The city of Bath has a surprising amount of open space, and several walking trails. For those who don’t mind a few hills it is easy to get into the surrounding countryside. And there is a reward for climbing the hills: the views across the city. The Bath Skyline Walk was designed with these views in mind: a 9.6 km (6 mile) circular walk with a varied terrain.
UNESCO World Heritage: Unifying Nature and City
One of many reasons for Bath’s designation as a UNESCO World Heritage Site is that it exemplifies the “unifying of nature and city” that was an ideal of 18th century urban design. The city lies at the bottom of a steep valley, and crescents of houses have been built into the contours of the surrounding hills. The top of the valley is ringed with fields and woodland, offering spectacular views over the Georgian city.
The Skyline Walk exploits these features of the city. Starting less than a mile from the town centre it soon climbs into woods, and then to open grassland. There are frequent glimpses of the city below, and of the Georgian terraces in the opposite hills.
Enjoying the Bath Skyline Walk
The Bath Skyline Walk is managed by the National Trust. It is well waymarked, beginning on Bathwick Hill, around a mile from Bath Abbey. A noticeboard shows the route, and you can pick up a leaflet with walking directions and a map (this is also available online). You are advised to follow the walk in a clockwise direction.
It isn’t long before you start climbing: don’t forget to look behind you for the views! The walk is very varied, going through forest and pastureland, and passing a golf course and fields with cows and sheep. As you come towards the end you realise why you have walked in a clockwise route: the final descent gives unparallelled views over the Georgian city.
There are two alternative, shorter, routes that allow you to enjoy the views.
Family Discovery Trail
The Skyline Walk goes through a Woodland Play Area, a good place to stop if you are walking with children. However families may prefer the Family Discovery Trail, a 3.2 km (2 mile) version of the full walk. This trail includes the Play Area, as well as the Long Wood “Elf and Fairy Foray”. There are also geocaches, challenges and picnic tables along the way.
Walk to the View
The 4.8 km (3 mile) Walk to the View trail is mostly around the city and the bottom of the valley, taking in the river and a stretch of canal. However it ends with a climb through Bathwick Fields to enjoy the best views over Bath.
What to See on the Bath Skyline Walk
As you follow the Skyline Walk it is possible to divert to various points of interest along the way.
The Sham Castle
The first place you come to is the Sham Castle, a 200m detour from the route. This castle is a folly, built in 1762 for Ralph Allen, the entrepreneur who was responsible for the quarrying of the Bath Stone that gives the city its distinctive appearance. As you approach the Sham Castle you have a view of the golf course behind the central arch; walk to the other side for a view of the city.
American Museum and Gardens
Later on the walk passes a path to the American Museum and Gardens. This is the only museum of American history and folk tradition in Britain, and includes an extensive collection of quilts. The gardens offer views in the opposite direction, across the Avon Valley.
The final potential detour is Prior Park, around 300m from Rainbow Wood Fields. (However, note that this detour is likely to be closed for a while from August 2019 to allow for construction work.)
Watch a short video clip of the varied walk and views on the Skyline Walk.
A Few Practicalities
How to Get to the Bath Skyline Walk
The Skyline Walk begins at the junction of Bathwick Hill and Cleveland Walk. If you don’t want to walk from the centre of Bath you can take the U1 bus from North Parade: the bus stops at the start of the trail. Driving is not recommended as there is no parking nearby.
Some of the woodland sections have uneven surfaces, and are easier if you are wearing boots or strong shoes. The woods have occasional steep drops where children will need to be supervised.
Food and Drink
It is advisable to carry water with you. Around a third of the way round you can stop at the Bath Cats and Dogs Home for toilets, drinks and snacks. Otherwise you will need to leave the path to find food and drink.