14 Unmissable Places to Discover near Bath
Bath is a jam packed town with attractions and things to do that could fill up a week of holiday by itself! If you have explored all the museums, done my recommended hikes, visited the manors and taken already multiple afternoon teas in all the tea rooms of the area, then it’s time to see what’s around. Centuries-old churches, historical picturesque villages, charming manors, ancient woods and film settings…whatever you prefer, I got you covered with my list of the most interesting places to discover!
Bath can feel like a secluded and tucked away village in the countryside but is actually very central and well connected to the nearby Wiltshire, Devon, Dorset counties giving you the chance to move easily to most of the locations I will list here. They are all perfect week-ends or day trip escapes that you can reach on your own or joining a tailored guided tour taking all the stress of organising away.
Here is my list of the recommended places to visit near Bath:
1. Oxford and Blenheim Palace
Oxford is a true feast for the eyes for architecture, books and nature lovers! The “city of the spires” will spoil you with choice with things to visit and explore! If you only have one day to explore it concentrate on what you like the most and book in advance the tickets: head to the Radcliff Camera for the best views, visit the historic Christ College where famous Harry Potter canteen scenes have been shot, check out the Bodleian Library one of the oldest and most scenic in Europe, take a picture in front of the Bridge of Sighs, similar in the shape to the one in Venice, stop for lunch at the Oxford Covered market filled with local delicacies and spend the afternoon visiting the Oxford Castle or strolling in the University park watching local punting on wooden boats.
You could spend weeks before seen all that this romantic city has to offer: Oxford is much more than one of the oldest and most prestigious university towns! The city centre is dotted with the oldest bookshops and tea rooms, the town is surrounded by forests and manors. The most important one is Blenheim Palace, the residence of William Churchill ,which constitutes a full day trip on its own! To get to Oxford from Bath, I used to take the train changing at Reading and I in 1h30 I had the chance of visiting this wonderful place every time I wanted!
2. Lacock Abbey and village
Lacock is the typical chocolate-box English village that hasn’t changed that much in the last centuries. It used to live on wool trade (you will soon realise why looking at the sheep fields all around) and now it is part of the main touristic guided tours of the Cotswolds due to the picturesque stone cottages, vintage ancient shops and the medieval barn, church and work house.
The abbey is a must visit due to the charming interiors and cloisters that have been used as film setting one of the Harry Potter, Pride and Prejudice, Downtown abbey‘ films. The Fox Talbot Museum, inventor of the photographic negative, is very interesting too and will complete this perfect day trip in the English countryside. It is a real pleasure to walk in the historic streets of the village, take a walk in the nearby forests and fields where horses and sheep roam often.
Don’t forget to book one of the most awarded restaurants of the area, the Sign of the Angel, a rustic restaurant and guest house provided with a real old log fireplace and cosy rooms to extend your bucolic British escape! The best way to reach Lacock village from Bath is taking the car and in a 40 minutes journey you will reach your destination. Here you will find the directions.
3.Salisbury and Stonehenge
At about 14 km away from Stonehenge (the prehistoric stone circle), sits Salisbury, a medieval town rich in history and things to visit.
Among the main highlights of the city, you should visit the Salisbury Cathedral featuring a 123 metres spire visible from everywhere in town and home to an original copy of the 13th-century of the Magna Carta (an important document from 1215 A.D). Make time to visit Mompesson House, an impressive well preserved 18th century house run by the National Trust and stop for a delicious cake and cup of tea in their tea room surrounded by a typical British flowered back garden.
From here take the car or join an organised tour and visit the world famous Stonehenge, wrapped in Merlin and pagan legends. This huge stone circle is the main destination of the epic summer solstice where thousands of people camp in the fields around the stones and dance the night away until dawn to assist to one of the most atmospheric sunrises of your life!
Known to be the smallest town in England, this quintessential British village has a perfectly preserved medieval town centre packed with must-see attractions such as Wells Cathedral, an imposing place of pilgrimage since centuries with an impressive architecture and choir often featured in films.
A true jewel is the Bishop’s palace too that thanks to his gardens surrounded by a a moat filled with swans and ducklings is of the most popular events and wedding venues of the area. Cole on a Saturday to buy the best bargains to one the few open-air markets of the area and buy all sorts of goods and fresh cheese and vegetables. It held in the picturesque Wells Market place since centuries.
