Bath - England
Breathtaking, Bath with its world famous 18th century architecture and impressive Roman Baths is the only complete spa city designated by UNESCO as a World Heritage Site. It was inscribed in 1987 as a place of Outstanding Universal Value for its “Roman remains, 18th century architecture, 18th century town planning, and its role as a setting for social history, inspired by its hot springs and natural landscape setting.” Bath is also a candidate for the Great Spas of Europe UNESCO project.
Although ancient Britons were known to have worshipped at the springs, they were said to have been discovered in around 863BC by Prince Bladud, a prince who had been exiled from his father’s kingdom and forced to roam the country as a swineherd because he had leprosy. He noticed that his pigs were cured of skin problems after rolling in the hot mud around the springs, and soon after was cured himself, and founded Bath in gratitude for his cure. Since then the hot healing waters have been enjoyed for relaxation and health, and the town which developed around the springs became known as the “Queen of the Spa Towns” – a reputation which is still intact today.
Bath’s thermal water is, in part 10,000 years old, having fallen as rain on the Mendip Hills south of the city, then heated at great depth and rising to the surface via a geothermal fault system. However, the exact origins of the waters still remain a mystery. At 45oC, the waters are the hottest in the UK, and Bath is the only place in the country where it is possible to bathe in natural thermal mineral water. In the past, the waters were renowned for drinking, more than bathing, and the 18th century Pump Room is a testament to the importance of the waters and the social customs that grew up around the taking of the waters for the cure – customs that were copied throughout the spas of Europe.
Modern Bath is a thriving city, with an equally thriving spa culture to complement its many internationally-renowned festivals, its rich architectural heritage, and an enviable cultural and sporting scene. In 2006 the new Thermae Bath Spa opened its doors, finally reconnecting Bath to its thermal waters, after a period of 25 years when Bath was a spa town in name only. A new five-star spa hotel, the Gainsborough Bath Spa with its own supply of thermal water opened 2015, thus completing the revival of thermal leisure facilities in the city centre.