new visitors. Queen’s Square was his first project in Bath (1729 – 1739). He lived to see that area built. He designed the Circus and the Royal Crescent, but did not live to seem them built. His son, John Wood the Younger, continued the building of Georgian Bath after his death.
Bath is still a top travel destination for England, attracting visitors from around the world. They come to see the well preserved “Georgian Bath”.
I created a Google Map of Bath showing the main historic sites.
Staying in a Georgian House
If you are planning a trip to Bath, wouldn’t it be wonderful to stay in one of the Georgian buildings? We did this a few years ago, staying in an apartment on St Margaret’s Square behind the Royal Crescent. There are many vacation rentals in historic buildings throughout Bath. But next time, I am going to stay on the Circus or the Royal Crescent! These are the best preserved, most “Georgian”, most beautiful residential places in Bath.
There are several things to consider when looking at vacation rental listings for apartments in Georgian Bath.
Which level is the apartment on? Most of the houses in Georgian Bath have been made into apartments. Originally they were five level houses, but most have been converted to have one apartment on each floor. When looking at apartments to rent in historic buildings pay close attention to which floor it is on. Above is a closeup of one house on the Royal Crescent. The front door goes from the street onto the first floor, but there is a level below that you can see if you look over the railing. This level, usually called a “Garden Apartment”, has nice windows in front and an outside area, but is essentially in the basement. Originally this is where the kitchen for the house was located. The most desirable floors are the first or second. Look at the windows in this photo – you can see they are largest for those first two floors. The third floor windows are smaller and above them is the fourth floor, which is an attic level. These would have been the servants’ rooms.
In England, first does not always meant first. Another thing that adds to the confusion is that in North American we count the ground floor as one, and count up from there, but in the United Kingdom (and most of Europe), they count the ground floor as zero (they call it the ground floor), then start counting with the first floor above that. I am not sure what Brits would call this main floor with the front door – ground floor or first? I call it the first floor with a basement level below.
This isn’t the Royal Crescent! Houses on the Royal Crescent have out-buildings. The main houses line the crescent. They have large back gardens and at the end of these gardens are converted coaching houses or barns. These are still lovely, but make sure you know exactly what you are booking. Some of those expensive rooms in the Royal Crescent Hotel are in the converted coaching houses out back.
How many flights of stairs do I have to climb? The floors of these houses are connected by an internal staircase and very few of these buildings have elevators, so you may have some stairs to climb to get to your apartment. When booking, always ask how many sets of stairs you have to climb, so you will be prepared.
The Circus in Bath
The Circus, a circular street lined with three sections of row houses, was designed by John Wood the Elder, but he died after it started and the project was continued by his son. Some sources the design was influenced by Rome’s Colosseum; others say it was influenced by Stonehenge. The Circus and Stonehenge have roughly the same diameter. The acorns on the roof line of the Circus are a reminder of the Druids who first settled Bath, the Princes of the Hollow Oak.
How you can live on the Circus:
- Bath Holiday Rentals – Blakes on the Circus: Apartment, 1bed/1bath – sleeps 2, 4 star, £550 – £750/week. Two large windows in the living room look out to the center of the Circus, the bedroom looks out back over Victoria Park. From the photos it looks like it is on the second floor.
- Mr & Mrs Smith – Swell Apartments: Two luxury apartments in one house on the Circus.
– The Courtyard Apartment, on the basement level, 1bed/1.5bath – sleeps 2, £125/night, broadband.
– The Beau Nash Apartment, on the attic level, 2bed/1bath – sleeps 4, £145/night, broadband.
These apartments are also listed on Holiday Rentals – Stunning Circus Apartments (£800/week, £975/week).
- Bath Holiday Homes – Maisonette, The Circus: Apartment on top two floors of a house on the Circus, 2bed/2bath – sleeps 5, 4 stars, £620/week.
The Circus Cafe and Restaurant is not on the Circus, but is very close. I think it touches one of the houses on the Circus. Open for “elevenses” (late breakfast), lunch, tea and dinner. Vegetarian options.
The Royal Crescent in Bath
The Royal Crescent, 30 row houses in a half circle, was designed by John Wood the Elder and built by his son from 1767 to 1775.
The crescent is on a hill looking out towards the River Avon. The large lawn in front is separated from the public gardens beyond by a “Ha-Ha”, a wall built to keep animals off the lawn but so that it is not seen from the houses, and does not spoil the view. From the houses it looks like one long flat lawn.
The Royal Crescent Hotel uses two houses in the center of the crescent. Royal Crescent number 1 is a museum, open to the public.
How you can live on the Royal Crescent:
- Bath Holiday Rentals – Royal Crescent: Apartment, 4bed/3bath – sleeps 8, 4 star, £1200 – £1800/week. I think this is the basement level – it is not clear from the website description.
- Bath Holiday Rentals – Royal Crescent Garden Apartment: Studio apartment, 800 square foot, 1bath – sleeps 2, £700 – £850/week, next to Royal Crescent hotel, looks like it is on the first floor, at street level from the Royal Crescent. Also listed by owner on VRBO – Royal Crescent (no price listed).
- Holiday Lettings – 12 Royal Crescent: Apartment, 3bed/1bath – sleeps 7, £1000 – £1600/week, top two floors, 3 doors from Royal Crescent Hotel.
- Heritage Holiday Homes – Royal Crescent Garden Apartment: Apartment, 2bed/1bath – sleeps 2, basement level, next to Royal Crescent hotel, £100/night (Flat 2, 14 Royal Crescent).
The Royal Crescent Hotel is in a prime location in the center of the crescent. The rooms are expensive and the ones on the first two floors looking out to the front of the crescent are even more so. You can go to the hotel for dinner at their restaurant, The Dower House. The restaurant is on the first floor, looking out to the gardens at back (two courses £50, three courses £60 – special vegetarian menu, three courses £45). Or have afternoon tea in the hotel gardens or the lounges on the first floor (cream tea £12.50).
Other Rentals in Georgian Bath
- Time to Relax: Apartment, 1bed/1bath, 5 star, on first floor (street level), on Gay Street across from house where Jane Austen lived, on the block before the Circus (does not get much traffic), £500 – £575/week, broadband, back garden leads to Victoria park. Watch the movie on their website for a great tour of the apartment and a good tour of Bath.
To find more vacation rentals in Bath, see Cotswolder – Vacation Rentals in Bath.
More Resources for the History and Architecture of Bath
- The Building of Bath Museum: Information from a recent show “Obsession: John Wood and the Creation of Georgian Bath”.
- Bath Past – Georgian Bath: Read more about Georgian Bath and The Circus.
- The City of Bath – History of Bath: Website from Bath’s Mayor’s Office with good information about the history of Bath.
For more resources, see Cotswolder – Bath Resources.