The soothing hot springs of this English city are dynamic conduits of the past and future, writes Jamie Lafferty.
In volcanic terms, modern Britain is rather dull. Our calderas are extinct, our tectonic plates long settled. The best chance you have of seeing lava is trapped inside an ugly lamp. The Somerset town of Bath, 150 kilometres south-west of London, is one of the few exceptions. While hardly Krakatoan in its volcanology, here, water still bubbles from the underworld, and while there are one or two other spa towns around Britain, nowhere else is there thermally heated waters – nor quite so many million tourists visiting them every year.
That makes Bath unique, and when added to all that gorgeous Georgian architecture, makes it a city that’s extremely easy to love. Bath today is the quintessence of Englishness as imagined by fans of Jane Austen – the author lived here from 1801 to 1806. But simultaneously, Bath represents something pre-England altogether, a proto-Britain at the extreme edge of the Roman Empire.