Bath is one of England’s premier cities for sport, with a fan base so dedicated that every sporting event in town has an atmosphere of energy and excitement. But, of all sports, rugby is Bathonians’ first love. For unbeknown visitors, a Bath rugby match means plenty of good food and drink, welcoming – if partisan – locals, and a passion for the game that makes every match memorable.
Bath Recreation Ground, known locally as “the Rec”, is at the very heart of the city’s strong sporting scene. Set beside the River Avon and surrounded by Bath’s historic buildings and glorious Abbey, it’s used for cricket hockey, tennis, croquet – even Quidditch – but it’s during the rugby union season that the ground turns into a mecca for the city’s most dedicated fans. The Bath Rugby Club plays here. Founded in 1865, it’s one of the world’s oldest clubs and has legions of die-hard supporters, so be sure to book tickets in advance. You can get them online or at the ticket office at 8 Pulteney Bridge.
If you’d rather have a pint in your hand and a roof over your head while watching rugby, Bath is brimming with sports bars that draw a crowd on game days. Try the conveniently central Belushi’s, which has more than ten screens – including an HD projector and a 3D TV – plus pool and table football for entertainment while the adverts are on. They show Six Nations and Premier League matches and much more (even NFL and AFL games), and serve up excellent local ale and craft ciders. The Assembly Inn has a lengthy list of guest beers and serves Cask Marque-accredited real ales, too: try the Bath-brewed Bellringer. Plenty of big screens are tuned to the sports event of the day; come early as this place gets full fast.
The Bath Brew House, a quick 15-minute walk from the Rec, is another excellent destination for Bath rugby fans, and beer lovers too: with its own micro-brewery, it supplies a nice range of home-brewed pale ales and bitters, and even a Jane Austen-inspired red ale. It shows pretty much every match going, from Champions League to Scottish Premier League to Six Nations and more besides. If you’re more into beer than rugby, you can tour the brewery. The pub grub, which runs the gamut from hefty burgers to a “posh kebab” made from sumac and pomegranate-roasted lamb shoulder, makes for a good pre- or post-match meal.
Whether you’re in the stands at the Bath Recreation Ground or cheering the team on from the pub, you’ll feel the electricity in the city on match days, with blue, black and white shirts popping up everywhere you look.