Museum of Bath Architecture
Grade II* listed. Dated: 1765

It makes sense to start here: not only because this small museum is dedicated to Bath’s architectural history – and its transition from medieval town to fashionable Georgian city – but the building itself is worth a look. Run by the Bath Preservation Trust, the museum is housed in the Countess of Huntingdon’s Chapel – a fine example of post-medieval Gothick (a style usually found in decorative sham castles or garden follies). The museum’s former-chapel interior houses a collection of maps, models, drawings, tools and videos relating to the design and build of the city’s famous landmarks and terraces. The highlight is an intricate 1:500 scale model of central Bath which was commissioned in 1965, took 10,000 hours to build and uses pencil leads to create columns and sanded down hatpins for the acorns around the parapets in the Circus. Open Wednesday to Saturday. Find our more here.
The Paragon, The Vineyards, Bath BA1 5N

Bath Street
Grade 1 and 2 listed. Dated: 1791

With the Cross Bath (see below) at one end, and the Roman Baths at the other, this cobbled and colonnaded street in the ‘Spa Quarter’ is one of the city’s finest – and, not for the first time, it has had a recent movie moment thanks to its appearance in Wonka (in the film, it was furnished with vintage cars and dusted in snow). Other starring roles include Bridgerton and the film version of Jane’s Austen’s Persuasion. The street was designed by Thomas Baldwin who, at the time, was the official Bath City Architect, also responsible for Argyle StreetLaura PlaceGreat Pulteney Street and other fine examples of Georgian Bath. His career, however, was not entirely illustrious. Two years after completing his work on Bath Street, Baldwin was dismissed for financial ‘irregularities’. Forced into bankruptcy, his reputation was ruined – although history still honours his professional achievements. Numbers 1-8 Bath Street are Grade I listed.
• Bath BA1 1SF

Holburne Museum
Grade I listed. Dated 1799 (and 2011)

In case you thought there was nothing more to Bath architecture than Roman, medieval and Georgian stonework, it’s a relief to come across the Holburne Museum’s award-winning three-storey extension, designed by architect Eric Parry and added in 2011. True, the original building (set in bucolic Sydney Gardens, at the northern end of Great Pultney Street) is one of Bath’s finest: originally the Sydney Hotel, designed by Charles Harcourt Masters, later a college and, from 1916, a museum dedicated to wealthy Sir William Holburne’s collection of decorative arts.  The extension’s proposal met fierce opposition among the city’s traditionalists, but it went ahead without compromise: a mullioned block of glass, terracotta and mottle-glazed ceramic, designed to ‘exploit and respond to’ the gardens at the rear and the classical architecture in front. The contrast of old and new reflects the museum’s eclectic offering: from a permanent collection of, say, 18th century Dutch landscapes to visiting shows of contemporary art by, for example, Turner Prize winner Lubaina Himid or (summer 2024) Mr Doodle. More info here.
Great Pulteney St, Bath BA2 4DB

Friends Meeting House / Topping Booksellers
Grade II listed. Dated: 1818

This handsome Greek Revival hall on York Street was originally designed for the Freemasons by architect William Wilkins – also responsible for the National Gallery in London. In 1866, the hall was bought by the Society of Friends and served as a Quaker place of worship until it was sold in, we think, 2016 to current owners Topping Company Booksellers to become, according to Visit Bath, the ‘biggest independent bookshop in England to open in living memory’. As part of the listed building consent, they were required to retain the Friends Meeting House portico signage. Inside, Topping has done a great job of preserving the sense of scale – gallery, two circular roof lights and decorative plasterwork.
York Street, Bath BA1 1NG

BEYOND THE CITY

Bath Skyline Walk
National Trust. 6 miles.

Take this circular walk along waymarked paths, through woodland, wild-flower meadows and hidden valleys, taking in the city’s World Heritage skyline from natural view-points. The walk starts in Kingston Parade by Bath Abbey and heads into the sticks, passing numerous landmarks including the Grade II* listed Sham Castle, Bathwick Wood, Bathampton Down, Rainbow Wood,  Prior Park’s Grade I landscaped gardens (also National Trust) and Smallcombe Cemetery. You don’t have to do the full six miles: options include ‘the Walk to the View’ (a three-mile round-trip from the city centre and back) or an accessible two-mile circuit around the Family Discover Centre. The web page includes a handy map.

Beckford’s Tower
Grade I listed. Dated: 1826

Following a meticulous restoration, a new improved Beckford’s Tower is to re-open in summer 2024. The neo-classical Tower, built by William Beckford in 1826 is set in a Victorian cemetery in Lansdown, on the northern outskirts of Bath. It has been open to the public since the 1970s, but when it was deemed a building ‘at risk’ in 2019, the National Lottery Heritage fund stepped in to assist a sensitive programme of works, taking two years to complete. The tower’s enhanced ‘visitor experience’ will include exhibition spaces, a grotto tunnel, landscaped grounds and museum displays dedicated to Beckford’s ‘complex creative life’: an out-there bisexual writer and slave owner, he built the tower as a retreat (the richest man in England spent much of his life as a social outcast). When the museum re-opens, visitors will once again see his collection of Georgian furniture, art and rare books as well as climbing the tower’s spiral staircase (154 steps) for magnificent views of Bath and the surrounding countryside. Image courtesy of Beckford’s Tower and Museum.
Lansdown Road, Bath BA1 9BH

For more information go to Visit Bath.

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