UK – English Countryside

May 19, 2018 – May 21, 2018

Visiting the English countryside has always been a dream of mine. Maybe from all of the times I had to watch Little Women on road trips with my family as a child or because the holiday is one of my favorite movies. Whatever the case, I put it on our travel bucket list. The stars kind of aligned for a trip to England when our friends from the US, Bobby and Sara told us they were heading to London and wanted to spend a weekend traveling with us. Because they got in on a Saturday morning and we happened to have the next Monday off work, it made the most sense to do something in England.

Tyler spent a bunch of time researching and came up with an itinerary for us on the Jurassic Coast: Bath -> Stonehenge -> Old Harry Rocks -> Lulworth Cove -> Durdle Door, with Bath being the home base. The one kicker for this trip is that it would be most efficient to drive between these places, so Bobby took one for the team and committed to driving on the wrong side of the road.

Bath

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The closest airport to Bath is Bristol which is a quick 50 minute flight from Amsterdam. Our Saturday early morning flight got us into Bristol with ease and we hopped on a quick bus and train to Bath, then walked about 20 minutes to our Airbnb all by about 11am! Although the Airbnb was a little ways out of town it was so quaint and quiet and relaxing. Because Bobby and Sara wouldn’t be making it to Bath until the afternoon, Tyler and I set out on our way to explore.

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There are so many parks in Bath. Like everywhere you go, there’s an area of green space just begging to be walked in. Flowers were in bloom everywhere you looked and the sun was shining. It was a perfect day to be out and about.

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There’s a big river that runs through the city, and we sat down for lunch at a restaurant overlooking the river. The restaurant also doubles as a B&B and boat rental place. It was hilarious to watch all of the Bachelorette parties try to navigate 10 girls in these really long canoe like boats. Entertainment for free.

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I can’t believe I didn’t open with this, but this was also the same weekend as the Royal Wedding. I was elated to be in England during the festivities. Everyone was SO excited and glued to their TVs. We talked to some locals who said the roads were being blocked off later for a massive block party to celebrate, we did not get an invite. Everywhere we went we were reminded of the wedding with flyers and Harry & Meghan masks. Truly a great event to experience with the British.

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The block where the party would take place

Tyler had of course signed us up for a free walking tour of Bath, so after lunch we headed to the center of the city to get our bearings before the tour started. It is the cutest city that feels more like a sleepy town (besides ALL of the bachelorette parties). Our walking tour was a little bit different than most I have done before. The guide was a goofy man dressed up in old English attire who promised to tell us all of the scandals of Bath. Although the history was interesting, he was a little to cheesy for my tastes. We started off at the Bath Abbey, a church from the 7th century.

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Basically the whole floor is covered in graves

The city of Bath was founded by a Prince who had been cast out of his town for having leprosy. He ran around with a group of pigs that unfortunately also had leprosy. One day they were walking through the countryside and the pigs found a natural hot spring and started rolling around in it. Miraculously, once they exited the water, their leprosy was gone! The Prince was in disbelief and he ran into the water himself only to also be cured. So, he founded the city of Bath, which became known for its waters with healing properties.

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The tour also took us to the Circus, a historic and very expensive street, where Nicolas Cage used to live (that is until he got kicked out of the country for tax evasion). The Circus, built in the late 1700s, sits at the top of a hill and has similarities to Stonehenge in diameter and also has 30 houses representing the 30 stones of the henge.

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Last stop on the tour was the Royal Crescent, designed by John Wood the same architect who finished the Circus, which also has 30 houses. Although it was the spot to be shortly after it was finished in the late 1700s, throughout the years it became kind of dilapidated and no one wanted to live there because it was up a big hill from the city. Apparently even in the 60’s you could buy one of the houses for about 6,000 GBP. However, the city started pumping money into the houses to renovate them and nowadays you can’t get one for less than about 5M. Talk about a return on investment.

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My favorite part about Bath was just walking around and enjoying the city.

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There’s also this really cool jewelry store called Mallory’s which has an 8 carat diamond ring in the window. I also liked that.

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After the walking tour we visited the Canary Bar, a gin cocktail bar while we waited for Bobby and Sara to arrive. Finally they arrived after surviving 2 hours on the wrong side of the road and we got some pies at The Raven. The pies were so delicious, but we were running late for the main event of the night so we had to shove them down.

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When in Bath, you should definitely go to the Magic Show. I wasn’t sure what to expect because the only magician I have seen before was at an all inclusive resort in Cancun, but this guy was incredible! He started off easy with a few card tricks, but also threw some humor in (Let me know if I name your card, Paul, Carol, Lisa…). He called Sara on stage and made her give him her wedding ring. He threw it up in the air and it was gone! But really he had just somehow put it in his wallet locked to a chain without any of us seeing. Magic.

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Tyler’s favorite was when he said small world, and pulled a small globe out of his pocket

The evening was very entertaining and we finished the night at a cocktail bar.

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Stonehenge

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Stonehenge is just a short 40 minute drive (on the wrong side of the road) from Bath. It was easy to get to, but the whole time I felt like we were out in the middle of nowhere and was wondering where the rocks would be! I guess that is kind of the point, that the rocks are in the middle of nowhere.

