"Oh, who can ever be tired of Bath?" wrote Jane Austen, and having recently spent three days visiting that lovely town we would have to say - not us! Jane lived in Bath for five years and featured it in many of her novels, making it a favourite pilgrimage site for her many fans.
You come across little reminders of Jane Austen where ever you walk in Bath, her favourite parks, the home where she lived, the Assembly Rooms and Pump Rooms where she socialized. It is easy to imagine what it must have been like in her time for it seems little has changed in Bath over the years.
Built upon layers of history, Bath was an important tourist destination long before Jane Austen got here. The Romans loved the natural hot springs, thought to have medicinal properties, and built a magnificent bath complex and temple to the goddess Sulis-Minerva. Known as the best preserved and oldest Roman spa in the world, this complex and museum is fascinating to visit. Time your visit for late afternoon when the crowds have thinned out and flaming torches are lit around the central Great Bath - it is an unforgettable sight!
Adjacent to the Roman Baths is Bath Abbey, a functioning parish church and former monastery founded in the 7th century. Remodelled in the 1820s with flying buttresses, pinnacles, fan vaulted ceilings and stained glass windows, it is an oasis of calm and serenity. As you walk around soaking it all in, pause to read some of the tomb stones and plaques, poignant epitaphs to the lives of people buried here many centuries ago.
Bath's elegant Georgian buildings, constructed with local Bath stone, glow a rich honey gold in the sun as you walk through its lively streets lined with shops and restaurants. One of Bath's most iconic sites, the famous Pulteney bridge, straddles the river Avon and is a nice place to shop or have a bite to eat while taking in the view.
Take a break from sightseeing and step into a delightful, quaint little teashop for a warm scone and a cup of tea. The scones are almost always baked in house, from a recipe handed down many generations (which will never ever be divulged to anyone!). We had cream tea at The Bath Bun, a charming, old world teashop steeped in history, with some of the best scones in town.
For a proper English tea with sandwiches, cakes, scones and even live classical music visit the elegant Pump Rooms, where they will provide you with all this and champagne too!
Built in 1795, overlooking the Roman Baths, the Pump Rooms were the social hub of Bath's fashionable elite. They would gather here in the mornings to take the waters, to see and be seen. It is easy to imagine Jane Austen being a frequent visitor here!
You too can have a taste of Bath's famous curative hot springs water right in the Pump Rooms. It is said to contain 43 minerals and an 'unusual taste'. We tried it and can tell you that the taste is definitely an acquired one!
Cakey, crumbly scones are not difficult to make if you follow some key rules: don't over work or handle the dough too much, use chilled butter and make sure the height or thickness of your dough circle is about one and a half inches before cutting out the scones. Scones taste best the day they are made, so eat them right out of the oven, loaded with clotted cream and jam! For more of delicious British baking, try Sticky Toffee Pudding!
2 cups all purpose flour + 2 tbsp for dusting
4 tbsp granulated white sugar
1 tbsp + 1 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp baking soda
Pinch of salt
6 tbsp cold butter, cut up into small pieces
1/2 cup golden raisins or chopped dried pitted apricots
1/2 cup each: milk, whipping cream
1 large egg
2 tbsp turbinado or demerara sugar
Clotted cream and strawberry jam
Preheat oven to 400F. Line a baking tray with parchment.
Combine 2 cups of flour, sugar, baking powder, baking soda and salt in mixing bowl. Pass through a fine sieve into another deep mixing bowl.
Add butter and gently but quickly work it into the flour mixture, rubbing it in with your finger tips until it resembles coarse sand.
Fold in the dried raisins or apricots.
Combine milk, cream and egg in small bowl, beating gently to mix. Reserve 2 tbsp of this mixture in separate small bowl for later use in the recipe.
Add remaining milk, cream and egg mixture to flour mixture, mixing it in gently. Knead lightly with your hands until mixture comes together in a sticky mass. Do not overwork the dough or knead it too much.
Dust clean counter top or work surface with 2 tbsp all purpose flour and turn out dough onto it. Roll gently to coat dough, then shape it into a 1 1/2 (one and a half) inch thick circle, patting it gently to even it out.
Using a 1 1/2 or 2 inch round cookie cutter, cut out scones from dough, placing them on parchment lined tray. Push straight down, don't twist the cookie cutter through the dough to avoid over handling. Reshape the dough gently and cut out more scones from it, placing on tray. If desired, cut wedge shaped scones instead of using a cookie cutter.
Brush tops of scones with reserved milk, cream and egg mixture, then sprinkle evenly with turbinado or demerara sugar.
Let scones rise for 30 min on counter top. Bake for 18-20 min or until they are risen, increased in size and tops are golden.
Serve with clotted cream and strawberry jam.
Makes about 6 scones