South West archeological days out: Roman Baths and the Kennet & Avon Canal

The spectacular Roman baths offer a watery break from canalside explorations

Roman Baths and the Kennet & Avon Canal


The UK’s canals cover much of the country and often pass close to sites of great archaeological significance and historic interest, most of which pre-date the Canal Age by centuries. One of the grandest of these is in the city of Bath, where the Kennet & Avon Canal takes visitors to the remarkable Roman remains of this historic city. The baths have helped make Bath a World Heritage Site and the neighbouring museum contains numerous Roman archaeological artefacts, including votive offerings that were thrown into the spring that feeds the baths. Archaeological excavations are still taking place here – the oldest mosaic yet discovered at the baths was uncovered in February 2018 by a volunteer with a local archaeological society. For any fans of history and archaeology, this is a must see city.

The Kennet & Avon Canal was constructed to connect the Avon with the Thames. Stretching almost 90 miles from the south east into the south west, it actually consists of three separate waterways: the Kennet and Avon Rivers, both made navigable, and the Kennet & Avon Canal to connect them. The canal linking the two rivers was engineered by John Rennie. Rennie also ensured that where the route passed through Bath, the bridges and buildings were in keeping with the Georgian architecture.

The Roman baths had remained an attraction throughout the city’s history. A temple and bathing complex had been constructed by the Romans on the site of hot springs dedicated to the goddess Sulis. More than 12,000 Roman coins have been recovered from the Sacred Spring, and a gilt bronze statue of Sulis was discovered in 1727 – these are on display in the museum. The baths themselves are considered to be one of the greatest religious spas in the ancient world, and attract more than one million visitors a year. Roman discoveries continue to be made in Bath, and the museum holds the Beau Street Hoard, which was discovered in 2007. This contains a staggering 17,577 coins that were found in eight separate money bags, spanning a period from 32 BC to 274 AD.

You can plan your visit to the Roman Baths and find out more about the Kennet & Avon on our website.

Clive G