Visiting the Roman Baths with toddlers
On the face of it, visiting the Roman Baths with toddlers is probably a bad idea. This top attraction in the UNESCO city of Bath in England doesn’t have a children’s play area, the cafe isn’t the type of place you’d expect to find a Fruit Shoot and it’s one huge water hazard. So, why did we visit the Roman Baths during our recent weekend in Bath courtesy of Visit Bath?
Basically, it was because I wanted to go. Yes, a rare day out for the benefit of mummy! I love history and despite a previous fail visiting a UNESCO world heritage site with young children, I thought we should give it another whirl. As a bit of a spoiler, I’m so glad we did.
About the Roman Baths at Bath
The Baths were built by the Romans some time between AD 61 and AD 75 following the suppression of the Boudican Revolt. The Baths harnessing the UK’s only thermal spring and cementing the settlement’s place as a historic spa town. The buildings were expanded and used for three centuries before they fell into disuse. Excavations on the site began 300 years ago with many fascinating ancient artefacts being uncovered. The buildings, including a temple to the Goddess Sulis Minerva, now make up the best preserved ancient Roman bath complex in Northern Europe.
Visiting the Roman Baths with toddlers
We visited on a Friday afternoon in term time. There were no queues at the entrance but the Baths were still busy with coach parties of tourists and people wandering in off the street like us. Audio guides are included in the price of your entry and you pick these up in the entrance hall once you’ve paid for your tickets.
Top tip: if your children are old enough to hold an audio guide get one for them as well. For every piece of audio intended for grown up ears there’s another that has been recorded with children in mind. Ancient characters tell them about the spring, the temple and the Baths. Even if your children won’t listen to all the stories they will still want to hold the guide and pretend it’s a phone or camera. Mr Tin Box and I made the mistake of only taking two guides and missed out on the commentary ourselves while the girls hogged them.
You start by wandering out on to the terrace above the steaming green waters of Great Bath. The liquid is this colour because of the algae growing in it. In Roman times there would have been a roof protecting the warm waters from the sunlight which encourages the sludge to grow. This honestly doesn’t detract from the scene though – if anything it makes it even more intriguing for little ones.
Dotted around the terrace are roman sculptures, or soldiers as Tin Box Tot called them. The audio guide tells you more about them, but by this point we’d lost those to the girls.
Were sent the girls’ snuggly Regatta Kids fleece hoodies by Hawkshead and I think they’ll be coming everywhere with us until the weather warms up!
The Roman Bath Museum
Before you reach the level of the Great Bath itself you walk through the museum. This is packed with wonderful exhibits of ancient coins that were thrown into the water centuries ago for good luck, as well as video walls showing you the cast of characters who would have visited the baths. You are also given an insight into the world of the Goddess Sulis Minerva who was associated with the spring. She was originally worshipped by the native Britons but was adopted by the Romans. The head of a statue of the Goddess was discovered during works near the Baths in the 1700s and is now on show here.
We skipped through much of the museum as our girls were already getting restless but were able to entertain them for a short while at an exhibit demonstrating how the massive blocks of Bath stone used to build the complex were moved around. Throughout the museum you also get glimpses of the spring water as it works its way towards the Great Bath. Amazingly 1,106,400 litres of water rise from the ground here every day at a temperature of 46°C.
The Great Bath
As we entered the Great Bath I have to admit that I clung onto our girls a little tighter. And it was a good job too. As soon as Tin Box Baby got close to the water she was raising her little foot to step in. This, and the worn and uneven floor, put me a little on edge for the 15 minutes we stayed in this part of the Baths. But what a place? It was stunning!
In a recess on one side there was a costumed character talking about Roman life in Bath and showing visitors tools and games used centuries ago. Some of the older children there at the same time as us were lapping up the historical details as they were brought to life.
From the Great Bath we walked through the West Baths. Here we could see pillars designed to support underfloor heating and a cold water plunge pool that the Romans would have used after a visit to a sauna-like room. Our last act of our visit was to take a sip of the spring water which is drawn up through a borehole sunk below the King’s Bath. Mr Tin Box, the Tot and I all decided the mineral infused water wasn’t actually that pleasant. However Tin Box Baby went back for more!
Is it possible to visit the Roman Baths with toddlers?
Yes! I loved it and while its primary audience is not families with pre-schoolers we still had a great experience. As with all days out and travel with kids you have to manage your expectations. You’re not going to read all the information and they will dash past historically significant artefacts, but that’s why I always buy the guidebook for reading later. Toddler temperaments aside, the Baths do offer facilities for families like us, so we were certainly welcome.
Family facilities at the Roman Baths
There are lots of facilities for families at The Roman Baths, although you have to remember that this is an ancient site so they might not on par with modern attractions. I had to do quite a bit of wriggling to get into the small toilet cubicles by the entrance with Tin Box Tot, while Mr Tin Box had to enter the ladies toilets with Baby to find the baby changing area.
On the plus side, there’s a safe place to leave your pushchair in the entrance hall and baby carriers are supplied so make it easier to walk up and down the many steps in the Bath complex. The children’s audioguides are a great idea for kids over the age of five and there were plenty of exhibits they can touch – many more than I expected.
Have you been to the Roman Baths? And would you visit with young children?
Disclosure: we were given a press pass to visit The Roman Baths courtesy of Visit Bath. All views are my own and those of my family. We were sent the Regatta fleece hoodies by Hawkshead in exchange for a feature on the blog.
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