End your day trip walking on one of the oldest Europe’s medieval streets, the Vicar’s close decorated with the iconic tall chimneys. These houses were home to the priests of the cathedral and today also host a conservatory.
5. Weymouth and the Jurassic Coast
The weather is sunny and you are dying to splash your feet in the water and walk on a long sandy beach? Weymouth on the Jurassic Coast boasts a golden beach and much more. The coast is named after the various fossils found dating back to the Jurassic period and stretches for over 100km. I used to come here often during summer taking the train from Bath (2 hours ride) to get a bit sun-tanned on the busy Weymouth beach and wonder at the quantity of water sports and activities available for families! Worth mentioning is the Punch and Judy show, a puppet show dating back to the 17th century and played on the beach.
Weymouth is a great destination for shopping in quirky neighbourhoods and little alleys dotted with independent shops. The best way to spend your time here is to grab an ice-cream and walk along the promenade, ending up at the Nothe Fort and park, a Victorian fortress gifting you with stunning views over the harbour and the bay, or have a beer at the traditional Weymouth Harbour quarters watching traditional boats and speed boating organising trips in and out of the bay!
If you have some spare time or it’s not you first visit, take bus 1 from the Kings square which will take in 20 minutes to the striking Isle of Portland linked to mainland by the thin Chesil Beach. This are is much quieter and it is the starting point of a great circular walk on the South West Coastal Path touching the best scenic beaches and point of interest of the area. Have a look at my circular Portland hike post to know more about this hike.
A whole day should be dedicated to the star of the coast: the iconic Durdle Door ever present in every picture of Dorset and to the idyllic Lulworth Cove linked by one of the best coastal paths I have ever done! Have a look at my post about the Durdle door hike here.
It is probably considered as the quirkiest village in England and for very good reasons! According to the legend the body of the legendary King Arthur rests below Glanstonbury Abbey and that the Holy Grail is buried somewhere near his and his wife. The town is dotted with fortune tellers, shops selling charms and necklace against curses and for protection, people are very “alternative” and it common to see people walking barefoot near the Glanstonbury Tor praying pagan gods, meditating and wearing tunics.
If you decide to visit this peculiar part of the world where pagan gods and folk tales concretely influence the life of its inhabitants then don’t forget to visit the Chalice Well gardens, also known as the natural “Red spring”, a sort of religious pagan sanctuary situated at the bottom of Tor hill where it is believed that these reddish healing waters are in reality the blood of Christ. The scientific explanation is that the waters are simply very rich in minerals.
Climb up the Tor Hill to reach the tower and enjoy some far-reaching views over the hills. This conic mysterious hill it is believed to be the legendary Avalon island (where maybe the Holy Grail is buried), surrounded by waters. Avalon is believed to be the meeting place between the dead’s and the living people world and the home of Gwyn ap Nudd, the Lord of the Underworld and its fairies according to Welsh tradition. Check out the complete myths and folk tales on Glanstonbury here.
7. Tyntensfield Manor
Tyntesfield is a Victorian Gothic manor named after the Tynte family who had owned the estate in the area since 1500. Previously used as a hunting lodge, in early 19th century an English businessman William Gibbs decided to but and expand it thanks to its huge fortune accumulated through guano trade in Peru. In the 1860s William refurbished the house in Gothic Revival style and belonged to his descendants until 2001 when the last member of the family died without heir.
The National Trust decided to buy this magnificent building in 2002 and bring back to their original splendour the interiors. Make sure you visit the library, the dining room, the chapel and the billiard room which in my opinion are masterpieces!
The manor starred in the famous thriller film “The Crooked house” in 2019 inspired by Agatha Christie’s book! Huge gardens and an orangery are also recommend to be visited on a sunny day. I visited during Christmas time and it was truly magical: astonishing Christmas decorations, National Trust’s guides wearing Victorian clothes, traditional piano songs and ballads, English dancing lessons, sherry tastings and much more is what to expect when visiting this striking estate which will make you step back in time for a day and fill you with good memories for ever!
This pleasant seaside town is located at about 10 km from Pool and a couple of hours driving from Bath. From the golden sandy beach you can see the Isle of Wight at distance and the Old Harry Rocks, white limestone cliffs, standing fierce in the middle of the sea.
