When it comes to Bath, most Brits think they’ve been there, done that. Once you’ve seen the Roman ruins, the Abbey and Jane Austen’s house, you may as well stay at home with a boxset and a Chinese, right? Actually, when it comes to culinary delights, characterful hotels and damn fine shopping, there’s still plenty to get to grips with on a long weekend away.
Where to stay?
For a central spot with olde worlde charm, The Abbey Hotel can’t be beaten. Three gorgeously Georgian townhouses have been knocked into one distinctly modern, independent hotel. Situated just behind the historic Abbey itself, it’s 10 minutes from the station and overlooks Parade Gardens.
Watch students from the university get plastered from the safety of the café terrace in front of the hotel, or better yet, venture inside to ArtBar, which is, unsurprisingly, a bar covered in art. With 64 G&T combinations to try, it’s a plush place to retire to after dinner, or continue the party downstairs in Igloo, an air raid shelter turned Arctic-themed bar and private hire space.
What to see:
There are plenty of quirky finds to be found at the Bath Vintage & Antiques Market. It’s free, set beneath a stunning (and weather-proof) Victorian curved glass roof and runs on the first and last Sunday of every month at Green Park Station. This time of year, it’s Christmas’d up to the eyeballs, but it’s usually bursting with upcycled furniture, carpentry, vinyl and vintage collectibles.
While frequent Bathers would know about The Royal Crescent – a Grade I Listed sweep of Georgian houses – it’s well worth paying £10 to venture into No.1. It’s all very Upstairs/Downstairs, with rooms set up as they would have been when the house was rented by a member of high society with the servants quarters below. You’re really paying for the tour guides stationed in each room who are very knowledgeable and patient, even when quizzed on vulgar trivialities like how Georgians went to the loo mid-banquet.
What to eat:
A pleasant stroll about 30 minutes out of town will bring you to The Bath Priory, a stately home-like hotel with ample grounds in which to play a spot of pre-dinner croquet. Oil paintings and hand-carved backgammon sets are scattered liberally around its drawing room, a pleasant place to repose after the three-course Sunday roast that awaits.
At £35, including amuse bouches, it’s fantastic value for money, with three seasonal options for each course. Led by executive chef Michael Nizzero – a Belgian who earned a Michelin star as premier sous-chef at The Ritz – it’s recently been awarded 3AA Rosettes. The roast beef was rare and tender with all the trimmings, and the gingerbread souffle with sharp poached quince and quince sorbet is a real sweet/sharp lip-smacker.
How to relax:
You probably tried the Thermae Bath Spa on your first visit. This time, stay in The Bath Priory to try out The Garden Spa, the only facility in the UK run by French skincare company L’Occitane. Every visitor is given a relaxing foot bath on arrival before choosing from treatments that showcase the brand’s array of natural scents, from lavender to almond to shea butter, then kick back in the elliptical steam pod, tucked away next to the indoor pool and sauna.