The impressive rooftop pool at the Thermae Bath Spa in Bath's city centre
Granted UNESCO World Heritage status back in 1987 thanks to its thermal spas, stunning classical Georgian architecture and sweeping terraces, the City of Bath is truly unique and it makes for a wonderful weekend break.
Founded by the Romans in the 1st Century AD, they named it 'Aquae Sulis' after the three hot natural springs, while today the city attracts visitors from around the world.
Arriving in their droves, they marvel at the sheer elegance of this North East Somerset city with its neoclassical Palladian buildings, magnificent Abbey and Roman baths – which were carved into easily worked limestone – all the major attractions being within close proximity of the city centre.
While wool played an important part in its historic past, it was in the 18th century that Bath really developed during the reign of King George III to become a centre for art, literature and learning.
As far back as the 1700s, English Royalty, the aristocracy and commoners all came to bathe in the warm spa waters while today, its just as easy thanks to the commercial Thermae Bath Spa project which finally opened its doors back in August 2006 following a long and difficult planning journey which drew objections from many quarters.
Just a short walk from the original Roman Baths down the aptly named Bath Street, you find the Thermae Bath Spa building with its glass walls and huge stone cube designed by Sir Nicholas Grimshaw.
Standing on four huge pillars which rise from the Minerva pool, the cube itself houses
a wonderful rooftop pool and is a mirror to
the city's past. I was taken round this impressive structure by Peter Rollins, the
Alan Wooding spent a great weekend enjoying all that the city of Bath has to offer
Director of Marketing who started the tour by crossing the road to visit the Cross Bath.
Housed in a separate building in Hot Bath Street next to the now defunct St John's Hospital, it uses the heated spa waters as a healing tool.
The Cross Bath is the only place that you can actually see hot spring water rising up under natural artesian pressure through a sculptured glass-topped fountain on which is an inscription by the late Poet Laureate, Ted Hughes, saying: 'Water is the ultimate life, pure as crystal, the divine influx'.
When it was excavated, beneath the Cross Bath archeologists found not just Roman remains, but those dating back much further to the Celtic period. The whole Bath Street area is now Grade I listed while returning inside the main building, I checked out the rooftop pool, the Minerva bath plus various spa treatment and steam rooms.
Visitors often take advantage of a two-hour package which costs £36 on weekdays while weekends are just £4 more expensive although each additional hour costs £10.
However Bath residents and those living in the surrounding area can get a generous discount, especially on the Cross Bath were they get up to 50% off.
I also visited the small spa museum which houses some of the apparatus used in the healing hospital. For reservations to the Thermae Bath Spa, call 01225 331234 or check out www.thermaebathspa.com
Close by is the Gainsborough Bath Spa Hotel which also has piped hot water in its thermal pools and like the Thermae Bath Spa, it offers a range of treatments and a large pool in which to bathe.
Before visiting the baths, we had lunch at the award-winning Sally Lunn's eating house, said to be the oldest house in the city and dating back to 1482.
However it was in 1680 that Sally, a displaced French Huguenot girl, arrived in Bath and found employment at the bakery in Lilliput Alley from where she produced a light, delicious bread bun which today can be eaten with either a sweet or savoury topping – I chose a wonderful bacon and salad – although there are endless choices.
The four floor restaurant always has a queue but it's worth it and once inside you can also visit the original bakery museum in the basement which was once at ground level.
A walk along The Royal Crescent, around The Circus and then into the Assembly Rooms for coffee. After that a visit to the Pulteney Bridge which spans the River Avon and then a one hour boat trip to Bathampton Mill and back from close to the weir which is just across from The Rec, home to Bath Rugby Club.
Then it was on to the magnificent Bath Abbey Church of St Peter and St Paul and then to the Grand Pump Room for afternoon tea and to listen to the resident trio on piano, cello and violin.
From the Pump Room you can look down on the Roman Baths which were formed by the Kings Spa – but sadly they are no longer fit to swim in.
For other attractions, the American Museum (www.americanmuseum.org) and/or the Jane Austen Centre (www.janeausten.co.uk) are both worth a visit while the Bath Festival was in full swing when we were there with various activities throughout the city.
There is an extremely modern shopping street with areas set aside for relaxing on deckchairs while we also visited the vast Botanical Gardens.
And during the evening we went to the Theatre Royal (www.theatreroyal.org.uk) to see the Edgar Wallace thriller 'The Case of The Frightened Lady'.
On your weekend you could maybe visit The Victoria Art Gallery, the 240-acre Royal Bath & West Showground near Shepton Mallet, Bath Racecourse or Castle Combe motor racing circuit while the Cotswolds are just a stone's throw away. Bath is a city that doesn't disappoint and the choices are endless.