TheRoyal Crescent Hotel & Spa has perfect proportions, cobblestones underfoot and the views of the honey-coloured city of Bath. Sitting in the center of the famous crescent street, the hotel epitomises English elegance – a neoclassical delight inside and out, with fine dining, an even finer spa and consistently first-class service.
The grand Sir Percy Blakeney Suite (a Master Suite) has a vast drawing room – all neutrals and golds – and a handsome (decorative) fireplace, and is the only suite with both the hotel’s magnificent views: the park and trees fading into the distance in front, and the hotel’s beautiful gardens and one-time coachhouse buildings at the foot of the city rising up behind. The bedroom’s a tasteful pink-and-white confection, four-poster and all. In the coachhouses’ conservatory extension, the capacious Beau Nash Suite (a Deluxe Suite) has a charming living room that opens out onto the gardens.
A dip in the indoor pool, in the spa building below a high stone ceiling, is so peaceful it’s verging on a religious experience (the church-like vaulted windows add to the effect).
The Bath House is a genteel, wood- and stone-lined spa with six treatment rooms, including one for couples. It's housed in a converted coach house close to the main hotel; there are two pools to match your mood: the relaxation pool, which lives up to its name; and the vitality pool, which aims soothing massage jets at tense backs; after you've soaked to serenity, head to the sauna infused with Himalayan salt, or the steam room with calming mint and eucalyptus vapours. The spa menu is a tempting read, with facials, spa rituals, massages and body scrub and wraps. Top off your treatment with a mani-pedi by Jessica Nails.
Bring your binoculars to spy hot-air balloons as they fly by overhead – or to people watch if you’ve a room with a park-side view. Even if you’re not in Bath to take the waters, remember your swimwear – the spa pool here is spectacularly tempting.
Exclusive use of the entire hotel – all 45 rooms, and 110 staff, as well as the gardens, spa and Dower House restaurant – can be arranged.
For £35 per stay, furry friends can slumber in one of six pet-friendly rooms, each with direct access to the gardens or a private courtyard. Beds, bowls, refuse bags, a bin and some treats are provided, but pets aren't allowed in public areas. See more pet-friendly hotels in Bath.
Welcome, although it’s quite a grown-up stay. Under-12s aren’t allowed in the pool or spa. Baby cots, toy boxes and babysitting is available on request. Extra beds for 3–11 year olds are £50 a night, including breakfast; £150 a night for over-12s.
Grab a table in the garden, weather permitting. The colour of the sun setting on Bath stone makes for a delightful backdrop.
You don’t technically need to dress for dinner (although the restaurant’s the one place you can’t wander into in your robe, fresh from the spa), but it’s quite an elegant setting so you can break out your finery without feeling overdressed.
The award-winning Dower House serves a Modern British menu; chef David Campbell and his team love their all-new kitchen, and that enthusiasm translates into exquisite, creative dishes. Who knew chocolate and eucalyptus go together? (You may hear your fellow diners marvelling loudly over the chef’s artistry – the praise is fully deserved.) The full, fabulous tasting menu is served on Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays, but you won't go hungry mid-week with all-day dishes served in the restaurant or the beautifully manicured garden.
They’ll mix anything you like (the classic negronis are perfect) and the blue-and-gold bar across the hall from the restaurant’s a pleasant place to sit and sip a while.
Breakfast is served from 8am to 10.30am; Sundays until 11am. An all-day menu runs from 12 noon to 9pm; the tasting menu (available Friday, Saturday and Sunday) is served from 7pm to 9pm and afternoon tea is from 1.30pm to 5pm.
The clue’s in the name: the hotel’s right in the centre of the Royal Crescent, at the heart of Bath.
The nearest airport is Bristol International, which is a 45-minute drive from the hotel. London Heathrow is an hour and a half away and Gatwick is three hours.
Trains from London Paddington head directly to Bath Spa and take an hour and 20 minutes. From the station, the distance is under a mile and transfers to and from the hotel can be arranged for £5 to £10.
The nearest motorway is the M4, which will deliver you all the way from London. There's a garage at the back of the hotel and valet parking is included in the rate. Alternatively, street permits are also available.
Worth getting out of bed for
Bath is best known for its baths, of course, but it’s home to a host of other genteel-city-stay attractions, too. For a start, just strolling the streets and admiring the elegant architecture is a delight, and the park rolling gently downhill from the crescent is a glorious spot for picnics, kickabouts or just lazing around.
The famed Roman Baths & Pump Room Royal, with their natural hot springs, are worth a visit, and if you’re a fan of genteel literary heroines then you’re probably already planning your pilgrammage to the Jane Austen Centre, a few minutes’ walk from the crescent. The hotel reserves the best two seats in the house for Saturday night performances at the Theatre Royal. Right on your doorstep (well, slightly to the left) is No 1 Royal Crescent museum, where you’ll learn everything there is to know about the history of your prestigious address.