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There’s a great museum about Stonehenge that we visited before taking a bus to the rocks. It was a good thing we did this because although I knew what Stonehenge was, I didn’t really understand the grandness. Basically, it’s a bunch of rocks that were erected sometime between 2000 and 3000 BC. This was before there was really any mechanism to transport such huge boulders. It’s said that it probably took hundreds of people to lift the stones into position. The site was used perhaps for religious ceremonies or burials. Several artifacts have been found nearby in excavations, like bones (animal and human), pottery, weapons. Really recommend the museum before visiting the rocks.

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Even after seeing Stonehenge in pictures, I really just did not understand the magnitude of the size of the rocks. So much bigger in real life than I had expected and it made me certain that the humans who built it had help from the aliens.

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Old Harry Rocks

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The drive from Stonehenge to Old Harry Rocks through the countryside of Southern England was so beautiful. We drove with the windows down to take in the fresh oxygen from all of the green grass, vibrant flowers, and cow patties. Upon recommendation from the people we met outside of a restaurant in Lisbon, we visited Old Banks Arms and Pig on the Beach.

The Old Banks Arms was a cute old building with a big grassy area in front to sit and view the rocks. Although the food was kind of weird (Sara got salmon with no seasoning and creepy little baby shrimp, I got a block of cheese with some lettuce and an apple), the scenery was really incredible. And the beers were also on point, love me some Guinness.

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I’m glad that we also visited the Pig on the Beach, because arguably, the views were even better from here and so were the drinks. We shared a bottle of rose while overlooking the rocks and also the beautiful estate and hotel. On the estate grounds were a group of sheep who had just had babies. I love baby anything and enjoyed watching the little ones run around and bah.

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Before leaving the Pig on the Beach, we jumped over a fence to capture these views.Β The rocks, which mark the most Eastern point of the Jurassic Coast, are made of chalk so they are a stark white which in comparison to the deep blue of the water is magnificent.

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Lulworth Cove

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I didn’t think the Jurassic Coast views could get any better, and then we made it to Lulworth Cove. There was a little town at the bottom of the cove where we stopped for some ice cream before walking towards the waters.

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The cove was pretty neat from the beach, but then we walked up to the top of a hill overlooking the cove and took in some spectacular views. Although I was a little nervous because the boys were walking out on a high ledge with no railing, I enjoyed the views.

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Another reason to be nervous was there was a sign to watch out for Addlers. Didn’t make me too worried at first until Tyler told me what an Addler is. Then I was very cautious.

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Durdle Door

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Not far from Lulworth Cove is Durdle Door. The hike down to see the door is kind of a pain, but definitely worth it. Actually, the hike down is fine, but it’s the hike up that’s the killer. First you have to walk down the steep-ish pebbly path toward the water and then down about 200 uneven stairs. But once you get there, it’s a sight to see.

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I love putting my feet in all bodies of water, but accidentally got too excited and the waves crashed over me before I could get my shoes off. So for the rest of the day I had wet socks and smelly shoes.

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The drive back to Bath took about two hours and was filled with lots of fun for us, but maybe not for Bobby. We kept having to remind him to turn tight when turning to the left or to get back on the wrong side of the road! Even after driving for a whole day, it was still very ingrained in him to always stay to the right. We made it back to Bath without any incident and headed to an amazing cocktail bar for a bite to eat and some delicious drinks.

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Baths in Bath

When you get the chance to take a bath in Bath you should do it. On our walking tour, we learned that the Thermae spa cost GBP 45 million to build, putting it at about 43 million over budget, so we were expecting extravagance, which we got. The spa consists of three floors which we explored throughly during our 2 hour visit.

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Straight to the rooftop we went to enjoy the warm pool in the sun. Luckily we got there early and it was not yet crowded. The clientele was mostly an older crowd and I was glad this was not a nude spa like the typical ones in the Netherlands. We hung out in the waters for a bit before exploring the other floors.

On the second floor, we found a bunch of different rooms and showers. There were hot showers, there were cold showers, there was a hot steam room, there was a warm steam room, there was a room with ice, there was an infrared sauna, and also a relaxation room with a warm chair, dark lights and a movie of the cosmos. I think we spent a majority of our time just alternating between getting too hot in the steam rooms and cooling off in the ice room. It was all super high tech and clean.

The bottom floor was just another big pool, and while we did check it out, we didn’t stay long.

After our spa experience, we experienced the Roman Baths, a well preserved bathing hall from ancient times. The city’s thermal springs rise into the site of the bath, making the water temperature warm year round. Back in ancient times, people would come here to relax and play in the water.

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In the center of the building is the murky green bath which is said to have healing properties. Apparently up until the late 70’s you could swim in the waters, but a young school girl on a class trip developed meningitis while swimming and died, thus closing the waters to the public for good. Although at the end of the tour, they do let you drink from the Bath…I only had a sip because I’m not trying to get an infectious disease.

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Right next to the famous Roman bath is a restaurant called the Pump Room. It’s extra fancy and back in the day desperate women used to steal the guest list for the upcoming week to see which guys were the richest and try to seduce them into marriage. I am fairly certain this still happens today.

The places we visited in the English countryside were rich with history and charm. A truly wonderful trip that I would recommend to anyone who loves the British.

Recommendations

Follow the itinerary that we did! It was an efficient way to see a lot of cool things
Stay at: the Old Smithy Lofts
Eat at: Bathwick Boatman Riverside or the Raven or Pig on the Beach
Drink at: Opium Bar or Canary Bar or the Dark Horse

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