Time to give your city escape a stylish upgrade
Bath is rapidly becoming a hub for cool, creative types and gaining a reputation as more than just a chic hen do hotspot. Art galleries, pop-up food festivals and fashion exhibitions are just a few of the reasons why Bath is the cultural destination du jour. With its unmistakable Georgian architecture and golden stone (we struggled to find an ugly building – even the kebab shops look beautiful), it’s no wonder that Londoners are packing up in their droves and swapping the big smoke for the south west’s most charming cultural spot. And when it comes to getting your head down in style, the historic The Royal Crescent Hotel & Spa has to be first choice.
An indulgent city break with your partner to unwind, explore and soak up the surroundings. The elegant, 5-star hotel – where even the (approx 150-year-old) magnolia tree at the grand entrance is listed – cleverly treads that fine line of sophistication without tipping into stuffiness. This is a special occasion place, rather than a mass appeal spa hotel that’s trying to be everything to everyone (those hen dos I mentioned? This isn’t the place for big groups). Luxury, frankly, never felt so relaxed.
Dating back to 1775, the beautiful exterior is one of the most iconic in the city – a sweeping crescent of golden Bath stone, overlooking the horizon of slate roofs and spires. Beyond the unassuming doors, you will discover a secret garden with hidden corners, a 70s-style pod swing and the kind of calm that makes your shoulders drop in an instant. Thanks to a 2014 refurb and a total overhaul of the The Spa & Bath House this summer (the boutique, sleekly designed on-site spa) the décor is contemporary and glossy. The hotel has 45 individually designed hotels and suites. We stayed in the beautiful Lord Nelson suite – named because he first visited the city in 1780 – all dark, heavy wood antique furniture nodding to the hotel’s heritage, combined with cool monochrome upholstery and obligatory dove grey walls. The attention to detail is what elevates the Royal Crescent Hotel from just another luxury spa hotel to something more. You’re welcomed with exotic fruit platters, freshly cut flowers and crisp White Company bed linen. Even baby bath products and a miniature bath robe are provided to welcome smaller guests. The suite has an ornate stone terrace overlooking the garden and, on a mild autumn evening, friendly staff will hand you a blanket and a cocktail as you take in the manicured lawns and seasonal flowerbeds.
Dinner at The Dower House Restaurant is worth scheduling in to your stay – unpretentious fine dining meets generous portions – make sure you go for traditional afternoon tea. You probably won’t need dinner after you’ve tucked in to beef and mustard sandwiches and warm, savoury mushroom croquettes followed by the obligatory clotted cream and jam scones, sticky buns and brightly coloured macaroons. All washed down with a pot of English breakfast – it’s an unforgettable tea party.
While you’re there:
The Spa & Bath House has a sauna, steam room and stunning 12-metre relaxation pool with floor to ceiling windows overlooking the garden. The exposed stone walls make you feel like you’ve stepped into a Game of Thrones-esque palace. Treat yourself to an ESPA shoulder, neck and scalp massage (£55) then head outside to the newly created Taittinger Spa Garden, order a glass of Champagne and make like you’re in Ibiza. Weather-permitting, it’s actually not a million miles away.
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If you can bear to tear yourself away from the haven of The Royal Crescent Hotel & Spa, you really should. There’s something new happening around each cobbled corner. We stumbled across an artisan food festival in Queen Square (expect similar pop-up markets at Christmastime) – the smell of sizzling burritos, gin cocktail stands and street performers made it feel more Hackney pop-up than village fete. Tick the tourist boxes with a visit to the Roman Baths and the Fashion Museum (A History of Fashion in 100 Objects runs until 2019) but you’re best off taking a wander around the cobbled streets and finding out what you might stumble across next.
The Royal Crescent Hotel & Spa, 16 Royal Crescent, Bath, BA1 2LS Tel. 01225 823333, www.royalcrescent.co.uk. Rooms start from £295 with breakfast (incl. VAT)