Bath is a city where I have decided I could quite easily live. For starters, it’s beautiful. Not only is the World Heritage Site mainly built from gorgeous local, golden-coloured Bath Stone, it’s also surrounded by rolling green hills which are visible from the town as you look up. It’s also easily walkable yet crammed with culture and, importantly for me, easy to get to from neighbouring Bristol, London, and Birmingham. This makes it an ideal choice for a weekend break. If you’re after an indulgent UK holiday and looking to treat yourself, these are three of the top hotels to stay in – The Royal Crescent Hotel & Spa, The Queensbury and No.15 Great Pulteney.
Bath holidays: Where are the best hotels in Bath? Top accommodation revealed
Royal Crescent Hotel & Spa
The problem with staying at The Royal Crescent Hotel & Spa is that you may never want to actually leave it. A wall of elegance practically smashes into you as you walk in and there’s an instant feeling you’ll get looked after.
Located in the middle of the famous and iconic Royal Crescent, the hotel actually stretches far beyond the buildings you see on entrance. An acre of stunning gardens lies behind, offering an oasis of tranquillity after a day of sightseeing. Further accommodation and the restaurant as well as the spa are found at the other end of the garden making for a very quiet night’s sleep indeed.
Our room is the Lord Nelson Suite – the famous military figure once stayed in Bath – and busts and paintings of the great man adorn the room as a nod to the theme amid the grey neutral tones. Ornate lamps and colourful cushions add a pop of colour.
In the spacious living room area – separated off from the bedroom with a curtain – is a fireplace and a bookcase filled with a variety of interesting tomes, creating a homely touch amid the luxury. French windows open out onto a spacious balcony which looks over the garden and the odd guest below. One can feel very regal from such a position – although no Romeo (or Knightley, Darcy or Tilney for that matter) came a-calling, alas (remember, there’s always the Jane Austen Centre…)
When we are first shown to our room there’s a brief moment when we think we’re told there’s complimentary cheese which would make it officially the world’s best establishment, but it transpires the lady actually said complimentary teas which, for a Briton, is still pretty exciting. We order one immediately. It’s only a few moments we realise one explanation for our sense of peace – Classic FM is playing from bedside speakers and it’s the addition I never realised I needed – my life finally has a soundtrack.
The little touches don’t stop there, pillow spray is provided with the turndown service, newspapers are offered and there’s an umbrella in the wardrobe complete with a tag letting you know what you can do in Bath in the rain. Furthermore, there’s also a car parking spot for every room should you need it.
Meanwhile, the stylish bathroom provides his n’ her sinks, sumptuous products by British perfumer Floris plus a bath and shower – the controls for which are conveniently placed the opposite side from the water flow which means never getting wet until you’ve got in, which is a surprising bonus.
We dine in the hotel’s Dower House Restaurant and our table benefits from a view of the secluded garden as the spring evening draws in. The friendly and knowledgeable waiters prove invaluable in helping me decide on my order (it all looks so good) and the sommelier suggests a delightful Sauvignon Blanc.
Turmeric and black pepper bread sets a promising tone for the meal before I tuck into my starter of slow cooked duck egg. It’s huge, rich and creamy and pairs well with the salty Morteau sausage, and crunchy leeks and chicken crisp – all in all, superb.
This is followed by roasted seabass, served with two perky scallops prettily presented with beetroot, tasty morsels of smoked eel, hay baked potato, smoked roe cream and horseradish. The portions may seem small at first but I soon have “elegant sufficiency” as my grandmother used to say and decide on a brief hiatus ahead of dessert.
This is wise and dessert is, unsurprisingly, also delicious. I opt for rhubarb and orange tart with ginger ice cream, the tangy favours of which all perfectly complement each other. My friend goes for the cheese board – well there had to be cheese somewhere didn’t there? This is presented by a rather handsome waiter who informs us he is responsible for buying the cheeses in, and his enthusiasm is palpable as he explains each one to us. One nugget we learn is that the ash in the rind of goat’s cheese is supposed to aid digestion – but after the feast we’ve had I’m not sure there’s much hope for us.
