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Somerset's Seasonal Delights

Somerset proves a revelation as a Christmas destination for James Henry when he embarks on a coach tour of the county and its attractions

Steam rose from the water of the Roman baths in the lights that were brightening against the incoming December evening. Floodlights picked out the magnificent tower of the abbey while below it the bustle and excitement of the Christmas market grew with the crowds.

It’s not hard to see why Bath is rated as one of the best of Britain’s Christmas markets. The setting on the stone flags of the little streets and squares around the abbey and the baths could win that accolade on its own. It is sealed by the atmosphere of the stalls, radiating bright, warm colours out from the neat wooden chalets.

On display are crafts of all description, from wooden toys to woolly hats and jumpers, from handmade chocolates to Christmas tree decorations. Most of what’s on offer is individual and just a bit different from stuff you can buy in the shops.

Then there’s the aroma of the food stalls, mulled wine mingling with baking potatoes and grilling sausages or the intriguing ‘stew in a box’. There’s even a West Country answer to Germany’s Glühwein – mulled cider. It’s just the job as the evening sets in and your breath begins to show as the temperature drops.

Bath’s market opens on Thursday November 28 and runs for 18 days until Sunday December 15. This year it features more than 140 stalls. The market opens at 10am every day and closes at 7pm Monday to Wednesday, 8pm Thursday to Saturday, and 6pm on Sundays.

There’s plenty more shopping, too, in the Georgian streets near the Christmas market. As a break from shopping we took a tour of the Roman baths. Apart from that magical view at dusk across the great bath, you get to see how the Romans used the natural hot water spring to create this complex of mineral rich water and steam. The original drainage system is still working 2000 years on.

If you want to try out the properties of the waters yourself, the Thermae Bath Spa next door uses the same spring water that the Romans discovered and exploited. There’s a full range of spa treatments including a pool at rooftop level.

Full details are at its website: (, tel: 0844 888 0844.

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Have you been to Somerset? What do you think to this beautiful part of the country? 

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