Stressed out by the chaos of trying to travel abroad this summer? Why not forgo aviation angst and bathe in the glory of Bath. COVID has many of us wishing we could travel back to simpler times, and Bath’s history-steeped streets and healing waters may be just the tonic we need.
I have long been a fan of Bath and its glorious architecture and cobbled streets, so lovingly preserved that it is has provided the filming backdrop of many screen favourites such as The Duchess, Poldark and most recently Netflix’s triumphant love-fest, Bridgerton. Meandering amongst the grand Georgian buildings in the early evening light I found myself transported away from the stresses and strains of the past year, enchanted by the city’s rich history.
Since Roman times people have flocked to Bath with the aim of being bolstered by the curative powers of the hot springs, and having myself emerged invigorated following a weekend in the city I understand why. From the famous Roman Baths to the illustrious Assembly Rooms, Bath is absolutely dripping in extraordinary history, much of which can be reached by a short trip on foot.
There are a number of wonderful hotels to choose from but one, in particular, is supremely located in the centre of Bath, on a broad but quiet street: the No.15 Pulteney Street Hotel by Guesthouse. It’s discreetly positioned on this iconic road between the Holborn Museum and the famous Pulteney Bridge and superbly located for any manner of Bath expeditions.
A traditionally beautiful facade houses a delightfully quirky interior, giving the impression of an artist’s residence, albeit a distinctly upmarket one. It’s a very grown-up hotel, and yet it’s surprisingly child-friendly with all manner of little ones welcome. Adorable miniature teepees are provided in family rooms, and dogs are welcomed with a special hamper that includes a bed, bags, food and a toy. There is a fully stocked larder available to guests, with an unlimited supply of sweets and treats for the duration of your stay. Tucked away on the second floor it adds a delectable naughtiness to every visit.
The hotel has its own restaurant on-site, serving up a delicious and comprehensive range of breakfast options. The dinner menu offers a host of seasonal and locally sourced items: I was blown away by the gnocchi starter, and my steak was cooked to perfection. Beware the temptation of overdoing it on the alluring cocktail menu, but rest easy in the knowledge that your bed is but an unsteady trip down the hall. And if you truly want to make your stay a memorable one, find your way down to the hotel’s basement and the spa. Using British-made, luxury, eco, ethical and vegan products, you’ll be guilt free as you indulge in one of their many magnificent treatments. I chose to ‘Ease my Tension’ with a luxurious full-body massage; and as someone with lifelong muscle tension and a plethora of therapists to treat it – I can honestly say that this was one of the best treatments I have ever had. I left feeling euphoric, and clutching a bottle of aromatherapy oil and mellow playlist that the therapist optimistically encouraged might allow me to revisit that feeling at home.
Feeling newly energised I set out into the city towards the Assembly Rooms (for Bridgerton fans this provided the set for a number of the ball scenes). I duly collected my audio guide on the way in, and used it intermittently when I wanted a more in-depth history of some of the rooms; but to be honest, many of the rooms speak for themselves and it was enough for me to just wander dreamily and enjoy the grandeur.
The Assembly Rooms is also home to Bath’s Fashion Museum which houses a remarkable collection of clothing from the previous centuries to modern-day. There is currently a special exhibition of decades of shoes on display (Shoephoria!), with over 350 items of the museum’s extensive collection on display. I visited with my mother and two-year-old son and quite frankly, I expected a disaster but the museum has a dark and intriguing vibe and my son was quite taken with the whole experience. There is usually a fancy dress section as well (closed for COVID, unfortunately) where you can try on costumes of yore, which I know he would also have loved.
Even though everything is within walking distance you will undoubtedly be left hungry for more than adventure, and so we headed to Kingsmead Square where a host of restaurants awaited us. I am told that until recently Kingsmead Square was a less than desirable area to dine in, with a shortage of outside spaces to eat, but it has recently been transformed and you can now enjoy a meal under the broad branches of a magnificent, old London plane tree. Beneath its dappled shade is a popular Bath restaurant aptly named ‘Dough’ Pizzeria, as the dough is their speciality. Dough’s owners pride themselves on their healthier pizzas and unusual shapes while offering no less than thirteen different doughs (including a selection that is gluten-free). The pizzas are a must-try, and the service is exactly what you would hope from a local independent restaurant: warm and personal.
For me, the weekend was the perfect blend of culture, relaxation, adventure and culinary delight: everything one could hope for when planning a getaway.