By Anne McCarthy
December marks the birthday month of the celebrated English author Jane Austen. Austen, best known for her Regency-era books like Pride and Prejudice and Emma, was born on December 16, 1775, in Steventon, England.
Later in life, Austen’s family moved to Bath; still, the city is widely associated with the famous writer. The train from London to Bath takes approximately 80 minutes, and it’s an easy journey from the central train stations in London. (If you’re looking for more ideas for day trips from London, check out our article “Day Trips from London: Roald Dahl’s Oxford.”) If you’re in the UK in September and you’re a Jane Austen fan, you do not want to miss the annual Jane Austen Festival. More on that below!
When you are in London, come visit us at Fat Tire Tours London for some exciting adventures around the Big Smoke! We would love to show you around the city.
Jane Austen & Bath
Jane Austen, though widely associated with Bath to this day, was not the biggest fan of the English city. After leaving Bath, she wrote to her sister Cassandra: “It will be two years tomorrow since we left Bath for Clifton, with what happy feelings of escape.”
However, there is so much to love about Bath, and Austen clearly found some of the city’s pearls and jewels because the city was featured in her most celebrated works–in both positive and less positive ways. (In Northanger Abbey, Isabella Thorpe says to Catherine Morland, “I get so immoderately sick of Bath; your brother and I were agreeing this morning that though it is vastly well to be here for a few weeks, we would not live here for millions.) Both her novels Northanger Abbey and Persuasion, are set in Bath.
In 1801, Austen had her first extended stay in the Georgian-inspired city, and it wholly shaped some of her literary works. Her first visit to the city occurred in 1797, and then she moved there with her family four years later. (Jane was one of six children in the Austen family.) At the time her family moved to Bath, it was known as a spa retreat for wealthy English people, and it was considered a fashionable city where people could expand their network and make connections. Bath was full of events that fostered networking and expanding one’s social circle, such as tea time appointments, theatre shows, card games, and, of course, balls.
While living in Bath, Austen lived at several different properties: 4 Sydney Place (her family lived here from 1801 to 1804), the Green Park Buildings, and 25 Gay Street. It was at 4 Sydney Place where her family lived for the longest period during their time in Bath.
Visit the Jane Austen Centre
If you’re keen to learn more about Jane Austen while in Bath, be sure to visit the Jane Austen Centre at 40 Gay Street. There, you can learn all about this iconic writer. It’s located in a gorgeous Georgian building in the heart of Bath, not too far from the Royal Crescent or Bath Abbey (both are major tourist attractions in Bath).
At the Jane Austen Centre, you can view different exhibits, do interactive crafts, listen to talks about the writer, dine in the tearoom and sip tea, and do some shopping in the extensive gift shop. The Jane Austen Centre is open every day during the summer from 9:45am – 6:00pm. During winter, it’s open Sunday to Friday 10am – 4:30pm, Saturday 10:00am – 5:30pm.
Address: 40 Gay Street, Bath, United Kingdom, BA1 2NT
Attend to The Jane Austen Festival in September
This is truly a one-of-a-kind experience! For the past 22 years, the city of Bath has hosted the Jane Austen Festival. It’s the longest-running, largest celebration of Jane Austen in the entire world. Next year’s festival runs September 13-22, 2024. Tickets for the various festival events and balls go on sale in Spring 2024.
This 10-day festival features a Regency costume parade, a costume ball, theatre performances, walking tours, book readings, Austen-related lectures, and much more. During these ten days, Austenites will overtake the city, and you’ll regularly see men and women wearing Regency-era garb. It’s truly a fantastic time to be in Bath.
Enjoy a Tea in the Pump Room
Bath’s famous Pump Room was built in 1704 by John Harvey, who built it with the intention of the English aristocrats “taking the waters,” or enjoying the healing properties of the water in Bath. The Pump Room near Bath Abbey saw booming business when it first opened in the 1700s. Due to its popularity, a newer, bigger Pump Room was built in 1795 and opened as a tea salon. At the time, musicians were hired to entertain guests who came to sip tea there.
It’s likely that Jane Austen herself visited the Pump Room for afternoon tea. She even mentions the locations in her novel Northanger Abbey, writing of the Pump Room that it was busy with: “…every creature in Bath, except himself, was to be seen in the room at different periods of the fashionable hours; crowds of people were every moment passing in and out, up the steps and down.”
Address: Searcys at the Pump Room, Stall St, Bath BA1 1LZ, United Kingdom
Stroll around the Royal Crescent
Even if you’ve never been to Bath, you’ve likely seen the Royal Crescent before; this is because it has been featured in countless Jane Austen film and television adaptions, as well as various movies and TV shows, including Netflix’s hit series, Bridgerton, and The Duchess starring Keira Knightley.
The Royal Crescent has been called “a jewel in the crown of Bath’s architecture.” John Wood completed it in 1775, the year Austen was born. Jane Austen’s aunt, Jane Cooper, lived at number 12 Royal Crescent. Walking along the majestic Georgian houses along Royal Crescent and looking out over the hill at the views of Avon Valley will take your breath away. Ten for ten – recommend.
Address: The Royal Crescent, Bath BA1 2LR, UK
Anne McCarthy is the Editor in Chief of the Fat Tire Tours Blog. She is a contributing writer to the BBC, The Washington Post, The Guardian, Wired, and many more. She splits her time between the U.S. and Europe.