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Bath is one of the best kept secrets of the United Kingdom. The fact that it has been assigned the status of a Unesco World Heritage site may render the definition of secret somewhat inappropriate, but it is certainly underestimated as a tourist destination compared to other more famous English cities it has no difficulty competing with in terms of historical and architectural heritage (yes, York, it is you we are talking about).
The first encounter with the Georgian beauty of Bath always takes you by surprise. Especially if you are engaged in an early jogging session and the first rays of the morning sunshine throw their light on Pulteney Bridge reflected in the waters of the river Avon, making you realize that the rest of the day is going to be special.
And some jogging is exactly what you may need if you consider the density and average quality offered by the Bath's restaurants and eateries: many hours can be spent at the table, most pleasantly as a rule. If you're planning a visit, here is a selection of places to eat in Bath.
24 hours in Bath
Start the day with a coffee at Colonna & Small’s or visit the Bath Bun Tea Shoppe to taste one of the city’s specialities, the Bath Bun of course, a sweet bread bun covered with sugar that was invented in the 1700s to help restore rheumatic patients – before it was denied to the selfsame patients when it became evident that their waistline was expanding as their rheumatism improved.
After the mandatory visit to the Bath spa, it is just as necessary to stop off for lunch: The Raven of Bath is famous for its pies available in at least 6-7 different flavours. Don’t miss the one filled with beef and ale. For an after-lunch walk - and a little nap - Bath offers a number of parks comprising the Prior Park Landscape Garden which takes you back in time to the Georgian period.
If you are looking for something different from a gastropub for your evening meal, but don’t really want to dine anywhere excessively posh, jot down the addresses of the Same Same but Different (pan-European contemporary cuisine, presented in the form of little tapas, with various veggie alternatives) or Miller and Carter: this atypical steakhouse is specialized in British beef, whose meat – left to hang for at least 28 days – may be accompanied with some fantastic side dishes such as bourbon glazed purple carrots.
Excursions in Somerset
It would be a pity not to venture outside of Bath, despite its plentiful charms. Rather subdued and not particularly scenic, the county of Somerset does however offer stretches of placid and reassuring green countryside, dotted with farms that reveal the proud agricultural vocation of the county.
The century-old tradition of breeding in the West Country (there are six counties in the South West: Cornwall, Devon, Dorset, Gloucestershire, Somerset and Wiltshire) makes it the nation’s most agricultural area, in which about 24% of the country’s beef and about 21% of its lamb is produced. A record that has also been facilitated by the support - scarcely idealistic maybe, but certainly functional - of industry and the government: recent achievements comprise the conferment of PGI status to West Country Beef and West Country Lamb.
We learned this and much more besides concerning the importance this region gives to animal wellbeing, which translates into excellent meat products, from Malcolm Pyne, the histrionic owner of Pyne’s the Butcher.
What at first sight appears to be an enormous (and not particularly appealing) outlet actually turns out to be a gourmet’s paradise, open 6 days a week, whose meat products are supplied by local farmers, not to mention other ultra local specialities, the most outstanding of which are homemade preserves and cider, whose production has been a tradition in Somerset since 1700. Fill up your shopping baskets with the firm’s award-winning sausages, of which they sell more than 12,000 a week (their secret? Localness): The Proper Job is a fatally irresistible combination of pork, apple, sage and cider.
Lung Sutton: Romantic, gluttonous getaway
The village of Long Sutton responds to various tourist guide definitions, starting from romantic and ending with picturesque, comprising “chocolate box village”.
It is here that the Devonshire Arms offers a cuisine whose aspirations go far beyond those of a mere gastropub - while maintaining the generous portions and warm comfortable atmosphere typical of such eateries - particularly their superb slow cooked lamb shoulder, dates, Moroccan spices, new potato cake & lamb jus.
Book in for the night and you will have the perfect excuse to enjoy their Full English Breakfast, particularly nice if served in the courtyard garden.