Whether used as an excursion from London or a destination in its own right, Bath has a deserved place on Britain's tourist trail. That's partly due to its heritage – the Romans left a major impact here – partly due to its strong Jane Austen links and partly to its strikingly handsome looks. Few places boast such a harmonious collection of Palladian and Georgian architecture.
Bath is on the site of the Roman town Aquae Sulis, and the Romans picked it for the natural spring that pumps out 1.17 million litres of 46-degrees Celsius water every day. They built their public baths around the spring, and they're remarkably well preserved. Within the Roman Baths (romanbaths.co.uk) complex are mosaics, ancient animal sacrifice stones, and parts of a temple. But the view out on the statue-lined terrace towards Bath Abbey is the star.
Bath's finest dining tends to be in hotel restaurants but its most enjoyable dining is in pubs. And the Raven (theravenofbath.co.uk) is a much-loved classic, serving up six rotating ales and two ciders, plus pies that are justifiably the stuff of local legend. These include the matador – which has steak, chorizo, olives, tomato, butter beans and garlic inside – plus a vegetarian goat's cheese, sweet potato and spinach option.
For that architecture dose, start at The Circus, where three grand crescents form a circle of uniform three-storey townhouses. A frieze runs across them, their columns soar upwards, and it is widely regarded as architect John Wood's masterpiece. His son, John Wood the Younger, arguably went one better with the nearby Royal Crescent – an even more graceful curve of grand honey-coloured Georgiana. The crescent overlooks a lush green lawn and offers imperious views of the hills.
Taking to the waters in Bath isn't just a thing of the past – the Thermae Bath Spa (thermaebathspa.com) uses the same underground springs the Romans did. The result is a large, modern spa complex with both the big, gimmick-packed lower-level pool and the smaller but majestically sited rooftop pool fed by the thermal waters.
On the outskirts of Bath, Homewood Park (homewoodpark.co.uk) is set in 10 acres of parklands and meticulously primped gardens. The luxury spa includes a hydrotherapy pool and heated outdoor pool, afternoon teas are rather splendid and the large garden suites are beautifully light and airy. Rooms cost from £145.
Bath is a horror show for parking. If you absolutely have to drive (and you're really better off visiting by train), get in early and leave the car in the Charlotte Street car park all day. It's massive but fills up alarmingly quickly.
More information: visitbath.co.uk
David Whitley was a guest of Visit Bath.