Where better to go for a spa weekend than the place where the spa weekend was practically invented – thousands of years ago? When in Bath, do as the Romans do…
Known for its natural hot springs, gorgeous honey-hued 18th-century Georgian architecture, and cobbled streets peppered with wonderful shops and restaurants, it’s no surprise that beautiful Bath is one of the most visited cities in the UK. Set in the rolling countryside but just a 90 minute train ride away from central London, Bath offers the perfect weekend getaway for couples, families, or groups of friends.
At the centre of the iconic curved Royal Crescent with views over the whole city is The Royal Crescent Hotel & Spa, offering fine dining, and even finer spa, and homely and comfortable interiors for the ultimate relaxing retreat from busy life. (For a more recent and dog-friendly hotel review, read my review of Villa at Henrietta Park hotel, also in central Bath!)
Go through the entrance (number 16), past the old-fashioned lobby and reception area…
… you’ll find yourself in the pretty central courtyard garden with a cobbled path leading to two further gorgeous Georgian buildings!
On the left is the spa with a 12m luke-warm relaxation pool, a hot tub, plunge pool, sauna, steam room, treatment rooms and gym…
… and on the right is the award winning Dower House Restaurant, elegant champagne and cocktail bar, The Montagu Bar & Champagne Lounge, and a staircase leading up to the bedrooms above.
The main spa area has an almost medieval feel to it – with extremely high ceilings, arched windows overlooking the gardens and both the hot and plunge pools in wooden barrels – but don’t be fooled; everything is what you would expect from a 21st century five star spa.
The relaxing treatment rooms offer an impressive selection of Espa products in their treatments. I highly recommend their Royal Crescent Signature or ‘Hero’ treatment which involves a relaxing hot stone back massage, soothing facial and the most amazing heavenly scalp massage!
The award winning 3 AA rosette Dower House Restaurant offers Michelin star quality dining and the most phenomenal six course tasting menu – definitely worth saving your appetite for! Start off with a rich Cep (mushroom) soup with Wiltshire truffle and a crunchy pistachio bite, followed by a light but flavoursome dish of cured and smoked trout served with a fragrant froth and garnished with radish and greens. Next is the slow cooked duck egg which (if you’re new to slow cooked poached eggs) has an odd yet perfect consistency. The venison is definitely a highlight (ask for it medium-rare) – tender and succulent, it almost melts in your mouth. If you have the appetite, the optional additional goat’s curd course is light, tangy and refreshing, served with just celery, grapes and pine nuts. Finally, not one but two desserts – the black forest gateau served in a glass, followed by our favourite; a deconstructed banoffee with caramelised banana, caramelised crunchy popcorn, sweet and sticky toffee and a sweet banana ice cream.
When you’re feeling full and merry from your delicious dinner (not to mention the impressive wine selection), just retreat up the stairs to one of the elegantly decorated rooms…
…there’s pretty poor internet reception but you won’t even miss it as all the pampering, primping, preening – not to mention the food and wine – is sure to wipe you out!
A few tips…
- Something to eat:
The Dower House Restaurant is the obvious choice but for something a bit different and more informal, The Circus café just off The Royal Crescent offers fabulous food (as well as excellent coffee!) and was voted number four in the UK in The Times’ ’20 Secret Restaurants That Foodies Love’.
- Something to do:
If you’re feeling energetic, enjoy the outstanding views from the enthralling six mile ‘Bath’s skyline walk’ – make sure to wear a good pair of boots if it’s been raining! You can also enjoy beautiful views of the city by climbing to the top of Bath Abbey. For dry and sunny days Bath has some great cycling trails, as well as a boating station with a range of vessels – from rowing to punting.
- Somewhere to visit:
If you’re traveling by car, the mystical Stonehenge is within easy reach just 36 miles away. It’s believed that Avebury’s megalithic stones were the predecessor to Stonehenge – these can easily be encompassed on the way back from Stonehenge. For Downton Abbey fans, Highclere Castle is approximately an hour’s drive away, and for Harry Potter fans, Lacock Abbey (used for the internal view of Hogwarts) is not far from Castle Combe (the picturesque English village where Steven Spielberg’s War Horse was filmed) and is also well worth a visit.
- Something to see:
Bath really has something for everyone. For history buffs, Bath Abbey is seeped in history and was the crowning place of King Edgar, England’s first unified King in 973AD. Whilst the current Abbey is a mere 600 years old it holds spectacular views, if you can manage the climb for the Bell Tower tour! For art enthusiasts, The Holburne Museum and The Victoria Art Gallery have beautiful art exhibitions, whilst The Countess of Huntingdon Chapel is a must for any budding architect. The Herschel Museum is an astronomer’s dream, and The Bath Assembly Rooms (once the place to be seen, hosting grand ball events and lavish parties) houses an iconic fashion museum. If you have a soft spot for homes and interiors, No. 1 at the end of The Royal Crescent itself is restored to its original state and exhibits how life in such a home was for all its inhabitants.
- Don’t miss:
It’s a cliché, but the Roman Baths are a must if you visit Bath. There’s evidence humans have been using the waters since 8,000 BC, before Prince Bladud founded Bath around the wells in 800BC, followed by the Romans deciding in 43AD that Bath was the place to go to take in the restorative hot spring waters – deemed to have mystical, healing powers. The Roman Baths is an exciting attraction and will take an hour or two to explore and marvel at how our ancient ancestors lived (and enjoyed spa breaks!) much in the same way as we do now!