United Kingdom

The Best Free Walking Tour in Bath, England

One very cool thing about the city of Bath is its size and how compact it is. Many people visiting London will take a day trip over to Bath and are able to see everything in the city in under two hours. (Crazy, right?)

Of course, when I say see, I mean walk to all the major sites, snap a picture, and move on. It’s not how I prefer to travel, I’m just saying it can be done.

The Best Free Walking Tour In Bath, England

Free Walking Tour in Bath

If you’re visiting Bath and you’ve only got two hours to spare, let me recommend how you should spend it. There are several walking tours you can take, but a lot of visitors don’t realize there is actually a free walking tour in Bath. How often does that happen? The free walking tours are provided by the Mayor’s Corps of Honorary Guides and they will accept no compensation, not even a small tip. These guys are happy to volunteer their time simply because they love the city and love being able to share it with others.

The tours start in the courtyard in front of Bath Abbey and the Roman Baths (pictured above). Our particular tour group gathered over by the Pump Room where Cory and I were, by far, the youngest. That’s okay – we were perfectly happy to represent the 0-60 age group!

Things You’ll See on a Walking Tour in Bath

The Best Free Walking Tour In Bath, England

Bath Abbey

John, our guide, started the tour off by telling us the history behind the Roman Baths and the significance of the architecture of Bath Abbey. I’ll spare you all those details now since I intend on posting about each of them separately later this week. I did, however, learn not even thirty seconds after instagramming a photo of Bath Abbey with the caption “cathedral love” that an abbey is indeed not a cathedral. Oops.

The Best Free Walking Tour In Bath, England

The Best Free Walking Tour In Bath, England

The Royal Crescent

Next up on our walking tour in Bath was the Royal Crescent, a set of thirty homes laid out in a majestic crescent-shape, famous for both its design and the notable residents who’ve lived there since the late 1700’s.

If you haven’t noticed yet, all of the buildings in Bath are pretty much the same color. They’re made out of golden-colored limestone called Bath Stone. Their uniformity in color is far from dull, however. It’s like the whole city has been dipped in honey!

Bath has a lot of old world charm, mostly due to the Georgian architecture that was so popular in the 18th and 19th centuries in England. Both Cory and I agreed that cars seem out of place here. In my opinion, everyone in Bath should still be getting around in fancy horse-drawn carriages with drivers wearing top hats.

The Best Free Walking Tour In Bath, England

The Best Free Walking Tour In Bath, England

The Circus

Three crescent-shaped buildings placed in a circle around a central green round-about make up the Circus in Bath. The Circus and the Royal Crescent are actually quite similar in appearance, if not size, and this is due in part to the father-son team that designed and built them both. The Circus was designed by John Wood The Elder and built after his death by his son, John Wood The Younger. The Royal Crescent was John Wood The Younger’s project. (Their names make me smile. These days, they’d just be John Wood, Sr and John Wood, Jr. This way is much more fun.) Hollywood fact: Nicolas Cage used to live here!

From my camera’s point of view, both the Circus and the Royal Crescent were nearly impossible to photograph. I couldn’t fit the entire span of the Royal Crescent into the frame, and there was no chance of getting more than a piece at a time of the Circus without taking an aerial shot. (Go, go gadget jet pack!) Suffice it to say, both were much more magnificent in person.

The Best Free Walking Tour In Bath, England

The Best Free Walking Tour In Bath, England

Pulteney Bridge

My favorite part of our walking tour in Bath was when we headed over to Pulteney Bridge on the River Avon. Pulteney Bridge is famous for being one of the only bridges in the world with shops lining the length of the bridge on both sides, but my favorite part about this place was just standing on the overlook and watching the ducks play in the water below the bridge. There are cruises you can take down the River Avon, but since we had just done something similar in Amsterdam, we chose to walk a good length of the river instead. The further you walk down the river, the better view you’ll get of Pulteney Bridge, too. Up close it is nearly impossible to capture all three tunnels under the bridge in a picture without the overlook getting in the way.

The Best Free Walking Tour In Bath, England

Bath’s Hidden Gems

Besides the main attractions, our walking tour in Bath also took us around various side streets to see some of the neat older buildings that aren’t necessarily famous. This is when we got to hear some of Bath’s most interesting stories as well. For instance, we learned why so many of the windows in Bath’s homes are closed in with bricks and other materials. In 1696, the town imposed a “window tax” on homeowners that forced them to pay a certain amount of money per window. In response, homeowners began bricking in their windows to avoid paying extra money. The law has since been repealed, but many of the windows remain filled in today.

The Best Free Walking Tour In Bath, England

I’ve never been in a city with history dating back as far as that of Bath’s. Due to its age and uniqueness, not just a single landmark, but the entire city has been designated a UNESCO world heritage site. (I’m having fun marking these off my list!) Bath is so full of history and stories that we wouldn’t have known about if we hadn’t taken this tour. If you’re visiting Bath, you can certainly see all of these places without joining a tour, but you’ll be missing out on all the quirky facts and funny commentary the Mayor’s Corps of Honorary Guides are dishing out for free!

