The first thing we heard upon arriving at the Roman Baths was “Don’t drink the water!“, which actually seems like pretty obvious advice once you see it; I have a hard time imagining tourists lining up to stick their faces in the pool for a little taste of green, murky ancient history…
But maybe I’m just overly optimistic about other peoples’ common sense?
Apparently it’s not enough to simply refrain from imbibing the water, though. If you want to survive the trip you can’t splash around, or dip your hand in, or really even touch it at all. In fact, don’t even let the fingernail of your little pinky come into contact with it, because that water is deadly!
At least, so we were told.
The actual Roman Baths were built by the Romans (go figure) around 60 CE and used for a couple hundred years, but they fell into disrepair when the Romans marched back toward Rome in 500 CE.
Since that time they’ve spent centuries in an endless loop of being used by the locals and then abandoned, then rediscovered and fixed, then abandoned yet again.
The current building surrounding the Roman Baths dates back to the 18th century, but the bubbling hot springs continue to flow through the original, still-functioning lead pipes.
Yep, LEAD PIPES.
I think we can all agree that while lead may withstand the test of time, it doesn’t exactly pass the health code. So maybe there’s something to their anti-drinking restrictions after all?
But wait, there’s more!
The Roman Baths actually remained in use up until 1979… when a child accidentally swallowed some of the water, and promptly died from amoebic meningitis.
Whoops, just a little deadly amoeba infestation…
If you absolutely can’t bring yourself to visit the Roman Baths without drinking some of the water (don’t bother, it tastes disgusting), then you can visit the Pump Room which draws somewhat-less-deadly, theoretically-drinkable water from the same hot spring as the spas.
It’s really not the same as diving into the main pool, since you can’t brag about marinating your body in the same water used by ancient Romans… but then again you probably won’t die afterwards, so that’s a plus.
When you’re done dancing with death, head outside and look around; there’s so much more to see and do in Bath!
We actually enjoyed our free time wandering around and getting lost even more than our tour of the Bath complex itself. The city is dotted with a number of beautiful grassy fields originally used for grazing sheep… which wasn’t to benefit local farmers so much as to let the rich people residing in the huge apartments above them pretend to be living on their own country estates.
They’re so picturesque and out of place with the rest of the landscape that I was determined to find one, despite having only a few hours to explore before our tour moved on.
We spotted one in the distance and crossed over a lovely bridge to find it, then ended up climbing a steep residential street that lured us along with quick glimpses of green whenever we were about to give up and turn back.
This was as close as we could get… but the journey up that hill was definitely worth it.
Not only did we chat with a bevy of older men playing with intricate toy sailboats in the canal and repeatedly throw a stick for the most adorable border collie ever (well, after Koa, of course), we stumbled on these views of the city.
Want to see more photos of Bath and the surrounding countryside? Check out our Facebook album for England.
NOTE: We visited Bath as part of a complimentary tour from International Friends; read our review of International Friends to learn more about the area.