If you’re feeling flighty, we recommend taking off to The Bird, Bath, a boutique stay with an eccentric manner and chirpy personality that’s come to rest by Bath Abbey. This Victorian villa has been given plenty of pizzazz by its experienced hotel owners (who have countryside stay Homewood in their flock), with bobby-dazzler chandeliers, look-at-me artworks in every nook and bird-of-paradise colours – plus many nods to its avian inspiration. Food is fine and foraged, drinks can be taken in the garden come summer, and the bar is cosily Alpine in winter, and there's a larder full of free snacks to raid – a stay where every day is a hoot.
11am. Earliest check-in, 3pm. Both can be flexible, subject to availability.
Double rooms from £132.00, including tax at 20 per cent.
Rates usually include a full English breakfast, or an à la carte choice of pancakes, smoked salmon and scrambled eggs, or lighter options.
The hotel has a larder filled with free snacks for the raiding, so you won't go hungry. You should also turn your gaze towards the hotel's art collection, they have some intriguing pieces, including Red Cat by Graham Knuttel, Timothy Oulton's oyster shells and Two Heads by Ed Chunleigh.
At the hotel
Small garden, larder with free drinks and snacks, lounge, art-book library, free WiFi. In rooms: flatscreen TV, Nespresso machine, tea-making kit (fresh milk is available at reception), free bottled water, Dyson hairdryer, mirror and stool, air-conditioning and Malin + Goetz bath products. An iron and ironing board is available on request.
Our favourite rooms
The Roomy King has the hotel’s more-is-more look with statement artwork, quirky statuettes and vases and bold prints (with a few birdies); but the classic Bath view over the Abbey pulls focus.
While there's no spa on site, the hotel partners with nearby Homewood. Spa day passes start at £80 (for three hours), are subject to availability and must be booked in advance. There's a hot tub with views over the valley, indoor hydrotherapy pool, sauna, steam room, heated outdoor swimming pool and an extensive list of treatments to boot.
Cobble-friendly shoes will come in handy and swimwear for restorative bathing spells. And if you’re planning on joining in the Jane Austen festivities, bring your flirtiest bonnet.
You’ll find a bottle of ‘bath water’ from the Mendip Hills in your room.
All ages are welcome, although tweens and teens will get the most out of Bath’s attractions. The Abbey Deluxe room has a sofabed (one single, two doubles, £35 a person) for smalls and the restaurant has a dedicated kids’ menu, plus highchairs to borrow.
The chef gets hands-on by foraging for ingredients, and ensures the menu is sourced locally. The hotel uses refillable toiletries and is part of Bath city council’s recycling programme.
Take drinks out in the garden or get as close to the bar’s log-burner as you can in winter months.
Take inspiration from the most colourful crests and chests; mix it up like a mandarin duck, tux up like a toucan or preen like a parrot.
Here eating like a bird means eagerly devouring your menu choices and then contemplating seconds at restaurant Plate, an eatery headed up by chef Leon Smith (whose former credits include Wild Honey in Berwick and Smith stablemate the Grove Narberth). He’s befriended local farmers and fishermen to ensure delicious seasonal dishes for the peckish: Wiltshire venison haunch with juniper, squash gnocchi with pecorino and truffle, heritage beetroot with blue cheese and candied walnuts. The kids’ menu here is equally tempting with battered Cornish haddock and braised Beeswax beef, and Sunday lunch roasts are suitably hefty. From Tuesday to Sunday, you can also have tiers of treats as part of the hotel’s afternoon tea – the chocolate brownie with dulce de leche and the carrot cake with candied lemon peel are the sweet things in particular to crow about.
