It all started with my mention of Stonehenge. I told my friend Sasha that I had missed seeing it properly a few years ago and then it became a mission to go there during her visit. Bath was also on her list of places to see so it was only natural that we try to pair the two in one day.
Getting to Stonehenge isn’t as easy as booking a train, there is no station nearby so the easiest way to visit is to drive or take a coach. With only two of us venturing out hiring a car wasn’t the most economical choice which left us with booking a coach tour. In my seemingly endless search of tour providers I stumbled upon Anderson Tours and found that they were offering the best deal – £54 with entrance to Stonehenge and the Roman Bath included. Train tickets alone to Bath would have set us back £55.
The set itinerary went something like this:
Depart London at 9:15 am – Various pick up points between 7:30 am and 9:15 am
Arrive at Stonehenge at approx 11:15-11:30 am (90 minutes to explore)
Arrive at Bath approx 2:00 pm – entrance to the Roman Bath
Free time then depart Bath at 4:30 pm to arrive in London for 7:00 pm
In reality one late family threw our departure time off. The same family and half the bus then failed to return at the set time to head out to Bath and as much as the tour manager gave them a stern talking to it didn’t really matter. The rest of us already lost out on time spent in Bath because the tour was going to end on time.
Despite these irritating happenings I did enjoy the sites. I finally got up close to these mysterious standing stones that we still don’t know that much about. There have been many theories about why these stones are here and who exactly put them here but we just can’t be certain. Nevertheless they are impressive.
The visitor’s experience is now transformed with the addition of a visitor’s centre which is a 10 minute bus shuttle away. Before there was a car park opposite the stones and now they have removed it entirely so that when you are walking around with your audio guide what you mostly see are rolling green hills and sheep. This is so your view of the stones is as it would have been, without modern day distractions.
All things considered we had under an hour to complete the audio guide and read the plaques as 20 minutes to travel out to the stones and back ate into our allotted 1 hour and 15 minutes. I’d recommend at least two hours for a visit, this is with also factoring in picture taking.
When we arrived in Bath the group was quickly ushered to the entrance of the Roman Bath. I visited less than a year ago but I was delighted to return. With roughly two hours left on the tour we knew that it wouldn’t be possible to really explore the city so we took our time walking through the bath with our audio guides and reading through the exhibition.
The bath is a well preserved remnant of England’s Roman past. The baths themselves are below the modern street level. There are four main features: the Sacred Spring, the Roman Temple, the Roman Bath House and the Museum holding finds from Roman Bath. Coming from the ambiguity of Stonehenge it was nice to get to explore how the Roman’s lived, the importance of these baths to the community and to learn about people who lived in Bath, then known as Aquae Sulis.
With a half hour to spare we finally had a meal overlooking the Parade Gardens. Food was not allowed on the coach so it wouldn’t have been possible to do this in transit. If I hadn’t visited Bath previously I would have been fairly disappointed but Sasha took it all in stride and enjoyed her snapshot of this gorgeous city and our time at Stonehenge.
For our purposes the tour fit the bill but I was pretty sure before and then definitely knew after that coach tours are not for me. They don’t allow you enough time to really see much of the places that you attend. There is a very early start and the schedule can easily be off set by inconsiderate attendees.
We mainly booked this out of necessity as we would have paid in excess of £83 pp not including making our way to Stonehenge to replicate this tour. I won’t rule out coach tours entirely but if I do one again then it will likely be within the city I’m exploring rather than a day trip out. I loved the Sex & the City coach tour I did in NYC years ago but for a day out of the city I’d much rather guide myself.