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The Independent Culture
For those attending the Bath Literature Festival - it began on the 25th and runs for two weeks - and those simply intent on taking the waters, a guide to Britain's only World Cultural Heritage City

Basic ingredient: Hot water - 500,000 gallons a day at 120F - from springs whose first customer was a prominent local leper, Prince Bladud, King Lear's dad. Plus Bath stone, a fine, honey-coloured local sandstone used to build the city's magnificent Georgian and Regency terraces and quarried to such an extent that houses in the Combe Down area are in danger of subsiding.

Emblematic costume, full dress: Upper body - powdered wig, redingote and brocade waistcoat, as worn by Beau Nash, autocratic 18th-century arbiter of spa fashion. Lower regions - rancid, pinned-together denim and laceless army boots, in recognition of Bath's picturesque social underbelly, as represented by Beau Nash's bastard sibling, the footpad BO Nash, brought up to date recently by the crusties (see below).

Emblematic costume, practical day wear, unisex: Burberry raincoat and matching check hat, Pringle sweater, Aquascutum slacks, large white trainers, camera.

Food: A) The Bath Oliver. A plain biscuit invented by Dr Oliver, a spa medic, and owing its high structural rigidity to a 20 per cent powered Bath quarry stone content. B) The Sally Lunn. A wide circular brioche, popularised by a moonlighting 17th-century French EFL student of the same name and nowadays sold exclusively by Sally Lunn's Refreshment House and Museum in North Parade Passage, whose manager has a certificate in The Disney Approach to People Management.

Bars/Restaurants: Bath's place in gastronomic history is assured by the Hole in the Wall in Argyle Street, glowingly restored last year to the status it once achieved under original proprietor George Perry-Smith, one of the key restaurateurs of the Fifties and Sixties. For a visit to counter-cultural Bath stroll up Walcot Street and have a drink at The Bell, an old caravan inn, now centre of the Festival Fringe. For thespian spotting, try the Garrick's Head beside the Theatre Royal, but get the bars right. Theatricals go to the right-hand one, marked Nash Bar and distinguished by its green decor. The one marked Green Room on the left, done out in red, is the gay bar.

Musical Bath: In addition to the annual International Festival (19 May-4 June) Bath abounds in musical finds. Lovers of panpipes and armadillo-bodied ukuleles are doubtless aware that the Abbey forecourt, one of Britain's most lucrative busking sites, is a centre for Andean groups. If you plan a drink in the St James Square area, remember that Van Morrison, who has a house there, occasionally sings in local pubs - a well-aimed Bath Oliver will usually see him off.

Shopping: The fact that the Princess of Wales used to be photographed by the local Chronicle tripping down Milsom Street speaks volumes. Bath is packed with every variety of Sloane-mongery known to shopping man. The second-hand trade is consequently worth keeping an eye on. I'm still using a batch of dove-grey bespoke shirts I bought 10 years ago in Bartlett Street Market. Check out the half-dozen used-clothes shops, the Saturday flea market, and for architectural objects, Walcot Reclamation.

Ticklish problem of etiquette: How to ignore Big Issue sellers while simultaneously displaying grateful politeness, as befits heroes (see below).

Social engineering feat: Centuries in the vanguard of aggressive begging (a crusty couple who threatened to vomit over non-donors has passed into Bath legend) ended last year with the expulsion of travellers encamped at Rainbow Wood.

Publications of note: The Bath Chronicle, Bath City Life, Venue, Tatler, Harpers Bazaar, the Lady, House & Garden, but above all the Big Issue, which sells 6,000 copies a week since opening its regional HQ in the city last year.

Obsession: Traffic. Residents of the Circus are outraged that the banning of tourist coaches from nearby Royal Crescent has simply resulted in them getting twice as many. Plans are afoot for extreme citizens' action, with barricades of intermeshed Osborne and Little curtaining and welded-together Agas.