Note – photo gallery at the bottom of this post.
Bath in England has become a place of pilgrimage for many Jane Austen lovers such as myself. While it’s the setting of novels such as Northanger Abbey and Persuasion, the interesting thing is that Jane didn’t write her works of art in the few years she lived in the city. In fact, her writing stopped almost completely, as though Bath had sucked the creative juices out of her.
If Austenites truly wanted to go on a pilgrimage, they had much better visit Chawton in Hampshire, where she spent the latter part of her life and where she wrote or at least refined most of her novels for publication.
Still for me, no visit to England is complete without a visit to Bath. It’s not just the visit to the Jane Austen Centre which I always enjoy, but also the opportunity to spend time in one of the most classically beautiful small cities in England.
On the day trip that K and I took to Bath from nearby Cardiff in Wales, we not only visited the Jane Austen Centre and took part in trying our hand at writing with a quill and dressing up in Regency costume, but we also made our way upstairs to their Regency Tea Rooms for lunch that day. Might as well go for the full experience!
I chose to have their Tea with Mr Darcy set – it would be very difficult for any lover of Austen and admirer of Fitzwilliam Darcy (I even named my cat after him!) to choose any differently. The tea includes four finger sandwiches, a scone, and four small sweet treats. The roast beef and mustard sandwich was my pick of the lot – the others were a bit plain.
The sweets is where this set really begins to shine though. The Victorian sponge cake was a delight, the lemon drizzle cake perfectly tart and sweet at the same time, and the pastry on the strawberry tart was ridiculously buttery soft. The sweet morsels are just generous enough to share between two – so even though K didn’t order an afternoon tea set, he still got to try a few of their sweets!
To go with my set, I chose the Jane Austen Blend Tea, a blend of different black Chinese tea leaves. The tea blend was particularly strong and slightly acidic on the tongue – I definitely appreciated the extra pot of hot water we were given which helped to dilute the strength of the tea for later cups!
K was in the mood for more of a savoury lunch, and chose the daily special of the Chicken Caesar Salad with Bacon. The bacon was particularly crispy and crunchy – almost to the point of being too tough to eat. The rest of the salad was lovely though with tender roast chicken, fresh crisp salad leaves, and just the slightest drizzle of salad dressing to bring it all together.
No doubt if you ever visit Bath in England, you’re probably going to visit the Jane Austen Centre. With nearly 7 million visitors to the city every year (mostly domestic tourism, Bath is popular as a weekend getaway for many Londoners!), the Jane Austen Centre plays a large role in Bath tourism, even putting on the world’s largest Regency event every year. While you’re there, make sure to pop upstairs for an afternoon tea with Mr Darcy…or Tea with the Austen’s, or even Henry Crawford’s Crumpets?
The Regency Tea Rooms are located in the Jane Austen Centre, on 40 Gay Street in Bath, England.
For the rest of your time in Bath, I highly suggesting going on a free guided tour of Bath led by one of the Mayor’s guides. We went a walk with Julie, and she gave us some great information about the history of Bath – both ancient, Regency and modern, and insights into life in Austen’s time. Don’t forget to drop into the Roman Baths and afterwards, visit Sally Lunn’s for the Sally Lunn Bun.
Bath is a great little city for any Austen fan, and you can very happily spend a whole weekend in the area – or just do a daytrip as we did!