The area is particularly recommended for taking a stroll with an ice-cream on the promenade, reaching the pier and the little harbour or to undertake the famous 8km hike from Studland to Swanage for the incredible sea views! If you leave the car in Studland parking, you could even fit a quick visit to the ruined fortress Corfe Castle to take home some great panoramic pictures of the coast!
9. Dyrham Palace and Gardens
This Baroque country-house surrounded by acres of parkland is populated by a herd of 200 deer which only adds another reason to visit this oasis of peace and beauty. The manor is getting gradually refurbished but there are still a few furnished rooms that you can visit, an impressive large garden and orangery and an interesting Anglican church where the previous owners of the house are buried.
Dyrham park is situated at 20 minutes by car from Bath city centre and it’s the perfect half day trip to have a walk and sink in nature in a peaceful bucolic setting! Get directions here.
10. Cheddar Gorge
A day trip to the scenic Cheddar Gorge is the perfect option for those seeking nature, wildlife, history and some adventure! The entry tickets gives you access to the striking cliff-top view hike, the underground system of caves and lakes and the possibility to visit the interesting Prehistoric museum. The most adventurous can book caving and rock climbing activities to explore inside out this striking corner of the Mendip Hills! Don’t forget to climb on the Jacob’s Ladder tower to have some lovely views of the hills around.
To get here, it takes only 1 hour driving from Bath. Beware of goats walking down the cliffs on the road! In the village, it is possible to buy the famous locally made Cheddar cheese taking its name after the homonym gorges. Many hikes are available in the area. Find the detailed directions here.
11. The Forest of Dean
One of my favourite day trips both from Cardiff and Bath is the Wye valley and the Forest of Dean natural area! This park is renowned for its folklore legends and for being the film setting of many films and TV Series such as the Harry Potter, Doctor Who, King Arthur, The Hobbit, Merlin, War Horse, Star Wars and many more. This ancient natural reserve has endless activities and sport options, attractions to visit and trails to explore! Falconry, archery, horse riding, kayaking, cycling, hiking are some the sports you can do in the forest and you could even sleep in secluded log cabins in the middle of nature!
Make sure you visit Puzzlewood, a thick and musky forest where some scenes of Star Wars has been shot. The entry costs 6 pounds per person but in my opinion it is well worth it to preserve such a mystical and fascinating fairy tale woodland! For the best views head to the Symonds Yat to enjoy magnificent far reaching views of the Wye valley and river or visit the Tintern Abbey ruins, the famous abbey mentioned by the Romantic Wordsworth’s poem!
This vibrant and cosmopolitan town is located at only 10 minutes train ride away from Bath and it truly burst with life and things to visit! Famous for being the hometown of Wallace and Gromit’s cartoon, Bristol is also renowned for its Balloon Festival taking place in August, the Harbour Festival animating the whole city centre with concerts, food stalls and music but also for its history and cultural heritage.
During the 17th and 18th century Bristol was the starting point for the trading routes to America and the colonies of the British empire playing an important part in the slavery and spices trade. Today Bristol is known for its university and as an important industrial and shopping destination on the estuary of the river Severn.
When visiting Bristol don’t miss out the quirky Clifton area and the breath-taking Suspension Bridge, andvisit the SS Great Britain, the first city attraction and ship museum featuring an impressive advanced technology at the time from which all modern ships originated.
At only one hour away by train or car from Bath, Cardiff is one of those lively university cities that is unfairly underrated: not many people knows that it is a welcoming place famous for its nightlife life, its stadium and sports events, green lush parks and a rich history!
Cardiff is perfectly located between the sea and the hills: and offers a wide range of attractions starting from Cardiff Castle, the symbol of the city, Cardiff Bay the perfect place on the ocean to try some international restaurants, the striking Brecon Beacon National Park renowned for its scenic waterfalls and peaks. Check out my articles with the best things to do in Cardiff If your time is short check out this well-organised and comprehensive free guided tour of the city or take an hop on hop off bus, very handy to reach Cardiff Bay (30 minutes walking from the main train station)
Did you find this article useful and inspiring? Then check out the other posts about the main Cardiff attractions or what to visit in the area!