We heave ourselves up and take a turn around the garden before retiring for the night, thoroughly pampered and satisfied.
The next morning we make the most of The Spa & Bath House. I do a few lengths in the 12m heated pool (where the glistening blue tiles shimmer like a mermaid’s tail), try out the Vitality Pool and sauna before heading for a massage.
The spa’s primary partner brand is Elemental Herbology whose products are based around the Five Element theory from traditional Chinese medicine. My therapist considers my skin type, lifestyle, environment and season and opts for Earth for balance. I have chosen a Deep Muscle Melt full-body massage which uses the oils as well as hot stones – although the spa menu offers so many other wonderful-looking options it is hard to decide. My therapist’s small hands dig deep into my muscles and work through knots on my back in what makes for a very stress-relieving and relaxing hour before I return to my room, take tea on the balcony and prepare to leave this haven of luxury.
Double Deluxe rooms at The Royal Crescent Hotel & Spa start from £330 on a B&B basis. To book, please email [email protected] or call Spa Reception on 01225 823333
The Queensberry Hotel may not have the grand scale decadence of The Royal Crescent but this boutique hotel is every bit as lovely and is right the heart of the city, making it perfect for exploring Bath on your doorstep.
The hotel is both chic and trendy but not in a threatening way; the interior design is particularly exciting. The bathroom in our room boasts a wall decorated entirely with goldfish-covered wallpaper, the orange and blue tones of which inject a quirky edge into the accommodation as does the gold grouting between the white tiles. There’s also a free-standing bath in there and fabulous White Company products. It’s all rather like staying at the house of a particularly fashionable friend.
One little touch I particularly like is the little, dim bathroom lights that automatically come on into dark should you need to make your way to the toilet in the night. All hotels please take heed of this! A marvellous concept and a rousing thumbs up to whoever’s idea it was. What’s more, Classic FM is also playing when we enter here, too which is proving a charming theme of my stay so far.
It’s the Michelin-starred restaurant in this delightful townhouse which is the true gem of the establishment, however. If you’re after an excellent meal, the 3 AA Rosette Olive Tree restaurant is the ideal spot – it’s certainly the best one I’ve had in a long time.
I go all out and order the larger of the two tasting menus, otherwise known as the ‘Chris Cleghorn Seven’, with paired wines. Things start exceedingly well with a cheese-filled profiterole appetiser – an ingenious morsel of pleasure – before a raw Orkney scallop is presented in its pretty shell for a starter. It’s succulent and juicy thanks to the tangy pink grapefruit granita along with a kick from the horseradish. This is paired with a Galician Rías Baixas white wine before I’m served a Lebanese rosé with my second course of burrata – not that this is the Italian cheese as I’ve ever known it. This is burrata ice cream, churned and frozen but still creamy with the saltiness of green olives with tomatoes and a basil sauce.
Onto the first of the mains – Turbot on the bone which is like consuming a cloud it’s so soft and tender, pairing perfectly with the crunch of asparagus and buttery sauce, along with shrimp, salted lemon and sherry. To go with this is is the best Chardonnay I’ve ever tasted – an Astrolabe Province Marlborough Chardonnay 2015 which knocked my socks off; both nutty and creamy it went hand in hand with the turbot perfectly.
We move onto the second main of oh-so-succulent Woolley Park Farm duck served with duck liver on a tiny sliver of toast along with barbecued beetroot, sea beet, hazelnut and blackcurrant – all paired with a rich South African merlot.
The first dessert is a soft Tor cheese with soaked golden raisins and chicory with a Jurançon 2016 rosé before moving onto a (highly unusual but incredibly delicious) tobacco-flavoured ice cream which comes with chunks of aero-style chocolate and a chocolate parfait – rounded off with a divine Graham’s 2013 port.