With an international selection of red and white wines; gins flavoured with parma violet, rhubarb and ginger and more; and locally brewed beers (gem ale, Sulis lager), the hotel can help you get very merry, but the succinct and sippable cocktail list is worth sticking your beak in for the Dead as a Dodo (with amaretto and bourbon), Pink Pigeon lychee martini or the Silly Goose with coconut rum and pineapple. In summer (from April to October) the bar becomes seasonal drinkery Popinjays and cocktails can be taken on the terrace and garden and in winter (from mid-November to early January) it’s the Tavern, a Christmassy log-cabin-style den with twinkly lights, a log-burner to gather round and mulled drinks.
Breakfast is from 7.30am to 9.30am. From Wednesday to Saturday, lunch is served from 12 noon to 3pm; from Tuesday to Saturday, dinner is from 6pm to 9.30pm. On Sundays lunch runs from 12.30 to 4pm, dinner till 8.45pm.
Dishes from the à la carte menu can be delivered during restaurant hours.
All of Bath’s big-ticket sites are within orbit of the Bird, which is perched on Pulteney Road, overlooking Bath Abbey and the Recreation Ground.
Fly into Bristol Airport, where flights arrive direct from major destinations around Europe. As the crow flies, it’ll take you around 40 minutes to drive to the hotel.
Trains run direct from London Paddington to Bath Spa station; from there, the hotel is a 15-minute walk away. If you’re travelling from Bristol, the station is one stop away from Bristol Temple Meads.
From London, the hotel is roughly a three-hour drive away via the M4 – once you’ve left the city behind the drive is verdantly scenic, passing through the North Wessex Downs. From Bristol, the drive is less than an hour via the A4. Though be warned, though there is parking available, it is very limited and based on first a first-come, first-served basis.
Worth getting out of bed for
The Bird’s eye view is of Bath Abbey and the Recreation Ground, so you’ve the perfect perch for exploring this glorious Georgian city. And one of the city’s grandest streets is just steps from your door – Great Pulteney Street has some of the finest listed buildings and Palladian architecture in Bath – all in honey-hued stone. Bath’s hottest property Jane Austen and anti-slavery campaigner William Wilberforce both lived here; and at one end there’s Robert Adam’s elegant Pulteney Bridge, at the other lies the Holburne Museum. This houses the collection of art enthusiast Sir William Holburne; his interests mainly lay in bronze sculptures, silver and porcelain pieces and Dutch landscapes, so if that’s not your cup of tea, you can wander round Bath’s oldest park, Sydney Gardens, home to tennis courts, a children’s play area and film screenings and live music in summer months.
If a stroll down Great Pulteney Street didn’t give you the Jane Austen fix you craved, fear not: the creator of wet-shirt fantasies and bumpy-road romances is felt throughout the city – learn more about her life at the Jane Austen Centre, attend balls and dress-up promenades at the 10-day Jane Austen Festival in September or download the self-guided In the Footsteps of Jane Austen tour. And for more graceful façades, climb up to the Royal Crescent, a curve of covetable manses with far-reaching views out to the countryside. There’s a museum about the crescent’s history at No. 1. Or skip a little further back in history with a restorative spell at the Roman Baths; see the sacred spring and temple, take an Above and Below tour to get an idea of the scale of the original baths (you’ll need comfy footwear), and pose with statues of emperors on the terrace. You can try some of the mineral-rich waters, but the hot springs have long closed; however, should you wish to soak yourself into a serene state, Homewood and Thermae Bath spas have bath tub-warm waters to wallow in and indulgent treatments. Or immerse yourself in nature: the National Trust’s circular skyline walk takes around four hours to complete, but for your efforts you’ll get panoramic views out to the Blackdown Hills and pass through tucked-away valleys and beech woodland. Or you can tackle the 102-mile Cotswold Way (beware there are steep sections); but if languid is your preferred speed, seek out the Mayor’s Guides, who offer free twice-daily city tours. Ghost walks that uncover the spookier side of the city take place from 8pm from Wednesday to Sunday evenings. These tours leave from Bath Abbey, a place of several eerie sightings – but it’s worth visiting the Gothic structure by day to admire the handiwork of Sir George Gilbert Scott and learn of its long and winding history.
