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Centuries before Bath was Bath Spa, its hot mineral springs were venerated, first by the Celts and then by the Romans who made Aquae Sulis a shrine to their goddess Minerva. In Somerset’s mythical ‘Vale of Avalon’, Glastonbury Tor is literally the Holy Grail of spiritual pilgrimages.
Don’t miss Bath Abbey, the so-called ‘Lantern of the West’ – a marvel of fan vaulting, flying buttresses and carved angels. For a bird’s-eye view of Bath, take a Tower Tour.
Many of Bristol’s churches were damaged in the Blitz, but the city’s skyline is still punctuated by the towers and spires of the religious. The splendour of the Cathedral, the centre of Bristol’s spiritual life since 1140, is matched by the grace of St Mary Redcliffe, described by Elizabeth I as ‘one of the most beautiful churches in England’.
Temples of the non-conformist
Built in 1739, the modest New Room, tucked behind the shops in Bristol’s city centre, is the world’s oldest Methodist chapel, and its integral museum tells the story of Methodism’s non-conformist founders, John and Charles Wesley.
The Roman Catholic Clifton Cathedral is not everyone’s cup of tea, but the post-war building is now Grade II* listed as a significant example of post-war brutalism. A ‘sermon in concrete’ is how it was described after its completion in 1973.
Bath and Bristol are excellent bases to explore the wider region: head south east to the ancient sites at Stonehenge and Avebury, south west to Glastonbury Tor and the magnificent Wells Cathedral, and north to Gloucester, Tewkesbury and Malmesbury for the abbeys and cathedrals of the Cotswolds.