I am a big fan of Jane Austen, so I was really excited when searching for guided walks around Bath when I saw that that a Jane Austen walk was offered by the Jane Austen Centre. The walk is only on Saturdays, Sundays and Bank Holiday (except Christmas) at 11am and meets outside the KC Exchange Visitor Centre in the Abbey churchyard. The cost for adults is £6.00 and the walk lasted about two hours. There is an extra 4pm tour on Friday and Saturdays in July and August. Your admission ticket allows you 20% discount off of admission to the Jane Austen Centre (where the walk finishes) and 10% off at the Regency Tea Room above it.
There were only six of us on our walk one windy March Sunday, and first of all our guide showed us the Pump Rooms across the Abbey courtyard. The tour was not just about Austen but our guide also told us about the history of the city, its origins rumoured to have been ‘discovered’ by a Pig Farmer), architecture, key residents and anecdotes about how certain streets got their names. For example, we learnt about the significance of the Pump Rooms during the Georgians period and the influential Richard ‘Beau’ Nash who dictated society rituals during this time which carried forth after his death. As the city is World Heritage City, much of it is as it was in Austen’s day, thus houses she lived and stayed in are still standing and you can also see many places featured in her Bath centred novels – Northanger Abbey and Persuasion - such as the character’s addresses and places she refers to.
Amongst these our guide also told us about places Jane would have visited and shopped in her time here (she visited Bath twice in the late eighteenth century and lived there for about five years in the early nineteenth century), her thoughts and opinions garnered from her letters. Our guide also shared little anecdotes about Jane and her family, such as the scandal of her Aunt being (falsely) accused of shoplifting.
Over our two hour tour we only covered a small area, as we stopped quite a bit, but it was enough for me to lose my bearings (mind you, that doesn’t take much!). Our guide also managed to persuade the lady on the front desk to let us have a quick peak at the Assembly Rooms for free (where various society dances and gatherings took place in Regency Bath) and was no doubt visited by Jane and her family as well as her characters - it is visited and described by the character Anne Elliot in Persuasion. She was also able to fill us in on where some TV series and films were made, not just Austen’s but other period films such as The Duchess and Vanity Fair.
Although the walk happens rain or shine, I think the weather makes a difference to your enjoyment. It was fairly windy on the day we went and our guide was sensitive to this, ensuring that we stood out of the wind wherever possible. However, true fans maybe prepared to brave the elements. For those not interested in Austen, there are free guided walks available from the churchyard most days.