Courtesy of Bristol Cathedral

Sacred and Spiritual

From healing springs to rousing hymns

Day 1

Sample Bath's healing waters and climb the abbey tower

Enticing pilgrims with its mysterious natural hot springs for centuries, Bath continues to be a welcoming centre for pilgrims and spiritual seekers to this day.

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Courtesy of Bath Abbey

Bath Abbey

Dubbed ‘the lantern of the West’ for its large clear glazed windows set in soaring gothic architecture, the present abbey stands on the site of the original dating back to 757. See the west front with its unique 'Ladders of Angels' ascending and descending into heaven, a vision said to have been seen in a dream by a medieval Bishop of Bath.

Venue information
  • Walk 1 min
The Roman Baths, Bath UK
Photo by Andy Fletcher

The Roman Baths

Begun in 70AD, this remarkably well-preserved complex was built on the site of a Celtic centre dedicated to the goddess Sulis, whom the Romans identified with Minerva.

Minerva's bronze head, one the best-known objects of Roman Britain, was originally atop her gilded statue within the Bath complex - the Baths were centred around a temple to the goddess who was a focus of worship for more than 400 years.

Venue information
  • Walk 5 mins
  • Walk 2 mins
Cross Bath
Photo by Phillip Edwards

Cross Bath

Walk down Bath Street to the Georgian pool, now owned by Thermae Bath Spa, which stands where the Celts revered their goddess Sulis - in whose honour the Romans named their spa town, Aquae Sulis. Now recognised as an official sacred site, it was believed to have miraculous healing powers for both royalty wanting to improve their fertility, and those ‘diseasid with Lepre, Pokkes, Scabbes, and great Aches’ according to antiquary John Leland.

Bring your swimming costume if you want to take a dip. 1.5 hours starts at £18.

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Photo by Jon McAteer

En route

Head back past the Roman Baths and the Abbey and take a left up High Street. This stretch of road has some great independent eateries for an afternoon re-fuel or a local pint at The Bell pub.

© Fiona Campbell Art, Walcot Chapel

Walcot Chapel Art Space

Walcot Chapel is a former mortuary chapel, dating back to 1783. Built in the rather unusual Neo-Norman style, the burial ground contains memorials including that of the writer Fanny Burney (d.1840), an English satirical novelist, diarist and playwright.

Now leased by the local council as a very popular venue for art exhibitions, it is an attractive, light-filled space well worth a stroll on this stretch of road out of the centre. See their Twitter page for updates.

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Day 2

Bristol: Medieval to Methodist

Once known as 'the City of Churches', Bristol's landscape has long been admired for its dedications to the sacred and spiritual.

Arnos Vale Cemetery
Courtesy of Arnos Vale

Arnos Vale

Under a mile from Bristol Temple Meads train station lies the heavenly Victorian cemetery at Arnos Vale. Designed in the style of an ancient Greek necropolis and set in 45 acres of Arcadian landscape, Arnos Vale is filled with classical buildings, historic monuments, sweeping carriage drives and wildlife trails. Fully restored, this unique heritage site now hosts a wide range of events including weddings, exhibitions and film nights, as well as, of course, funerals.

Venue information
  • Bus 10 mins
  • Walk 25 mins
  • Cycle 10 mins
St Mary Redcliffe, Bristol
Photo by Emily Whitfield-Wicks, courtesy of St Mary Redcliffe Church

St Mary Redcliffe

Declared by Queen Elizabeth I to be the ‘fairest, godliest and most famous parish church in England’, the church was built on the red cliff above the old medieval port. It was here, at the shrine of Our Lady of Redcliffe, that the city’s merchants would begin and end their voyages.

Venue information
  • Walk 15 mins
  • Cycle 5 mins
Photo Philip Halling, St Peter's Church in Castle Park

En route

A walk down Redcliffe Bridge and Welsh Back goes through the heart of medieval Bristol, mostly destroyed during the Blitz in 1940. The ruins of St. Peters Church in Castle Park stand as a memorial.

Courtesy of New Room

New Room

The New Room is paradoxically the oldest Methodist building in the world. Built in 1739 by John Wesley, one of the founders of Methodism, it now also houses an excellent museum. Exhibitions include the story of John Wesley and his brother Charles, a display on 18th century Bristol and the city's links to Methodism, and information on how the movement spread across the world.

Venue information
  • Walk 10 mins
Photo by Drow Male

Lord Mayors Chapel Bristol

If anything deserves the well worn cliche ‘hidden gem’, it is this modest but charming medieval church which boasts two exquisite side chapels, medieval glass, fine monuments and fascinating memorials. The only municipally-owned church in the country, the Lord Mayor's Chapel does not have a parish or particular denomination. Opening hours are restricted, check with the website before visiting.

Venue information
  • Walk 3 mins
Wide shot of Bristol Cathedral with College Green in the foreground and people sat on the grass
Courtesy of Bristol Cathedral

Bristol Cathedral

Across College Green lies the medieval Bristol Cathedral, still at the centre of the city’s civic and cultural life after nearly a thousand years. Once the Abbey of St Augustine, the current building dates back to 1140 and, as one of the finest examples of a medieval 'hall church', was described by the architectural historian Nikolaus Pevsner as 'superior to anything else built in Europe at the same time'.

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