Bath from above

Bristol and Bath do balloons in abundance. On 8-11 August, the skies over Clifton and Brunel’s Suspension Bridge will be splendidly filled with flying machines, bulbous puffs of many-coloured silks vying for space as the Bristol Balloon Fiesta gets underway.

It sounds brilliant, and I plan to go. Living in Bath, you get used to the sight of hot air balloons overhead; when the weather’s being kind – a gorgeous summer evening or a delightfully clement spring morning, maybe – you can bet that there will be at least one hot-air balloon floating above Bath's Georgian glory, and believe me the views are truly spectacular. But just in case you can't get to go up in a balloon, here's are some of the best high-rise attractions in Bath, none of which are reliant on favourable winds...

Most obviously there's the Bath Skyline Walk, which was not long ago vted the best National Trust walk in Britain. Less energetically the herbally-scented Thermae Bath Spa has a rooftop mineral pool (gurgling at a constant 33.5°C) that means you can look over the Abbey, Bath's stone streets and surrounding hills as you wallow; the best time to visit is twilight, to watch the sun go down on the city. You can also climb the 212 steps in the Abbey itself. Tower Tours lead you above the vaulted ceiling, behind the clockface and up onto the roof of the grand 15th-century church. Or, for an alternative lookout, leave the city centre and make the haul up Lansdown Road to 40-metre-high Beckford’s Tower. It’s a 1.5-mile detour, but worth the effort: the 154 steps to the top of this eerie – built as a panoramic study for a 19th-century eccentric – lead to a fabulous panorama of the city, after which you can refresh yourself at the nearby Hare & Hounds Pub , whose beer gardens enjoy grand views as well, this time of the valleys to the east of the city. Those pub views look out to 191m-high Solsbury Hill – celebrated by Peter Gabriel in his eponymous song. This flat-topped summit, once site of an Iron Age fort, is a super spot for views over Bath and the Avon Valley; walk or take the bus out to Batheaston to begin the ascent.

One of my favourite lookouts, though, is Camden Crescent, a Regency sweep that is far less-lauded than the grand, overrun, Royal Crescent. It's a little bit out of the centre, and that little bit higher up, but from Camden you can see the city’s spires and the views down the valley. Or you can keep walking further up to perhaps the city’s best-named secret lookout, a road called Perfect View...