Lightly overcast to start the day but deteriorated, or maybe normalised, into light then later heavy showers. Last night's stay in the Swan Hotel was a definite win. Very nice little hotel. Opening in the early 1700s as a Beer House and becoming the Swan Hotel in the mid-1800 has just been refurbished keeping its old world charm. Very nice and large room, pleasant staff and a great chef.
The extra distance yesterday paid dividends today with the drive to Cheddar only taking about 10 minutes giving plenty of time for a look around. Cheddar claims to be the home of the original cheddar cheese. Cheddar cheese is still made in a factory in the town and the cheese blocks matured in cages within the cave. The cave remains at a constant temperature of 11 degrees C. We took the time to take a tour of Gough's Cave. This cave was opened in 1898 after a period of 8 years to excavate and open it up for public access. In 1903, the fossilised skeleton of a male was excavated from the cave and became known as Cheddar Man, Britain's oldest complete human skeleton, dated as around 7150BC. A replica of the skeleton is in place where it was found. The cave has a number of large dramatic formations and also has a deep underground river access to divers.
The drive up out of the Gorge has some spectacular rock formations until you come out on the Mendip Hills plateau giving a great drive across to Bath.
The primary target in Bath was the old Roman Baths. Very interesting story behind these baths, The baths are fed by a hot spring of which one of the first unverified mention was in 836BC. The Roman invasion led to a creation of the town of Aquae Sulis, ("the waters of Sulis"), around the hot spring in the early 1st century and built the Temple to Sulis Minerva around 70AD. Over the next 300 years a magnificent complex of covered baths was built. When the Romans left in the 5th century, the buildings deteriorated and centuries of the River Avon flooding covered the buildings with silt and debris. Other baths have been built here over the centuries and in some cases, over the old baths themselves. The record seems to show that the latest "discovering of the Roman Baths" was in the late 18th century, under what is now the city of Bath.
The Great Pool, built around 1900 years ago was lined with lead sheets. These sheets were so well made joined together, that the pool is still waterproof today. The remains of the complex is underground under current buildings and roadways. In one room, two large columns have been installed to support the roadway above. A museum is included in the complex and contains a large collection of artifacts and stone relics of the building and associated life including statues, coins and tombstones. With all the silt and debris cleared, the original Roman drains still carry the waters from the springs to the River Avon.
Then it was out into the rain for a walk around the central city. First to the Jane Austen Centre. The famous author paid two long visits to Bath toward the end of the 18th century and lived here from 1801-06. The Centre tells the time of her stay in Bath and the effect it had on her writing.
Then it was on to the Pulteney Bridge over the Avon. This bridge is one of only four in the world that has been built with shops on the bridge deck down both sides of the bridge. With time running out on the parking meter, it's a full time job feeding these things and there is very little free street parking in any town over here, we headed back to the car park, still in the rain.
Our route took us past the famous Sally Lunn's House. Sally Lunn is famous for the original Bath Bun and the house is one of the oldest in Bath. Its history can be traced back to around the time of the Roman Baths although the house has changed significantly since then. Sally Lunn arrived in the house around 1680 and the now bakery and coffee house has been a house of hospitality and refreshment since then and some findings show it may have been that originally.
Tomorrow we are on the road again to see a Lady upon a white horse.