One of the best-preserved ancient sites in Europe, the Roman Baths are a must-see. Admire the colonnaded pools and immerse yourself into the story of Romans at your leisure. The Roman Baths are a 5-minute walk from the train station.
Royal Crescent, Bath, South west England
South west heritage & maritime
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This 5-day itinerary offers a glimpse into the past with the city of Bath and its Georgian era architecture combined with its Roman heritage. This is followed by Stonehenge which dates back thousands of years and located near the beautiful city of Salisbury. Then on to Portsmouth with its rich naval history and unmissable attractions including Spinnaker Tower which offers panoramic views across Southern England. Finishing with Brighton, the regency era city with a vibrant history, including the Brighton Pavilion, where the exuberant Prince Regent lived in the 19th century.
Start your journey
Catch the train from London Paddington to Bath in the morning: the journey takes around 1 hour and 25 minutes. Alternatively, if you’re coming from Bristol, you can catch the Plus Bus to Bristol Temple Meads, which is just a 15-minute ride. For rail journeys with several stops like this, you should get a BritRail South West Pass to make your trip as simple and cost-effective as possible.
Days 1-2: Bath
For centuries Bath has been the place people come to relax. The Romans came here for the hot thermal waters, and the Roman Baths are still a centrepiece of the city. The Victorians came here to take the healing waters and to shop: as a result, Bath today is a mix of ancient culture and refined boutiques, beautiful historic Georgian architecture and elegant eateries.
Things to do in Bath
One of the most famous images of Bath is those golden stone Georgian terraced houses. There’s the magnificent sweep of them at the Royal Crescent, and also a complete circle at the nearby Circus. If you want to experience Georgian life, stop by No. 1 Royal Crescent, where costumed actors will show you around. The Royal Crescent is within walking distance of Bath rail station.
Explore the elegant rooms of the Victoria Art Gallery and take in magnificent works by a great range of painters, from 20th-century artists like Walter Sickert and John Nash to 18th-century figures like Thomas Malton. There are fantastic depictions of Bath throughout the collection. The gallery is within walking distance of Bath station, and entry is free.
Day 3: Salisbury
Catch the train to Salisbury early the next morning, so you can get a full day in the city. The journey takes about 1 hour and 10 minutes. When you arrive, leave your luggage at the hotel so you can explore freely.
Salisbury is one of Britain’s many cathedral cities, and its historic cathedral deserves a visit. Be sure to also explore the city’s historic pubs, see a play at the theatre, or explore the beautiful rural scenery on one of the many footpaths leading out of the city.
Things to do in Salisbury
Catch the bus from Salisbury station to the famous ancient stone circle of Stonehenge. Dating back to about 3100BC, its original purpose and method of construction remain a mystery to this day, though theories suggest everything from sun temples to musical instruments. Don’t miss the brilliant timelapse recreation in the visitor centre, which vividly illustrates the life of the monument from its construction.
Salisbury Cathedral is one of Britain’s most magnificent - a beautiful example of early English architecture, a mix of gothic and Norman. It’s got more than a few superlatives to its name: it has the tallest spire in the UK - you can climb to the top! It also has the largest cloister, and the largest cathedral close in Britain – this large spacious green that surrounds it - ideal for photos!
Old Sarum was where the earliest settlement of Salisbury was located, 2 miles away from the modern city on a hilltop. There’s evidence of habitation here dating back to 3000BC, and the Normans built a great cathedral and a motte-and-bailey fort here in the 11th century, the signs of which can still be seen today.
Things to do in Portsmouth
At Portsmouth’s historic dockyard you’ll find world-famous historic ships. Oldest among them is the incredible Mary Rose, the infamous flagship of King Henry VIII that sank almost 500 years ago. You’ll also find HMS Victory, on which Admiral Lord Nelson (immortalised by Nelson’s Column in London's Trafalgar Square) met his end during the Battle of Trafalgar in 1805.
Built to resemble a wind-filled sail, the Spinnaker tower is a 150m viewing platform which offers fantastic views over Portsmouth and out to sea. It’s two and half times as tall as Nelson’s Column in London, and well worth a visit to get a great look over Southern England.
Head to Gunwharf Quays for shopping, cinema, restaurants and leisure facilities, or even just a walk beside the sea. With 90 outlets stores, 30 restaurants and a 14 screen VUE cinema along with a bowling alley, casino and nightclub, it’s a great place to shop or find some entertainment.
Day 5: Brighton
Brighton is an exciting city on the coast, full of culture, great shopping, and backed by the rolling green landscapes of the South Downs National Park.
After spending the night in Brighton, catch the train back to London (1 hour), or spend another day by the sea and explore more of the city, and catch the train in the evening.
Things to do in Brighton
King George IV’s magnificent pleasure palace is known, rather understatedly, as Brighton Pavilion. Built with grand Indian-style architecture on the outside, its interior is decorated like a Chinese palace, with golden dragons and brilliant colours. Take a guided tour to find its fascinating history. The Pavilion is a 10-minute walk from Brighton station.
Take a voyage to the depths of the ocean at the Sea Life centre. You’ll see everything from sharks to stingrays, seahorses, turtles and more, while you learn all about life underwater, conservation and the animal’s feeding habits! You can get here from the station on foot in 10 minutes.
Get one of the best views of Brighton from the top of the futuristic BA i360, the world’s tallest moving observation tower. You’ll be lifted to 138 metres in the tower’s glass viewing pod: from that height, you can take in Regency Brighton, the beautiful landscapes of the South Downs and all the way to Beachy Head, the Seven Sisters and the Isle of Wight.