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, and long may she reign. There’s no better way to celebrate her writings than heading to Bath for the Jane Austen Festival this September 9 – 18.
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. While much of Bath’s Georgian architecture is still reminiscent of her time period. It makes Bristol’s neighbour 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 festival famously begins with the most amazing spectacle. The Regency Costumed Promenade fills the streets of Bath with over 500 people dressed in Regency dress. It even holds the Guinness World Record for ‘Largest gathering of people dressed in Regency costumes’. It’s the closest many will come to being transported back to Jane Austen’s time. The hour-long event leaves Holburne Museum at 11am on September 10. Tickets are £16 to join in, but it’s free if you just want to stand-by and watch. Don’t let this event dictate when you dress up, however. 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. Absolutely packed with wonderful and historic sites to visit. There will be plenty of official walking tours available throughout the festivities, all focussed on various themes. 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 (which was 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. Look no further than the Regency Tea Room on the 2nd floor of the Jane Austen Centre (Somewhere else we highly recommend checking out). It is open from 11am to 5pm every day, so treat yourself to a selection of delicious cakes and savour a pot of tea while you rest. Of course, it’s not the only place to grab afternoon tea. This is Bath! 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 Jane Austen Festival Ball is taking place on September 10. This is it. The big event where you are destined to meet your Mr Darcy. But oh no! You’ve messed up your moves and made yourself a fool in front of everyone. That’s our fear anyway… That’s why we recommend heading to the pre-ball dance workshop, to refresh your memory of the basic steps. That way, you’ll be ready for when the costumed event comes around. It’s the best opportunity to show-off and woo someone in your best Regency gown or breeches. There’ll be plenty of other opportunities to practice as well, however, and to flaunt your fashion and footwork across the festival.
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 sometime soon.