One of Europe’s most beautiful cities, Bath has been drawing visitors since Roman and Celtic times. The city’s three hot springs were sacred to the Celtic goddess Sulis. With the arrival of the Roman Empire in AD 60 the settlement of Aquae Sulis was constructed around the thermal springs. The Romans were so captivated by the palace that they renamed the springs in honour of the goddess Minerva. Indeed messages to Minerva known as curse tablets continue to be discovered by archaeologists.
A World Heritage site located on the banks of the River Avon and on the cusps of the Cotswold Hills, Bath is 150 kilometres west of London and 20 kilometres southeast of the Bristol. From London Paddington Station Bath is 90 minutes by Great Western trains. From Bristol Temple Meads station the spectacular city is a mere 15 minutes by train.
King Alfred laid down new foundations for Bath in the 9th century when the city was known as Baðum. During the Georgian period Bath re-emerged as a spa destination and was renowned for its architecture of golden hued Neo-Classical buildings and Royal Crescents. Bath has long been associated with the arts. The novelist Jane Austen lived in Bath in the early 19th century and all her novels featured Bath as a character. Despite being a major tourist centre, Bath has retained plenty of local attitude and independent culture – the town has a plethora of year-round arts festivals. As spring arrives and the city shakes off the moody romance of winter, Bath kicks up a few gears.
An original grande dame, The Gainsborough is Bath’s most vaunted hotel and widely considered one of the finest hotels in Europe. Uniquely The Gainsborough is the only spa hotel in Bath that has access to the city’s rich thermal waters.
Named after the 18th Century artist the English portrait and landscape painter Thomas Gainsborough who lived in Bath and resided in the Palladian masterpiece The Circus, The Gainsborough is located the heart of the city. The hotel occupies a stunning Georgian building dating back to the 1820s. It is impossible to miss with its towering façade of golden Bath stone. Interiors are modern but retain the classic touches and attention to detail that make for a great hotel – Think marble floors and a dramatic vaulted staircase. On checking in you are met by very smartly dressed staff who are attentive to a fault. The standard of service throughout our stay was very high.
The 99 rooms of the Gainsborough are cosy, very well appointed and decked out in muted grey blue and brown decor. Dark neo-Georgian furniture is matched with subtly classic touches such as a Roberts radio in addition to Asian inspired design that respects YTL Hotels, the Malaysian owners of the Gainsborough.
On entering your room you will find a gratis bottle of chilled Billiecart Salmon champagne and there is complimentary beer and soft drinks in the fridge. Our suite had high ceilings and big windows with heavy drapes. The bed is enormous, firm and perfect for a lazy night in. The Gainsborough even provides a pillow menu! The large marble bathroom comes with a deep bath that is filled with water straight from the hotel’s private thermal spring and is perfect for soaking yourself in on a cold winter’s day. The bathroom comes with underfloor heating and of course Asprey toiletries. A real rarity even the best hotels, your bed gets a turn-down every evening.
Spa Village Bath
The Gainsborough’s Romanesque Spa is magnificent. The spa has three substantial thermal pools, – the largest set under a glass-roof with Roman columns – each one with varying temperatures. Upon entry, and after being given a thorough introduction to the treatments, you are handed a small bag rock salt infused with essential oils that heighten feelings of relaxation and wellness. There are several saunas and a steam room and 11 treatment rooms offering a wide range of Asian‑styled therapies and massages. There’s also an impressive, very well-equipped gym. Hotel guests have free access to the communal spa facilities from 7-9am and 8-10pm. Outside these hours an appointment must be booked. The Thermae baths opposite the hotel are much less exclusive.
All meals, including the extensive buffet style Continental and hearty English breakfasts, are served in the large but intimate Dan Moon at the Gainsborough Restaurant. With its leather armchairs and wooden tables, the restaurant is the perfect contemporary setting for head chef Dan Moon’s innovative style of cooking that uses local produce to create modern British cuisine with an international twist. It’s fine dining but not at all stuffy. Think crisp white tablecloths matched with coloured glass water goblets.
The service was impeccable. We were talked through an impressive six course tasting menu that was matched with wine. Our standout favourites were the seared scallops with risotto and Dan Moon’s signature roast Creedy Carver duck in plum sauce with confit-filled spring roll. Sharp, tangy and beautiful textured, the latter was a stunning finale to a memorable meal. The bread, baked on site comes in neat little loaves. One with rosemary and sea salt came with seaweed-infused butter. Delicious and ever so moreish.
The Gainsborough, Beau Street, Bath, BA1 1QY, United Kingdom
Tel: +44 1225 3588888, www.thegainsboroughbathspa.co.uk