Scope out the city’s secret green spots on a Hidden Gardens of Bath tour, where you’ll see three private gardens and finish with afternoon tea, or drift along the Avon with Pulteney Cruisers. Or for more watery fun, head out to Warleigh Weir for a spot of wild swimming.
Enjoy zingy Vietnamese flavours at Noya’s Kitchen’s five-course supper club on Friday nights; the menu varies depending on what the owner decides to make that night, but expect rolls packed with fat prawns, deliciously pungent soups and fragrant curries. The restaurant also holds pho and curry nights on Thursdays and Saturdays. For carnitas tacos, sour-cream-slathered rice bowls and more than 100 tequilas and mezcals, try Mexican joint Dos Dedos (responsibly, mind). Beckford Bottle Shop is primarily a place to stock up on select slosh, sniff and sip wines, but they also have a tempting menu of small plates and sharing boards. Fill your table with fried courgettes with aioli, Bath chaps (pig cheeks) with Bramley apple sauce, burrata with peach and speck and other nibbly bits. At Smith stablemate the Queensberry Hotel, you’ll find the city’s only Michelin-starred eatery – the Olive Tree is helmed by super chef Chris Cleghorn, whose frequently changing menus aim to surprise. Choose from six or nine courses (vegetarian options are available) and you’ll be well-fed with dishes such as scallops with pink grapefruit, Woolley Park farm duck with kumquat, onion tart with truffle, and celeriac with lovage and mustard. And for more top British produce, book a table at Clayton’s Kitchen for honey-roasted Creedy Carver duck breast, port-wine-drizzled Wiltshire lamb or Pembrokeshire crab with pickled pear and a lengthy list of hearty puds.
Wild Café (10A Queen Street) has bread hand-baked in Bath, meat from local butchers and sausages from Downland Farm, which makes it an excellent brunching spot. The list of options is legion, running from fruity pancake stacks to oak-smoked kippers via eggs all ways and veggie brekkies.
The Hideout Bath was originally a Tudor refuge for thieves, highwaymen and other scoundrel sorts – the clientele has changed somewhat, but with a wide array of whiskies to hand, you may still find a little debauchery…
Every hotel featured is visited personally by members of our team, given the Smith seal of approval, and then anonymously reviewed. As soon as our reviewers have returned from this prettily plumed hotel in Somerset’s most celebrated city and unpacked their well-thumbed copy of Pride and Prejudice and box of Sally Lunn ‘bunns’, a full account of their top-flight break will be with you. In the meantime, to whet your wanderlust, here's a quick peek inside the Bird in Bath…
Twitchers, turn your binoculars to Bath, where a finely feathered specimen has taken wing. The Bird hotel has us all a’flutter with its winking sense of fun: crystal-dripping chandeliers, an aviary’s worth of bird prints and some fantastical touches make it delightfully eccentric. The owners (who also run heavenly spa stay Homewood just outside the city) also have a magpie’s eye for art – it covers the walls here, whether it’s delicate ceramics, jazzy abstracts or make-you-think modern statement pieces (they’ll happily give you some insight if you ask). And, this enlivened Victorian villa is just a few wing flaps from the Regency city’s most genteel sights, with the Abbey on your doorstep, home to Bath legends Great Pulteney Street mere steps away and spas both Roman and modern close by. And when you’ve completed your perambulations and are feeling peckish, the fine feathers in the hotel’s cap are its suite of dining and drinking options. Plate’s foraged finds are cooked into divine dishes (Cornish cod with sea vegetables, Wiltshire venison with juniper, hibiscus panna cotta) and the seasonal bars lean into the hotel’s thirst for playful extravagance. Come summer, the garden’s given ornate umbrellas as guests take their drinks outdoors, and come winter, Christmas crashes into the bar in lavish style, with trees, wreaths, lights and mulled sippers. We could chirrup on and on; instead we’ll just say that this birdie is one to watch.