Bath tales: ex­plor­ing the city of Bath and The Gains­bor­ough Bath Spa

YTL Life - - Contents - Words MARK LEAN

The city en­trances with cul­ture, his­tory, art and per­for­mances — all the right the in­gre­di­ents for a re­ward­ing weekend trip.

“Bath is the worst place to get any work done,” so re­marked the hu­man­ist Bri­tish politi­cian Wil­liam Wil­ber­force in the 19th cen­tury. The city, em­bed­ded in the rolling hills of Som­er­set, has a his­tory dat­ing to AD 60 when it was a Ro­man colony, re­galed for its heal­ing wa­ters at­trib­uted to the bless­ings of the god­dess Min­erva. Th­ese famed springs con­tain­ing over a mil­lion litres of min­eral-em­pow­ered wa­ters have healed both kings and com­mon­ers.

To­day, Wil­ber­force’s view holds even greater sway. A UNESCO World Her­itage Site, the city pulses with thriv­ing cul­ture, arts, theatre and food scenes, at­tract­ing lo­cal and in­ter­na­tional vis­i­tors to its com­pact, cob­ble­stoned path­ways lined with charm­ing shops, cosy cafes and no­table restau­rants. Also in the area is the city’s only lux­ury ho­tel The Gains­bor­ough Bath Spa and its Spa Vil­lage, both of which have placed Bath on the radar of trav­ellers who ex­pect only the best.

The Grade Ii-listed 99-room ho­tel and its spa, named after the artist Thomas Gains­bor­ough, com­prises a quar­tet of for­mer hos­pi­tal struc­tures — Bel­lott’s and Royal Hos­pi­tal Build­ing — that of­fers ex­clu­sive ac­cess to the city’s fa­mous health­ful ther­mal wa­ters.

Room in­te­rior de­sign is the work of New York-based Champaulimaud De­sign, com­bin­ing sub­tle tones of grey and white that frame uphol­stery with hints of bu­colic English coun­try scenes. Ameni­ties range from a high-tech se­lec­tion of ipod dock­ing sta­tions, flatscreen HD tele­vi­sions, retro Roberts ra­dios with Blue­tooth con­nec­tiv­ity, com­pli­men­tary WiFi, and for guests’ com­fort, ra­di­ant-heated bath­room floors.

All guests have ac­cess to the ther­mal pools at Spa Vil­lage. Known as the Bath House


ex­pe­ri­ence, it in­volves a se­quence of nat­u­ral ther­mal pools with dif­fer­ing tem­per­a­tures, in­frared and con­ven­tional saunas, a steam room, an or­nate ice cove and spa­ces de­signed for un­wind­ing while sip­ping a cus­tom-cre­ated tra­di­tional Ge­or­gian hot cho­co­late pep­pered with cloves and chilli.

The treat­ment rooms are el­e­gantly ap­pointed in so­phis­ti­cated shades of grey. Opt for an in­vig­o­rat­ing Ginger Re­newal treat­ment, com­posed of a body ex­fo­li­a­tion us­ing ginger and min­er­als; a neck, shoul­der and back mas­sage us­ing ginger oil and hot stones to un­knot kinks; and end­ing with a warm body wrap to seal in all the heal­ing and nur­tur­ing prop­er­ties of ginger.

Be­yond the spa, the city and its cul­tural at­trac­tions beckon. In sum­mer, Bath switches on its con­sid­er­able charms with events such as the Iford Arts Fes­ti­val, held at Iford Manor’s Peto Gar­dens with opera per­for­mances in English, con­certs and proms. In mid-july, vis­i­tors de­scend on the city for the an­nual Bath Car­ni­val. This year’s theme takes on a South Amer­i­can rhythm, com­plete with a Mardi Gras pro­ces­sion.

Dur­ing the sec­ond week of Septem­ber, the city cel­e­brates one of the United King­dom’s most re­spected writ­ers. In its 17th year, The Jane Austen Fes­ti­val is based on a theme from Northanger Abbey, pub­lished in 1817 and set in Bath. Among the planned ac­tiv­i­ties are tours, theatre pro­duc­tions and book read­ings.

For a dose of cul­ture and his­tory from a dif­fer­ent time, the Amer­i­can Mu­seum is the only mu­seum out­side the United States dis­play­ing Amer­ica’s multi-tex­tu­ral art forms. Lo­cated in Claver­ton Manor, the mu­seum fea­tures ex­hibits such as the Jazz Age: Fash­ion and Pho­to­graphs, tak­ing place un­til 28 Oc­to­ber. Be­sides the work of pho­tog­ra­pher James Abbe, who cap­tured the mod­ern world’s ini­tial fas­ci­na­tion with celebri­ties, the show in­cludes dis­plays of fash­ion ob­jects from 1919 to 1929.

Bath is, in­deed, a place where one gets lit­tle work done, though its dis­trac­tions are in­vari­ably more wel­com­ing that what Wil­ber­force imag­ined two cen­turies ago.

For more in­for­ma­tion, please visit www.the­gains­bor­ough­

The beau­ti­ful city of Bath hosts some of the finest mu­se­ums and at­trac­tions in Europe, in­clud­ing the Ro­man Baths (right and below right) and Bath Abbey (below left).

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