Mayor’s Corps Of Honorary Guides: Website
Address: Abbey Church Yard, Bath BA1 5AW

Did you enjoy this article or find it helpful? Save it for later on Pinterest!

The Best Free Walking Tour In Bath, England

Share this post:

  • Phuong Hoang
    August 7, 2018 at 10:16 PM

    Hello, I’m an asian student who is going to study abroad in England soon. You blog posts are really, really amazing. It’s great in detailed and also inspired me a lot to take time traveling around UK. I just wanna thank you for your helpful information. Hope you can continue writing more about UK. Thank you so much <3

    • Sarah Shumate
      August 8, 2018 at 8:59 AM

      Thank you so much for leaving such a kind comment! I really do appreciate it. :)

      I hope you enjoy your time studying abroad in England – hopefully you’ll be able to make lots of weekend trips while you’re there! I’ll have several new posts about the UK going up next month, so be on the lookout for those in September!

  • Connie Weiss
    October 10, 2013 at 2:16 AM

    You’ve convinced me. I must visit England before my husband is too old to walk.

  • Emmymom
    October 9, 2013 at 7:09 AM

    How funny there was a window tax, I think I would brick some up too. The crescent building is so cool! Love it. Your pictures could be post cards

  • emi
    October 9, 2013 at 6:22 AM

    love bath and love your amazing photos of it! xo

  • Ashlee - I'll Love You Forever
    October 9, 2013 at 6:19 AM

    Gorgeous! I love the architecture of the buildings! That is so awesome that they volunteer their time and are happy to do so. Great pictures!

  • Melanie Fontaine
    October 9, 2013 at 5:19 AM

    I visited Bath twice in my Teenage Years, but I’m planning to take a day trip there from London on one of next visits. This place really is beautiful! The architecture reminds me a bit of the New Town in Edinburgh, which I loved, so I’m sure I’ll love Bath too once I visit again! :) The Royal Crescent is a very impressive building!

  • Natalie
    October 9, 2013 at 4:38 AM

    Um amazing!!! I want to come visit you now!

  • Katrin
    October 9, 2013 at 1:16 AM

    What a great post! Love all your pictures! I would love to travel to Bath! And you rarely get some free tours anywhere so that’s pretty awesome! Thanks for sharing!

  • Miwa
    October 8, 2013 at 11:21 PM

    Wow, thank you for this post! It felt like I was on a tour. The pictures (especially the ones of the Pulteney Bridge) made me swoon. Reading your posts always makes me want to pack up and go on a trip!

  • Erin P
    October 8, 2013 at 1:18 PM

    Love your pictures (as always)!! It’s fun traveling through other’s eyes.

  • Nicole
    October 8, 2013 at 5:39 AM

    I love that you guys were the youngest in the group! I’m sure it was pretty slow-going :) My favorite I think is the Crescent houses! What a unique and somewhat oddly-shaped set of houses. Pretty though!

  • Quyen Nguyen
    October 8, 2013 at 3:42 AM

    Oh man, the architecture of Bath is beautiful. Your pictures have transported me to another world! Great shots!

  • Jenn
    October 8, 2013 at 1:43 AM

    I would love to go to Bath! Bath Abbey looks beautiful!

  • Jo
    October 8, 2013 at 1:16 AM

    I think I need to find time to go see Bath for myself … if only I could find a tour guide …

  • Alex Fahey
    October 8, 2013 at 1:05 AM

    Hahahaha 0-60! I loved Bath! I took the audio guide of the different Roman baths and I switched it the children’s audio tour and it was so funny and informative. I got the same information from the adult audio tour, but in more of a fun way. Did you try the pump water?

  • Tammy Chrzan
    October 8, 2013 at 1:03 AM

    I have enjoyed all of your posts and photos of Bath, you know it’s just so Shakespear looking, don’t you think? and on that gorgeous bridge, somewhere around there (It’s been over 20 years) there is a Tammy & Nick and then the date we were there in the 80’s… who knows, probably painted over now. Here I am commenting about how I was such a hoolagan! Ha! Did you know the band “Tears For Fears” is from Bath? One of my favorite bands from the 80’s and the reason I actually visited the city to start with, of course once we were there and did all of the tours I was in love for other reasons…
    I hope you have a wonderful week!
    Tammy x

  • Keith Wynn
    October 7, 2013 at 11:23 PM

    Oh my goodness this place looks simply breathtaking!! By the way I added you on Instagram if that’s ok?

  • Dannielle @ Chicadeedee
    October 7, 2013 at 10:18 PM

    I’ve wanted to go since I got to England. Too many places! In Belgium on our river trip in Bruges we found out about the window tax thing there, so strange.

  • Tina @ Girl-Meets-Globe
    October 7, 2013 at 9:01 PM

    Way to go representing the 0-60s! Ha! That made me laugh!! Sounds like a fun tour guide and group!! Everything is so gorgeous!! We have got to get over there!!