The first shrine at this site was built by the Celts who dedicated it to the goddess Sulis. When the Romans invaded, they equated Sulis with Minerva and built a temple complex on the site.
Today the Roman part of the structure is below the modern street level. The site is a combination of Roman ruins and excavations and 19th century buildings above it.
Entrance to the site includes a very good audio guide. There are channels for kids to use and a separate one for adult commentary. From the entrance you head out onto the 19th century balcony that overlooks the main pool on one side and Bath Abbey on the other.
The balcony is lined with statues of Roman people.
|Both Julius Caesar and this tourist are displeased.|
I was walking around the balcony taking pictures when I came across this sign.
|This needs to be an option at ALL tourist destinations!|
I punched 86 into my audioguide hoping that this meant what I thought it did. Yes! Bill Bryson’s voice came through giving his take on the baths. I followed his commentary for the rest of the time. I’m sure my mother was listening to fine grown up lectures about archeology while I heard about how much he loves petty curse tablets and the effects of coed naked bathing.
From the balcony you head down into the museum. Here you see the best of what was been dug up. It also explains how the baths and the temple complex appeared and functioned.
|A decoration over the temple|
It was crazy busy. We were there on a Thursday afternoon and it was hard to move in the museum. I know that if my husband had been there he wouldn’t have been able to handle the crowds. I don’t know if that is typical or if we got there at the same as a bunch of tours. I wouldn’t want to try it on a summer weekend.
At the end of the museum you get to walk through some of the partially excavated site and see this head of Minerva that was found in the 1700s.
|Bill Bryson says she doesn’t look very nice at all.|
Outside on the lower level you can walk past the pools and see the side rooms that housed the hot and cold pools.
|This pool is so hot that people hung onto the rings on the side to stay out of the superheated center.|
The water is green and you aren’t allowed to touch it. It is coming through the original lead pipes and people have gotten sick from various pathogens in the water. If you want to experience bathing in the waters you need to go to one of the modern spas that use the water from the aquifer through modern bore holes and plumbing.
|King Bladud – legend says he and his pigs were cured of leprosy by bathing in the spring and mud on this site.|
1.5 to 2 hours if you listen to all of the commentary and look at everything