5:00 AM 29th September 2021
Hadrian's Wall Walkers Soak Away Their Aches And Pains With A Traditional Turkish Bath
For the first time in almost a decade, walkers braving the 84-mile trail along Hadrian's Wall have a unique way to soothe their aching legs at either end of the World Heritage Site.
The City Baths, Newcastle
Following the reopening of The City Baths, Newcastle, walkers can now start and finish their trek with a traditional Turkish Bath. The coast-to-coast wall links the cities of Carlisle and Newcastle, home to two of the UK's 12 surviving Victorian and Edwardian Turkish Baths.
Turkish Baths became very popular from the mid-19th Century as a way for working people to wash and relax. Similar to Roman Baths, Turkish Baths comprised a series of hot rooms designed to sweat out the dirt and grime of inner-city factories and mills, finished with an ice-cold immersion to boost circulation. At the height of their popularity, it is estimated that there were more than 700 Turkish Baths in the United Kingdom and Ireland. Today, only nine of the 12 in operation remain open to the public, including the two at either end of Hadrian's Wall.
Newcastle's Turkish Baths
Newcastle's Turkish Baths opened in 1928 but closed amid protests in 2013 as the city council sought to save money. Following a determined campaign by the Friends of The City Baths, Newcastle group and thanks to a multi-million-pound restoration by Fusion Lifestyle, The City Baths reopened early last year to combine a swimming pool, fitness suite and studios. Soon followed the reopening of the much-loved Turkish Baths at the end of July this year, welcoming visitors from the North East and beyond to experience its historic heated chambers.
Cait Read, chair of the Friends of The City Baths, Newcastle, said:
"Victorian Turkish Baths became popular for their health properties, so what better way to start or finish the Hadrian's Wall walk, or a visit to either Newcastle or Carlisle with a relaxing Turkish Bath?
“We are delighted that our Turkish Baths in Newcastle have re-opened after their closure, refurbishment, and the pandemic, and are able to welcome both city visitors and local residents again."
Meanwhile at the western end of the Wall, Carlisle's Turkish Baths have been welcoming visitors since they opened in 1909. The Grade II listed Baths retain their original tiling and stained glass and offer a haven to tired walkers as they rest in one of the original relaxation booths under an ornate domed ceiling.
Cumbrian Susan Holliday, who recently walked Hadrian's Wall said:
"I only discovered Carlisle had Turkish Baths a week or two before we started our walk, so we promised ourselves a visit as a reward if we managed to complete the Wall.
“Lying on the marble bench in the hottest of the rooms I could literally feel all my aches and pains melting away. What a unique way to end a unique walk".
Carlisle's Turkish Baths
However, like the threat faced by their eastern cousins a decade ago, Carlisle's Turkish Baths face an uncertain future. Carlisle City Council is set to close the Victorian Public Baths in 2022 when new pools open at the city's main leisure centre. Although the Council have said there are no plans to close the Turkish area of the Public Baths, campaigners fear they will struggle to survive on their own.
Julie Minns, chair of the Friends of Carlisle Victorian and Turkish Baths, said:
"The Turkish Baths are a unique part of Carlisle's heritage but until we started our campaign in April, most residents barely knew they existed, let alone visitors. That's beginning to change and it's fantastic that walkers are now discovering the Baths.
“Although the Council have yet to publish their feasibility study on the future of the Baths, staff are already telling people the building is set to become a private hotel. We think it would be a real shame if a building that was built to support public health was lost to the public".
Carlisle's Turkish Baths
Inspired by the success of the Newcastle campaign, the Carlisle Friends are calling for the Victorian Public Baths to be developed as a Health and Wellbeing Centre to create a public health facility for local residents as well as an attractive visitor destination.
"Whichever direction visitors choose to walk Hadrian's Wall, the one thing that they can be certain of is that the welcome at either end will be very warm.”