It is a truth universally acknowledged that Jane Austen is the greatest novelist these English shores have produced. Her enduring legacy has lasted more than 200 years, with the likes of Pride & Prejudice, Emma and Mansfield Park adored by millions worldwide. But there’s no finer way to celebrate her life and work than in Bath at the Jane Austen Festival this September 8 – 17.
The 10-day event is the largest and longest-running Jane Austen Festival in the world and draws over 3500 people every year. The Regency-era writer lived in Bath for several years and both posthumous works, Persuasion and Northanger Abbey, are partly set in the city. (Bristol’s Blaise Castle also makes an appearance in the latter.) Even today, much of Bath’s historic Georgian architecture is reminiscent of that time period. Making Bristol’s neighbouring city the perfect location for donning your bonnets, heading to a ball or two and tracing Jane Austen’s social footsteps.
1. Dress up in Regency attire
The Jane Austen Festival famously starts with the most amazing spectacle: The Regency Costumed Promenade. Over 500 people dressed in Regency dress flow through the streets of Bath. It even holds the Guinness World Record for ‘Largest gathering of people dressed in Regency costumes’. The hour-long event leaves Holburne Museum at 11 a.m. on September 9. Tickets cost £16 to join in, with a Regency costume mandatory, but it’s free if you just want to stand by and watch in your normie attire.
The stroll will end at the Festival Fayre (12 – 4 p.m.) where you can then go on a Regency shopping spree. The Bath Assembly Rooms with house stalls offering hats, fans, gloves, hair pieces, jewellery and lots more. Don’t let this event dictate when you dress up either. The Theatrical Costume Hire Pop-Up will be open in the Francis Hotel throughout the festivities. So you can dress the part whenever it takes your fancy!
2. Walk around Bath like Jane Austen
Bath is very much a walking city. It is absolutely packed with wonderful and historic sites to visit. Plenty of official walking tours will be available throughout the festivities, all focussed on various themes. Some of the highlights include Austen’s Lost & Found, a hilarious immersive walking show (September 9 & 10) from The Natural Theatre Company, and Beastly Bath, an unconventional walk through more sordid aspects of C18th life (September 13).
But, like a true Austen character, why take control of your own destiny and plan a route yourself? From Austen’s house at 4 Sydney Place to her favourite walk through Sydney Gardens, as well as a stop at The Assembly Rooms (featured in Persuasion) where she attended balls. So much of Bath is a treat to discover. From the Roman Baths to the Royal Crescent, you’ll hardly put a foot wrong.
3. Enjoy a spot of afternoon tea
All that walking is going to do a number on your feet, especially if you’re dressed up and feel the rub on those pointy flats, so why not stop off for some afternoon tea? The Great British pastime was arguably at its most popular during the Regency era. Stop by the Regency Tea Room on the 2nd floor of the Jane Austen Centre to treat yourself to a selection of delicious cakes and savour a pot of tea.
Of course, it’s not the only place to grab afternoon tea. This is Bath of cvourse! You can’t blink for stumbling across a jam-and-cream scone. Other options also include the equally fabulous Pump Room Restaurant and Sally Lunn’s – known as the home of the Bath Bunn.
4. Learn to dance and test your twirls
The massive Meryton Assembly Ball will take place on September 9 at Bath’s historic Assembly Rooms, the same place that Austen herself frequented. This is it. The big event where you are destined to meet your Mr Darcy. But oh no! You’ve forgotten up how to dance and made yourself a fool in front of everyone. That’s our fear anyway… Luckily there’s a Pre-Ball Dance Workshop to refresh your memory.
You can do it all again for the Regency Costumed Masked Ball (September 14). Enjoy a drinks reception around the Roman Baths, dance the night away with calling provided by Liz Bartlett of the Jane Austen Dancers, and tuck into a two-course dinner in the Pump Rooms. A truly special evening awaits!
There is so much happening at the Jane Austen Festival this year that we cannot dream of covering it all. From workshops to walks, theatrical performances to balls, it’s a jam-packed schedule that will satisfy all your Jane Austen needs. With any Sense and Sensibility, you’ll be heading to Bath this September. Learn more here.