“If adventures will not befall a young lady in her own village, she must seek them abroad.” Jane Austen
Ah Bath. Beautiful, spa-salty, rugby-licking, Regency Bath.
If you’ve never visited this part of England, you’ve missed a trick or two.
Tourist brochures boast about the honeyed-smooth Crescent and Circle, the Jane Austen heritage, and the healing spa waters that predate Roman times (and, for the record, you can visit the Roman Baths themselves, complete with bold statues standing tall over emerald bubbling mist.)
I have a soft spot for the city for several reasons. I took my first steps as a new doctor onto a hospital ward at the Royal United Bath and a few years later, took my first steps as a newlywed beneath the crystal chandeliers at the Bath Assembly Rooms.
I’ve had good times before and since: learning how to cook, unearthing druidic history, strolling through handicraft lanes and floating in the starlit wilderness during something known as a watsu at the Thermae Bath Spa.
But my latest trip to Bath came just before Christmas, when the stout, sturdy Abbey glittered in her gladrags beneath the stars. When those shopping lanes lay studded with ice lights, and the Roman statues loomed larger than before.
Behind the Abbey just before the riverbank, a pop-up ski chalet mulled hot wine into the air and children posed for photos behind a giant snow bauble.
The pop-up chalet (and accompanying posing stag) belonged to the Bath Abbey Hotel, an establishment that, as the name would suggest, overlooks the Bath Abbey.
The place is worth a visit just to sip an Earl Grey Martini in the Art cocktail bar, but for the complete experience, let’s zip on in to the whole hotel review.
The iconic red phone boxes seen across Britain were hated when they first arrived in 1935. Erected to celebrate King George V’s jubilee, allowances were made for muted grey phone boxes to appear in areas of outstanding or architectural beauty. Look out for the K6 phone box, therefore, on the edge of Bath’s Royal Crescent… And laugh at our fickle, fading change in fashion.
Rooms are cool and calm in muted colours. Compared to the Americas, the rooms are on the small size but this is Britain and you are sleeping in a renovated Georgian Townhouse.
There’s nothing old fashioned about the fixtures, though: wifi, lift, and hot showers are all present and correct. There’s an iPad-led guest services device plus REN toiletries. Ask for a room at the front of the building if you want to be able to see the Abbey and the famous Pulteney Bridge.
The Art Bar makes a splash with both its décor and its drinks. Bold and brilliant, even if you’re just in Bath for the evening, make an effort to check out this place. I loved the sharp restraint of the Early Grey Martini but more daring souls can perhaps check out the pink grapefruit ‘n’ vodka based Texas Breakfast.
Allium artfully dodges the trap that can befall many a hotel restaurant: slightly uncomfortable silence. Luscious beige drapes mean the ambiance is quite different to the bar. The menu offers hotel staples for the weary traveller but excels in gourmet creations for those looking for a good night out too.
Between triple-cooked chips and purple-sprouting broccoli with ginger, sesame and soy, there are enough options to satisfy a varied collection of guests.
Disclosure – I received a complimentary stay at the Bath Abbey Hotel for review purposes – on the understanding that as ever, as always, I kept the right to write what I like. The good, the bad, and the part about the Roman statues. Otherwise, what’s the point?
Abigail King is an award-winning writer and author who swapped a successful career as a hospital doctor for a life on the road. With over 60 countries under her belt, she's worked for Lonely Planet, the BBC, National Geographic Traveller and more. She is passionate about sustainable tourism and was invited to speak on the subject at the EU-China High Level summit at the UNESCO Headquarters in Paris.Here she writes about food, travel and history and she invites you to pull up a chair and relax. Let's travel more and think more. Welcome!
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