As we live close to both Bath and Bristol I regularly check out what’s going on in the cities as, only half hour’s drive away, they’re great locations for day trips. There are many special events going on throughout the year, and during a recent browse online I discovered that this coming weekend sees the start of Bath’s annual Jane Austen Festival, where fans of the female scribe visit the city in their droves to take part in tours, talks, walks and even attend a ball or two.
Bath is steeped in Jane Austen history, as the author called the city her home for several years. With that in mind there are lots of places to visit that have a link to the lady and her books that are open all year round. But during the week-long festival lots of special events send Bath back in time to that era of decadent balls and classic courtship, when there were just two types of man – a gentleman or a cad!
The Jane Austen Festival
Although I’m not a fan of dressing up (oh er!) and so not eager to actually take part, I’d still absolutely love to see the Grand Regency Costume Promenade, the event that officially opens the week of festivities. People don their Regency style costumes and stroll through the city led by the town crier, ending in the Parade Gardens near to Bath Abbey.
But even though fancy dress is not my thing, the wistful romantic in me might make an exception and become Elizabeth Bennett for one night in order to attend the Regency Costumed Mask Ball! I can’t lie, I’d absolutely love to go. Shame I didn’t hear about it until the tickets were sold out, but I’m trying to persuade my own Mr Darcy to take me next year!
Art & Jane Austen’s Bath
If you’re planning a trip to Bath very soon you might like to know that for this month only the Victoria Art Gallery is hosting a special exhibition entitled Jane Austen’s Bath, which uses watercolours from the time to show you the Bath Jane would have seen during her time. Multiple events take place every day during the festival, but even if you can’t make it during this special week there’s a great selection of permanent sights to see if you’d love to get a taste of Jane Austen’s Bath when you next visit the city!
The Jane Austen Centre
One of the most well known attractions has to be the Jane Austen Centre, which can be found on Gay Street, just off the main shopping thoroughfare in the city centre. Jane actually lived along this road during some of her time in Bath, and this centre is a permanent exhibition about Jane’s time here with talks about the lady herself, her family and her relationship with the city. There’s yet another chance to dress to dress in Regency garb for a commemorative photo and afterwards you can make your way to the Regency Tea Room for scones, tea, or if you’re feeling a bit decadent, a glass of champagne.
The Pump Room
Talking of tea, whether you’re a fan of Jane or not, you can’t visit Bath without taking a trip to the Pump Room for afternoon tea. A place for high society to be seen for several hundred years, it still continues to be the place for tea and cake in the city and Jane was a regular visitor during her time. She loved the place so much it managed to make an appearance in both Northanger Abbey and Persuasion!
Still regularly full to the brim, if you want to visit then it’s definitely worthwhile booking in advance.
Stay in Jane Austen’s old home
If you’re looking for somewhere unique to stay during a visit to Bath, you can actually rent out a space in Jane’s old home, which has now been turned into apartments, even sleeping in Jane’s bedroom. This is where she is said to have written Northanger Abbey, so if you’re a creative sort, you might find some inspiration here.
Sydney Gardens, in Jane’s time known as The Pleasure Gardens, was an old haunt of Jane’s, who loved to go for walks. Another of those places where high society loved to be seen, it was well known for musical breakfasts, supper parties and outdoor balls. Still open to the public, if you’d like to follow in Jane’s footsteps the gardens can be found behind what is now the Holburne Museum.
The Assembly Rooms
Used for concerts and balls, Jane wrote about the Assembly Rooms in her novel Persuasion, drawing on her own experience of attending balls there during her time in the city. It’s also home to the Bath Fashion Museum, where you can see more examples of Georgian dress.
Now a National Trust property, the ballroom, especially the chandeliers, are drop dead gorgeous. Well worth a visit!
So there you have it, for lovers of Jane Austen Bath is a great place to visit and there’s enough on offer to keep you entertained whether you’re coming for a day, a weekend or even a week.