stonehenge and the roman baths: a quick Weekend getaway
It was just the weekend after my Copenhagen escapade that I found myself on a bus to Stonehenge and the Roman Baths.
Stonehenge has been a tourist attraction for ages, as the history around it remains largely unknown. This has resulted in the production of some pretty wild conspiracy theories. (Aliens . . . ?)
Bath, England is known for its Roman influence, which can be seen in the Roman Baths, as well as in other parts of the city.
This was a trip my program offered for us - they coordinated the entire thing: the transportation there, the hotel, and the schedule. We just had to show up, fork over the costs, and enjoy the experience. I was looking forward to a trip that didn’t involve much planning on my part for once; most of the ones I knew I would take would require a little extra effort.
Anyone who signed up had to meet at our school center around 7 a.m., packed and ready to go. This proved to be a struggle (still trying to learn this whole “morning person” thing), but I made it with time to spare.
Now, if any part of this experience reminded me of my high school senior year trip to Europe, it was this. Back then, we’d piled heaps of students onto a double decker charter bus, and zipped through the hills of Germany, Austria, and Italy. In between naps, I became extremely close with the people on the bus as we were on the road.
This day started out very similar; while not all of our friends came on the trip, a good majority of them did. Everybody was laughing, playing games - the two-ish hour bus ride felt like minutes.
Stonehenge itself is just kind of wild to take in. When I was in seventh grade, I had a science teacher named Mr. Weaver who told all of us about the legends of Stonehenge, even setting up a fake historical altar around Halloween that had us kids in awe of what used to take place there.
When I felt the bus’s gearshift in park, it almost seemed like I was coming full circle, nine years later.
The weather was slightly chilly as the wind whipped my hair around. We started off at the visitor centre, which was about a ten minute shuttle ride from the stones. While I didn’t do it, there is an exhibition where you can learn more about Stonehenge at the centre, as well as a cafe and a gift shop. My friends and I decided to go straight to the stones so we could make sure we had enough time there, then get some lunch on the way back.
It’s hard to put into words what you see when you approach the stones. The visitor centre is far enough away that the only civilization you can really make out is the nearby road, and a farmhouse or two. The stones are roped off, so you can’t get too close to them, a luxury many people in the past were able to do. (However, I believe they do special tours that allow you closer up, so that might be worth looking into if you’re a hardcore fan.)
You kind of grow up hearing how massive Stonehenge is, but it doesn’t really hit until you’re staring up into the sunlight, trying to make out the top of them. I found myself sifting through so many thoughts as to how they got there and how they were used. I like to look at historical places and try to imagine people walking around in them, going about their regular days.
On the way back, I decided to take the walking path instead. I would definitely recommend doing this if you have the time and the energy. The sun felt nice, and the air was clean - a huge contrast to London’s stale smell. This allowed me to see a few burial mounds, now covered in grass over the decades.
I ended up getting a quick roast chicken sandwich at the cafe to tide me over until my group got to Bath, which was about an hour from Stonehenge.
By the time we got there, the sky was gray with clouds. Not anything I wasn’t used to at this point - sunny days are few and far between in England, I quickly learned.
We were supposed to drop our things off at the hotel and then immediately go downstairs, but my friend Bri and I took our time examining the room first. TWO beds, with lots of space, and a bathroom to match. Where we lived in London, the room size just did not compare.
When we came back down, we realized literally everyone had left without us. Go. Figure. We ran outside, darting our heads from left to right. A new city and we already were lost within the first hour. How typical.
It only took about ten minutes to find our group, and we quietly inched up behind
everybody. Not a great move on our part. But, we were here for the majority of it.
On the tour we saw the Paragon, the River Avon (remember Les Mis’s bridge scene? Filmed here), Bath Abbey, and a few more.
We finished the tour and set off for dinner. Being the typical “I Studied Abroad in London” students, we went for fish and chips, followed by some gelato.
I think the funniest part of the dinner had to be Bri’s reaction to our friend Zach’s order. He got some type of fish that had the eyeball still attached, and she claimed to have “lost her appetite.” Good times.
And, because no weekend is complete without a night of some good ole college drinking, we found a nearby bar called O’Neills to grab a few beers and cocktails. The prices were outstanding, and we quickly became friends with other people our age in the bar.
A few shots later, our friend Andy started singing the American national anthem, and got us all kicked out after ripping his shirt off and swinging it in the air. It was honestly an iconic moment. Even the bouncers told him to come back another time.
From there, a handful of us went to a place called Komedia Bath with a few of the locals we’d met. They were having a Motown night, and it didn’t seem super touristy. Bri wasn’t even a fan of Motown, and ended up having a really great night.
We walked home at like 2 a.m., exhausted but content with our first day in Bath.
Day 2: A tour of the Baths. Before coming to England, I hadn’t really been aware of how much influence the Romans had had in the country. The baths were beautiful, and so well preserved. The hot springs actually still worked, and the museum highlighted a lot of Roman artifacts.
Lunch was Thai at a restaurant called The Thai Balcony. It was a gorgeous place, and the food was much needed after a day of sightseeing.
We spent some time exploring the city before all boarding the bus back to London. I’m really happy I went, not only because Stonehenge was a major check off my bucket list, but because I got to see another city in England, one that was not such a hub like London. It gave me another look at British life outside of the hustling environment the city can sometimes be consumed by.
If you plan on visiting London, make this little two day excursion fit your schedule. You won’t be disappointed.
Bus Tour to Stonehenge/Bath:
- Mine was done through my school, but there are lots of companies that offer these trips. Type it into Google and a whole list will appear. Great if you're coming from out of the country and don't have access to a car.
- This was also picked by my school, but we stayed at a Travelocity. Really good hospitality. Only qualm was the Wifi wasn't free.
- The Thai Balcony (http://thaibalcony.co.uk/)
- Komedia Bath (https://www.komedia.co.uk/bath/)
Roman Baths website: