Postcard of the Week: Bath
Bath is a small, ancient Roman city set in a beautiful, green valley in rural Somerset. It’s high on the hotlist for foreign visitors to Great Britain and thanks to the tourists that come and spend their money here, it’s a thriving little city in a part of the countryside that otherwise doesn’t get paid a lot of attention internationally. That’s not to say the surrounding area isn’t worth visiting – the Cotswolds and small cities like Cheltenham are said to be stunning, but are normally visited more by us Brits, than by foreigners.
For me, Bath is an interesting example of the influence of international tourism over domestic tourism. The locals of Bath, however, are bothered by both types of tourist and lament the invasion of their hometown. And fair enough, they have nowhere to park in the city, restaurants are overly expensive and crowds abound. But would Bath be so prosperous and enjoy such a good reputation for quality of life if it weren’t for the investment from tourism? Tourism is also a source of employment for many of the locals.
I’ve visited Bath a number of times: once with my parents aged 7, once on a school trip, and once for a ball in a Georgian townhouse. I last went to Bath for a weekend last November with friends, one of whom is a local, during the Christmas Markets (which were just enchanting!) and the crowds were quite astounding. Here’s my blog post on the lovely weekend away. But the city maintains most of its charm despite the crowds, in my opinion, and it does throw up the interesting debate of the delicate balance and the positive/negative impact that tourism can have on a place. I’m currently reading a fascinating book called Overbooked: the Exploding Business of Travel & Tourism by Elizabeth Becker and it deals with just this debate.