By this point, I’m frankly sozzled and stuffed. I squeeze in a yummy raspberry and ice cream concoction before I throw in the towel. No way can I face the proffered coffee and petit fours although I have no doubt they’re just as delectable as everything else in the feast. We began our meal at 8.15pm and it is now 12.30pm. It’s definitely time to leave. Any plans we have of going out are shattered – as are we.
Our waiter throughout the evening has been the charming Jake who we find out is a mere 22. This appears to be a theme of the restaurant – most of the servers look as though they could be about to sit their A-Levels – but this doesn’t seem to affect the running of the place. Jake himself is incredibly knowledgeable and seems to know all there is to know about the wines he studiously explains to us. I also overhear him taking care to find out the needs and desires of the couple next to us so he can advise them suitably.
The restaurant appears to be doing a roaring trade and is filled with customers, creating a buzzy atmosphere for the Saturday night. This is particularly impressive given how unassuming The Olive Tree is from the outside – but it really is a true gem worth checking out. Not to be missed!
Hotel prices start from £145 for a classic double room. To book go to www.thequeensberry.co.uk
No 15 Great Pulteney
Great Pulteney Street is the widest and grandest in the city of Bath so it stands to reason that No 15 Great Pulteney is also rather grand. It is also, however, completely bonkers.
This eccentric hotel – self-proclaimedly “luxury for the curious” – is packed full of character which one might never guess judging from its chic Georgian townhouse exterior in complete uniformity with the entire street. Inside, the decor is so quirky it leaves your scratching your head. There’s a collection of kaleidoscopes in the hallway, a bizarre selection of dog figurines on one stairway and military memorabilia crowding the bottom of a staircase. The latter even features a soldier mannequin which, when first I spot it out of the corner of my eye, nearly makes me jump out of my skin. You have been warned!
In fact, no staircase in the same here: one has models of anthropomorphised pigs, another old cameras and a third huge perfume bottles. The thought that must have gone into the design is mind-boggling.
Our room on the top floor is lovely and while not so ostensibly idiosyncratic as the communal areas, there’s still something undeniably Bohemian. Our lamp shade drips in beads, mirrors with weaved frames sit above the bed’s headboard and a large, black sheep serves as a chair. These quirks don’t stop the hotel form providing all the mod cons, however, judging by the Dyson hairdryer and fan plus enormous TV with Sky.
From our window, we can see the roofs of all the stunning Georgian houses on the streets, the famous rugby grounds and even the abbey if I crane my head – all backed by the glorious Somerset countryside.
An inventive addition to the hotel’s set-up is The Larder which peckish guests can raid whenever they want. While I am there it stocks help-yourself supplies of milk, ice cream, yoghurts, water, cans of fizzy drinks, old fashioned sweets plus flapjacks and brownies. It’s gloriously like a tuck shop and my inner schoolgirl lights up with the glee at the idea of plundering it for free (before my adult self remembers my straining jeans).
Before dinner, we head for a drink at the hotel’s Bar 15 which promises ‘creative liquid libations.’ I opt for a classic No 15 Champagne cocktail and settle back to see what eccentric delights reside in the bar. I am not disappointed. Our table is utterly bedecked with blue beads and jewellery and topped with glass, the huge paintings on the wall come to life with bizarre protrusions and little 3D editions of classic novels such as The Water Babies feature enchanting cut-outs of characters on the front covers.
I’m more taken with the restaurant, however. Aptly named The Dispensary, the room goes the whole hog with the theme, complete with extensive wooden drawers labelled for herbs, antiquated glass bottles of all colours lined again the wall and even old talcum powder containers.
There’s a nod to the actual function of the restaurant as well thanks to such features as a stove, complete with cast iron pots and a wall boasting every type of whisk you could possibly imagine.
The food is tasty too. I enjoy a starter of hake goujons – which are fresh and delicious – before a crispy duck salad washed down with a South African Cabernet Sauvignon. I finish with an utterly indulgent sticky toffee pudding (with top-notch fudge sauce) and a paired dessert wine.
Prices from £115 for a Cosy Double room. 01225 807015; www.no15greatpulteney.co.uk
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