Bath, or Aquae Sulis as the ancient Romans called it, has long cast a spell over visitors. The thermal hot springs, unique in England, are renowned for their healing qualities, and even before the Romans built an awe-inspiring spa complex, the Celts had chosen the sacred site for a shrine. Later, the Georgians honed a more modern touristic ritual: dips in the warm baths were accompanied by drinking the therapeutic water at The Pump Room, the restaurant which still exists adjacent to The Roman Baths. Today four million visitors travel every year to Bath, a UNESCO World Heritage site.
Just 1.5 hours from London by train, Bath has a calming effect on urbanites. Surrounded by the pastoral countryside of southwest England, this immaculately preserved Georgian town exudes a village air with charming boutiques and neoclassical Palladian buildings. No wonder so many Londoners relax here on the weekends. And now there’s another reason to plan a trip: The Gainsborough Bath Spa hotel.
The Spa Suite, which has dedicated in-room thermal water service, includes unlimited
The highly anticipated Gainsborough debuted last July after years of restoration work by Malaysia-based YTL Hotels. Not without delays, the ambitious project connected three Classical-style buildings in the heart of the historic city, including Hetling House, Bath’s only surviving Elizabethan mansion. The restoration preserved architectural details, like a Victorian chapel (now used as event space). During the excavation, archeologists made an incredible discovery: a stash of 17,500 Roman coins (called the Beau Street Hoard), and some of this treasure is now displayed in the hotel lobby.
Most remarkably, engineers tapped into the Hetling Spring to supply the hotel’s basement-level spa with Bath’s famous mineral-rich water. And so The Gainsborough became the only UK hotel to boast direct access to natural thermal springs. The spa is just one of the stand-out features at The Gainsborough, as Luxury Travel Advisor found out on a recent visit.
There’s an intimate feel to the five-star hotel, as front desk staff and the Guest Relations Team — overseen by Brian Benson ([email protected]; 011-440-122-535-5335) — go out of their way to assist clients from restaurant recommendations and train station pick-ups to arranging daytrips to Stonehenge and the Cotswolds.
This level of service continues in the bar, where head barman Joel Saint John will ask your favorite spirit before crafting a bespoke cocktail with interesting ingredients and maybe spices like cardamom pods. To unwind in the evening, try the Sacred English Negroni, made with Sacred Gin from London, paired with sophisticated snacks.
And in the Spa Village — already garnering accolades as one of Europe’s top spas — attendants greet guests at the Aroma Bar, where a custom fragrance is crafted based on the guest’s mood. Choose your own scent, and the essential oils are applied to a sachet of Cornish sea salt, which you’re encouraged to carry with you throughout your spa experience. Spa Manager Jessica Grant ([email protected]) has recruited a top-notch team of professional therapists. (Hint: Request Louise for the signature Magnesium Wrap, a full-body treatment which includes exfoliation and massage.)
Tip: Be sure to allow ample time to enjoy the Bath House Circuit prior to your treatment. Conjuring the original Roman baths, the spa is located under a soaring atrium roof and features the same sequence of rooms that you’ll ogle at the Roman ruins nearby: three natural thermal pools of varying temperature, an infrared sauna, a steam room and an ice cove. There’s even a mosaic floor that replicates an original Roman design unearthed on the site in the 19th century. After reveling in Roman-style grandeur, cap off your R&R with a decadent drink from the hot chocolate fountain — a nod to the Georgians who indulged in chocolate as a new-found luxury.
Note: Hotel guests who have not booked a spa treatment are allowed to use these facilities from 7 a.m. to 9 a.m. and 8 p.m. to 10 p.m.
The restaurant, Johann Lafer at the Gainsborough, is excellent value for money. Michelin-starred Chef Johann Lafer, a TV personality in Germany, has a long-standing collaboration with Wai Look Chow, executive chef for YTL Hotels, in championing “Dining without Borders.” Devised by Lafer and flawlessly executed by Austrian Chef George Schneeberger, the menu is a celebration of local ingredients, made sublime with Asian touches. For example, the Cornish King Crab Salad is adorned with a tomato and ginger mousse; the cream of parsnip soup is served with wasabi ravioli; the Devonshire Duck Breast is accompanied by Pak Choi, grapefruit jelly and Teriyaki jus; and the Roasted Rack of Wiltshire Lamb comes with a Szechuan Pepper crust.
The 99 guest rooms were decorated by Champalimaud Design, the renowned New York-based agency. With soaring ceilings and Georgian windows, the elegant rooms are done up in relaxing hues. Booking Tips: The four Junior Suites, with their separate sitting area alcoves, are highly requested, as are the three new Spa Suites, which boast bathroom taps that directly source water from the thermal springs. (Additional perks for Spa Suites include toiletries by Neal’s Yard and unlimited access to the spa). For families traveling together, consider one of three corner suites, which wrap around the side of the building, a configuration which allows a separate space for a sofa bed for the children. The crème de la crème of suites are the two-bedroom Suite (No. 205), which is a two-level duplex, and the Gainsborough Suite, which offers triple aspect views over Bath from its fourth-floor perch. Note: The 14-room block in Bellott’s Building, with its own private access and courtyard garden, can be privatized for groups.
Nice in-room touches include Asprey bath amenities, complimentary minibars and Nespresso machines. And the turn-down service deserves a special shout-out: old-fashioned poems are placed on the bed with a sprig of lavender.
For assistance with bookings, reach out to Reception Manager Megan McLanaghan ([email protected]; 011-440-122-535-5330), who is a wealth of information about both the hotel and its surroundings. The Gainsborough Bath Spa is managed by Andrew Jordan, executive vice president, YTL Hotels & Properties.