If you're keen to see the city from a different perspective then consider the hotel's balloon flight partnership with Taittinger, which will see you drift over Bath's higgledy-piggledy streets Mary Poppins-style at dawn or (a more sociable) dusk. The flight includes champagne (but of course) and either breakfast, afternoon tea or dinner at the Dower House Restaurant.
You don't traditionally think of tapas when you're visiting Bath, but Corkage (01225 423 417) on Chapel Road services up bite-size delights well worth trying (and its only a 10-minute walk from the hotel). If you’d prefer Italian cuisine, head to popular (booking recommended) Sotto Sotto, a 15 minute stroll away on North Parade. If staying at an historic hotel’s got you feeling old-fashioned and you have a car at your disposal, head to the George Inn at Norton St Philip (+44 (0)1373 834224), one of the oldest pubs in the country (the fine-dining menu’s excellent, and it’s a 20-minute drive from the Royal Crescent).
It is a truth universally acknowledged that a man and his wife in possession of a free weekend, must be in want of a fine hotel to spend it in. So it was that Mr and Mrs Smith, along with Master Smith took to the sunny Western highway in the direction of the Royal Crescent Hotel at Bath.
Not only is Bath famed by acolytes of Jane Austen and all things Georgian, its spa waters are reputed as among the most tonic in Britain. Our first question when we alighted at the columned entrance of this elegant townhouse, our car discreetly parked for us and bags carried, was ‘Is the pool open?' Seated in the drawing room, surrounded by lavish cornicing, crystal chandeliers and walls the colour of sugared almonds, we waited for our answer: a yes. As if we needed it, our instincts about a glorious weekend ahead were confirmed.
The hotel’s setting deserves its boast of sitting in the centre of the world’s most famous crescent. At the front, where our pistachio and dove-grey rooms looked out, identical and imposing townhouses in neoclassical style encircle a rolling green, overlooking the town beyond and the Somerset hills in the distance. At the back, a surprisingly large garden opens out, leading to the restaurant and spa. It is a quintessentially English garden, mellow with pink roses, lavender-fringed paths, sculpted box and grass strewn with half-finished games of croquet. We adored the enormous round copper seat that swings from a tree, like an off-cut from a Henry Moore piece and just as relaxing to be around.
In the pool, I discovered my alter ego might be a lady of a certain age in flowered swimming hat and enormous glasses. I lolled on the surface of 37-degrees water. At eight-and-a-half-months pregnant, why break a sweat, particularly in the inner sanctum of what looks like an old stone chapel, with tall windows pouring sunlight onto the water. Master Smith could not believe his luck, as this pool for post-therapy lolling was ideal for a boy of his proportions, especially with just us his two doting parents a captive audience to his delight in the warm water.
Nothing could follow a dip in English spa waters better than an excellent cup of tea. We emerged into the garden, found a table under a white parasol and sat down to read the extensive list of teas, from classic Earl Grey to exotic combinations of herbs and chai. The detoxifying aromatic Pu-erh chai from the Yunnan did not stop me wrestling with said small boy for more of the buttery home-baked biscuits that came with it. In other respects, the restaurant and setting had a strangely deceptive effect. It was so elegant, and the food so subtly combined, it made me think I was not in England, but in France. High praise, Mr Smith will testify. Loire Valley rabbit, cèpes mushrooms, a sip of his Sancerre, and sides involving emulsions, purees, foam, jellies and compotes fitted perfectly with Bath’s style of neoclassical order. The desserts cluster two key flavours together in a medley of techniques; one called Lavender and Strawberry was a particularly brilliant combination of different textures and deliciousness.
Thankfully, Mr Smith and I shared the same approach to tourism on our Bath weekend: a very minimal one. It was Sunday afternoon before we ventured across the cobbles and green, down the hilly streets and crescents into the town centre. Bath’s single architectural vision is on display everywhere. Despite the ubiquity of chains like Garfunkel’s and Whittards here as on every other British high street, peeking from gorgeous facades, I was assailed again by the city’s serenity and stylistic order – and the sense we must have popped up in France. The world’s worst street performers – a classical orchestra pre-recorded in the background while mimed, yes mimed by a group of delusionists – could probably have taken place anywhere on earth. They didn’t ruin the view.
But we were in merry England after all, and back at the hotel for another swing from the tree, we decided to order fish and chips for an early supper together in the garden. Master Smith had rummaged in the wicker toy box you can request by age group and produced a box of dominoes for us to play meanwhile. It was the perfect Sunday evening, before retiring to our room for baths and dousing ourselves in Penhaligon’s lotions. It was time to recline under the moulded chandeliered ceiling of our bedroom, the view above perhaps even more important for a weekend in a romantic hotel as the view from the window. We also hear the Jane Austen Cultural Centre is well worth a visit too… But as the author herself said: ‘There is nothing like staying at home, for real comfort.’ So I’m sure she’ll forgive us for not having budged further from this home from home.
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