Is Bath the perfect alternative to London?

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Bath packs a punch when it comes to culture, schools and architecture—and it’s surrounded by countryside. Is this the perfect alternative to London? Arabella Youens finds out

Local market
The property market in Bath has been one of the leading residential success stories outside London during the past three or four years, with high turnover and constant demand pushing prices upwards. There are two primary reasons for this: the excellent schools draw in families, who feel it offers safe city living, and it appeals to ‘empty nesters’ selling their country houses and wanting to be closer to the action during their retirement.

‘Forty percent of our buyers this year have come from London,’ explains David Mackenzie of Carter Jonas. ‘And that number is growing. We also have buyers who are currently based in Dubai, Singapore, Shanghai or Switzerland, who are planning to educate their children here once their contracts are up —they want to own a slice of England in the meantime.’

Another feather in Bath’s cap is that prices—when compared to Oxford—offer greater value for money, says George Wade of Property Vision. ‘And,’ he adds, ‘in an increasingly mobile world, buyers are just as likely to go for an attractive town house that they can leave for weeks at a time, without the hassle of maintenance, and Bath offers plenty such homes.’ Until now, this demand has served only to keep a tight hold on the few properties that come to the market, but the city is about to undergo a significant change.

‘Next year will be quite phenomenal,’ believes Luke Brady of Savills. ‘For the first time since the Georgian era, the face of residential Bath is changing, following the decommissioning of three MOD sites in the city centre, which will provide a much-needed influx of good-quality stock on a very competitive property market.’

Best addresses
Londoners can be snooty at the idea of living ‘south of the river’, but in Bath, there’s no such distinction. ‘The city can be split into two defined areas and we tend to get people wanting one or the other,’ explains Charlie Taylor of Knight Frank. ‘North of the river—central Bath, Lansdown and Weston—is good for access to the M4 and the schools on Lansdown Hill. The south is better for the train station (electrification is due to reduce the 1ó hour journey to London Paddington to just over an hour at the end of 2016), southern schools and the National Trust land off Bathwick Hill.’ ‘And don’t forget’, adds Luke, ‘houses on the south side of the city benefit from views back towards the heritage centre.

Wherever you are, you’ll get amazing sunsets as the only gap between its seven hills faces west towards the Severn estuary.’ Price-wise, for a classic Georgian terrace house in the Royal Crescent, David estimates a budget of between £4 million and £5 million; a family house in Widcombe starts at about £1.5 million; and Victorian terraces currently range from between £500,000 and £800,000.

Schools
‘The quality of education in Bath maintains market momentum all the time—we’re spoilt for choice for schools,’ says Luke. Places at state-maintained St Stephen’s Primary are hotly contested, as it’s seen to feed two of the best Lansdown (private) senior schools, Kingswood and The Royal High School, creating a price bubble in the surrounding catchment area. Then, to the south of the city, there’s a trio of private senior schools, King Edwards, Prior Park College and Monckton Combe, as well as outstanding secondary schools including Ralph Allen and Beecham Cliff.

Butcher, baker, coffee-maker
The best butcher, believes David, is Bartlett & Sons on Green Street, the Bertinet Bakery on New Bond Street Place, run by a Breton chef and baker, comes highly recommended and there’s a plethora of delis and grocery shops in the city, including Chandos Deli on George Street and the Foodie Bugle Shop near the Assembly Rooms.

For coffee, Colonna & Smalls on Chapel Row has an awardwinning barista and the newly opened sister café serves craft beer. There’s also a popular weekly farmer’s market held in the Green Park Station.

Hyde Park homesick
The 57-acre Royal Victoria Park is a level walk from the centre of Bath and some of it overlooks The Royal Crescent. It has a large children’s playground, a skate park, large duck ponds, a Botanical garden, pitch-and-putt course and tennis courts. Alternatively, walking the entirety of the six-mile ‘Bath skyline walk’ burns off as much energy as playing a 90-minute game of football, according to the National Trust, which owns the land.

Out & about
Barely a week goes by in Bath without a festival taking place— from comedy to film, literature and food, it’s an exhausting timetable. The Theatre Royal features West End touring performances, its sister theatre, The Egg, puts on productions for younger audiences and the Holburne Museum has a busy schedule of classicalmusic concerts and other events. And then there’s Bath Rugby.

Need to know
Traffic is a nightmare in the city centre, so be prepared for a life of walking and hilly cycling.

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Bath city guide

Bath city guide