Discover Jane Austen in Bath
Yes, embarrassingly enough, I am one of the “Janeites” : a lover of all things Jane Austen who has read and re-read her six novels and watched countless adaptations of her works by the BBC, ITV and others.
As all fans of Jane Austen – and even those who dislike her, but were forced to read her during high school English classes – know, Bath plays prominently in her works. Jane Austen lived in Bath for five years and two of her novels, Northanger Abbey and Persuasion, were largely set there.
So, on a recent trip to London with my two young children, I decided to take a London day trip to Bath, two hours away by train from London’s Paddington Station. My husband was not along on this trip and my two sons are too young to protest, so the timing seemed perfect to make my own pilgrimage to Jane Austen’s former hometown. Bath, an elegant town originally settled by the Ancient Romans and containing stunning Georgian and Victorian architecture, is truly a wonderful European destination, even for non-Jane-obsessed travellers.
Jane Austen walking tour
First up was the Jane Austen walking tour, led by knowledgeable guides who pepper the walking tour commentary with segments from Jane’s letters, scenes from her books and shooting locations of the films.
Fans of the books and films will enjoy the commentary and visiting the real sites of fictional scenes from the books, such as the Assembly Hall where the concert scene in Persuasion takes place, the very room in which the dastardly William Elliot comes between the novel’s protagonists.
In addition to points of interest from Jane Austen’s novels, the walking tour takes in many Bath attractions with their striking architecture, including the abbey, the Roman baths, the Pump Room, the Crescent and the Circus and is a wonderful way to get a feel for the city.
Even decidedly non-Jane Austen fans, such as the two I had in tow on my Bath pilgrimage, will appreciate the expanses of green and parks dotting this graceful city. Clearly, Bath sightseeing offers something for everyone, although, alas, I can’t speak for ‘single women in want of rich husbands’. Readers, any lucky Bath encounters with modern-day Captain Wentworths or Mr. Darcys?
Jane Austen Centre
Situated a few doors away from where Jane actually lived, the Jane Austen Centre is a mock-up of her home.
This quirky little stop is must for Austen fans. Outside you are greeted by a man in costume; he certainly isn’t Darcy, but his manner is cheerful. He is more than willing to pose in any photographs you may be taking, even if you don’t want him to!
Inside, you can watch an introductory film chronicling Jane’s life in Bath and her writing, browse through fragile, yellowing manuscripts, personal articles (like Jane’s handwritten letters to her sister, Cassandra) and other memorabilia, sitting behind a protective sheet of glass. On the terrace there is a charming tearoom, where you can indulge in high tea. But the place that fascinated me the most was the gift shop. It holds some delightful treasures: Jane’s first booklet, published when she was 16; rare first editions that cost an arm and a leg; vintage postcards and posters; and of course the entire Austen collection.
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