[A lot happened after our final European twin, Aix-en-Provence, in July 1999. We returned home with the cycling leg of the Baths tour completed, and spent a few months backpacking round places called Bath in Canada, the US, Barbados, Jamaica and St Kitts-Nevis. We managed to cycle in a few of them.
We then spent a few months in New Zealand and Australia, some of it apart: I cycled a lot of NZ’s South Island, and enjoyed an organised ride in Australia from Brisbane to Sydney (the latter’s suburb Manly being an unofficial Bath twin). I finally rode across half of Japan on a folder (from Tokyo to Beppu, another unofficial twin, in a trip I later wrote up for a magazine) and returned home to Britain in May 2000.
That wasn’t quite it for Baths, though, because I had one final namesake to visit…]
Bath, Scotland. Population, 9. I know, I met them all. It exists, just, three miles west of Clackmannan, about 25 miles’ cycle from Edinburgh. A collection of three buildings and three families in rural Fife, Bath still manages to boast a Castle and a Mill.
I visited it, accompanied by local-ish couple Roxy and Ian who happened to be cycling the same way today, on 30 May 2000, completing my plan to visit Every Place Called Bath in the World.
I chatted amiably to Barbara and John, who live in Bath Cottage, along with three of their four kids. They love it here – they’ve lived here 14 years – because of its quiet isolation, away from the hectic big-city life of, say, Alloa or Dunfermline. (Actually I think they’re wise not to be too near Dunfermline. I stopped to ask two coppers the way and they were both wearing bulletproof vests and carrying rifles…)
I also got to talk to the man who saved Bath: Angus Mitchell, a retired civil servant who lives in one of Edinburgh’s graceful terraces. He bought Bath in 1977, restoring the Cottage and the Castle, and now rents those two buildings out to the current tenants. He was the obvious choice as signatory for the Bath Book, my catalogue of the whole trip, and he happily obliged.
Now, Bath Castle doesn’t look much like a castle if you ask me, but it is a genuine listed castle (a B-list castle, for those who know such things) and so you have the right to visit it. Not, I can promise you, that there is much to see – it’s really just a cottage built on a big rock. And the Mill doesn’t have a wheel any more, but has been tastefully restored.
Bath, Scotland, is the only Bath not named after a Bath. It’s from the Gaelic word bad, meaning a thicket – indeed, Bath Moor Plantation is a big wood just over the hill from Bath’s houses. All the other Baths in the world were named, directly or indirectly, after Bath: either by settlers bringing the name of their home town, or by councillors in honour of someone or something named after Bath. But not this one. In that respect, as well as being the smallest, it’s also unique.