Bath: World-famous sites, brilliant rugby, fine dining and an idyllic spa break
As the cold snap takes hold, it is clear that autumn has well and truly arrived on our home shores. Although I have recently been lucky enough to visit some fantastic luxury destinations that experience a warmer climate at this time of year, there is something rather alluring about a ‘staycation’ during my favourite British season. It’s not all about sun seeking or eyeing up the most appealing ski resorts. A short break on the British Isles can be just the tonic to help see you through to the festive season ahead. Thus, I decided to venture to Bath for a quintessentially English city break.
The City of Bath is one of only 28 World Heritage sites in the UK and features in the list alongside momentous landmarks such as Stonehenge and the Giant’s Causeway. Steeped in history, Bath was first discovered by the Romans as a spa, with its famous hot springs renowned for their healing powers. You can walk around the original Roman Baths to this day and they prove a popular attraction for tourists. The city has also developed a new spa that aims to recreate the experience that was enjoyed by the Romans all those years ago. This is located a short walk across the main shopping street that runs downwards through the city.
Individual luxury boutiques are a highlight for those looking to find some unique fashion items and they are nestled down various side streets that boast beautiful Georgian architecture.
Bath is well-known for being a stunning city and competing with the Roman landmarks are the Royal Crescent and the Circus. The former is a spectacular example of the Georgian style of architecture and exists in its original state. It is a Grade 1 listed building, along with the Circus, which is just down the road and comprises an entire circle of houses. The façade and design of both these sites is something to behold.
Whether you arrive early on a Saturday morning or fancy a leisurely Sunday stroll through the picturesque streets, walking the length and breadth of the city is a must. Hall & Woodhouse is a great place to stop for lunch and a popular haunt for locals. It is laid out over three floors and has a sweeping staircase as a central feature.
This bar-meets-restaurant positively buzzes. It is ideal for casual dining, offering quick snacks or coffee on the ground floor and light lunches in the formal area at the top of the staircase.
Aside from Bath’s collection of tourist attractions, luxury shops and quaint cafes, the city is also home to one of the country’s most successful rugby clubs. I made sure to arrange my city break around the sporting calendar so that it would include a visit to a Bath Rugby match at the much admired Recreational Ground. This sporting venue is relatively unique as it is located right in the centre of Bath, with the impressive Abbey and Pulteney Bridge offering an enviable backdrop.
I cheered on the boys in blue as they put in a strong performance to beat London Irish. Even if you are not a rugby fan, the welcoming ground, which includes a Real Ale tent, which also provides a ‘Champagne corner’ for the ladies, is a pleasure to visit. The stadium holds over 13,000 supporters but the intimate design guarantees a great view of the pitch.
With regards to the choice of hotels for an overnight stay, the Bath Spa Hotel is one of the city’s few five star destinations and is conveniently located a few minutes walk from the rugby ground and some of the other key sites.
The city is neatly positioned within a valley and this hotel is situated partway up one of the surrounding hillsides. You arrive by driving through landscaped gardens, which gives the impression that you are almost escaping to the countryside, especially when you see the impressive building that houses the guestrooms.
Visitors welcomed by a roaring fire in the reception area and the hotel features some refined bars and suites. However, the best assets are undoubtedly the restaurant and the spa. The Vellore offers fine dining in a majestic setting with a live pianist providing distinguished entertainment.
A set menu is presented that includes seasonal favourites and a selection of traditional English dishes, complemented by a broad wine list. The setting is peaceful and sophisticated; it seemed popular with hotel guests as well as local residents wanting to mark a special occasion.
If you want to indulge yourself even further, then booking a treatment in the spa for the following morning is a must. To round off my weekend getaway, I arranged to have the signature facial. I wanted to make sure that I left Bath with my skin in tip top condition (just as the Roman’s would have expected!), with no indications of the indulgences of the previous evening.
I was extremely impressed by the facial and it was probably one of the best I have ever experienced. I like to relax during treatments; while I find it interesting to hear about new techniques or products, there also needs to be some ‘quiet time’. My therapist got the balance between informative and understated just right.
The Decleor Classic Aromatic Facial was so relaxing that I dozed off towards the end. I left the spa feeling as though every ounce of tension had vanished and my skin was glowing. This particular facial is 100% natural and tailored specifically to your individual needs. The mask contains the secret ingredients and even if you don’t intend to visit Bath for an overnight stay, I thoroughly recommend a day trip just to try this spa.
As I left to make the relatively short journey back to London (two hours by car and even quicker by train), my initial belief that a short city break can prove just as idyllic as a trip abroad at this time of year was proved right. Bath – and its various spas – ticks all the boxes for an indulgent trip away while remaining on home turf.
Bath at a glance:
Where to stay: The 5* Bath Spa Hotel
Sites to see: Roman Baths; Pulteney Bridge; Royal Crescent; The Circus
Special event: Watch a Bath Rugby match
(whilst sipping Tattinger or beer from the onsite Ale tent)
Stop for coffee or lunch: Hall & Woodhouse
Fine dining with a live pianist playing: Vellore Restaurant
Relax with an outstanding facial or massage: The Bath Spa Hotel’s Spa
Laura tweets her travels from @Laura_Toogood
Reservations for the Bath Spa Hotel and spa treatments can be made by telephoning +44 (0) 1225 444424. Tickets for Bath Rugby can be bought online here. More information about Hall and Woodhouse can be found here.