Recently I made a short trip to the West of the UK to the port-city of Bristol. On the way I stopped at the historic town of Bath, most famous for its appearances in Jane Austen novels and because of its well-preserved Roman Baths (hence the name).
The latter are quite stunning. The complex is built over a natural hot-spring and is huge. The Romans discovered the site some time around 50AD and gradually built over it during the next 300 years. At its most prosperous the complex consisted of many buildings, courtyards and a temple where offerings were made to Minerva. After the Romans decided to go home, the spring's perceived healing properties led to the site being used by monks from the local abbey, the king and then the gentry. The site has been an absolute treasure-trove for archaeologists and has been the source of some of the best Roman artifacts in the UK. Chief amongst these are the decorative facade to the temple, a head of Minerva and metal offerings galore. The experience of walking through the rooms, often dark with the ancient stones dripping from the humidity, is quite atmospheric. On cool days steam rises from the water and drifts over the ancient paving slabs. The minerals in the water have left all sorts of beautiful stains and the salts have eaten away at the stones to leave them exquisitely pock-marked.
Bristol has many attractions but for me the most evocative was the church of St Mary Redcliffe. Dubbed the "fairest, goodliest and most famous parish church in England" by Queen Bess (Elizabeth I) it is an awe-inspiring example of13th century "perpendicular" style Gothic architecture. However, the thing which grabbed me most was outside the brooding stone bulk of the church. Across the road is a little lawn running up to a cliff face. This is actually a Quaker burial ground which was gifted to the city in 1923. The place is quite still, with the only thing disturbing the shades of those old corpses being the little midges dancing in the the air. Cut into the ruddy stone of the cliff is a gate to a grotto-of-sorts. Alas I couldn't determine where it led, but I am sure there was treasure on the other side.
You can see the full set of my photos here.