GETTING THERE: Bath is two hours from London by car, on the M4 motorway (or 75 minutes by train). A map of the city will ease your arrival, if you can plan that far ahead. If not, head for the Abbey -- which is right downtown and so big it's hard to miss. The Tourist Information Center is located in the churchyard.
GETTING AROUND: On foot, mostly, since parking barely exists in the center of Bath. Some of the steeper hills may pose difficulties for some, but there's plenty to see and do in the easier terrain along the River Avon.
WHERE TO STAY: For world-class spenders, the Royal Crescent -- which also has a very grand restaurant -- is elegant, at about $135 and up per night double. Lodgings at less stratospheric prices include Circus Mansions at 36 Brock St. (more modest but quite comfortable, and some rooms have fireplaces and kitchens) and the very basic Number Nine, on George Street. Just outside Bath is the Priory -- which has more the feeling of house than hotel and leaves guests feeling most pampered.
Most popular these days among those with some cash to spare is the Hunstrete House, near Bristol in the town of Chelwood. Room prices run around $100, and the restaurant is outstanding.
WHERE TO EAT: The Hole in the Wall, at 16 George St., is touted locally as "the best restaurant in England." The food is quite good, and the atmosphere welcoming -- more so than in many places at its elevated price range.
Clos de Roy, practically next door, also gets good notices. So do the Theatre Vaults Brasserie and Chikako's -- both more casual establishments, both in the Theatre Royal. A few steps away is Popjoy's -- on the expensive side, which in Bath ends up hovering around $30 per person for a relatively abstemious dinner.
On the run during the day, you might drop into the aptly named Goodeats, on Bartlett Street.
WHAT ELSE TO SEE: The American Museum, 2 1/2 miles east of town in Claverton Manor -- should you get homesick -- provides a sense of the domestic scene by re-creating American rooms from the 17th to the 19th centuries.
Camden Crescent, above the city, shares some of the drama that the Royal Crescent possesses.
For photography buffs, there's the Royal Photographic Society's exhibits center on Milsom Street and, in the restored village of Lacock (14 miles northeast of Bath), the Fox Talbot Museum.
Then there are the house and gardens of Dyrham Park, eight miles north of Bath -- complete with deer roaming the grounds and, on a clear day, views across the Bristol Channel into the Cambrian Mountains of Wales. The house was built in the 1690s and could fit nicely into a day trip to some of the Cotswold villages nearby.
SHOPPING: You're best off just poking around, but some highlights include the Chapter and Verse Bookshop and the National Trust Shop, both on Cheap Street, and T.E. Robinson on Bartlett -- which purveys some very fancy furniture, indeed. The National Trust, of course, devotes its proceeds to acquiring and maintaining historic properties, and so picking up something at its shop allows you to do a good deed for the English and for future visitors from this side of the Atlantic.
INFORMATION: The British Tourist Authority, 40 W. 57th St., New York, N.Y. 10019, (212) 581-4700.