The London Journalist visited the Roman city of Bath in Somerset, historically known for its uniquely therapeutic natural thermae waters first discovered in 863BC, for a sublimely relaxing spa weekend dreams that are made of...
In the centre of town surrounded by windy cobbled streets lined with honey-coloured ancient bathhouses lies The Gainsborough Hotel. Casually passing as a traditional and long-established hotel that royalty may have stayed in through the ages, The Gainsborough in actuality only opened two years ago and is the first thermal hotel in the UK.
Originally three separate buildings: Georgian, Elizabethan and Victorian in origin, the Malaysian infrastructure megalith YTL merged and convert the grade II listed properties into the first 5 star hotel to be opened in Bath within the last 30 years. The main success, however, was successfully negotiating permission (they actually own Wessex Water) to hack into the sacred waters themselves with a underground pipe leading directly from the hot spring to the hotel taps.
YTL then employed New York based decorators Champalimaud Design to conjure the high-end interiors that welcome relaxation seekers today. The brief was to keep true to the grandeur of the building and history, maintaining its Georgian character and enhancing the original features such as the Romanesque columns, while delivering an attractive art-deco atmosphere as to attract the desired client base.
The result is a very attractive offering: elegant. traditional 5 star accommodation and dining accompanying a truly magnificent bathhouse that provides the most blissful and elevating experience one can find when seeking health, relaxation and respite from the modern world...
Past the impressive marble-floored entrance hall you will find yourself walking down long corridors with vastly high-ceilings toward your suite. The corridors are full of character with an old-fashioned hospital-like feel, (the main building was originally a Victorian hospital) but this is more comforting than daunting and somewhat lends to the impression that people come to this site to be healed and have done for so many years.
The suites themselves are large and well appointed, decorated with muted tones and long thick curtains that add to the drama of the large Georgian windows which, from many rooms, boast views of Bath Abbey. Quality, comfort and service are exemplary here at the Gainsborough, and on your bedside table you will find even find a little black box inviting you to sample various pillows types to make sure you get the most comfortable and personalised sleep. – This is just a small example of the great lengths the staff at the Gainsborough go to, to make sure their guests are as contented as possible.
Of course the main draw is the Bathhouse itself which is complimentary to all guests. An appointment is made with an aromatherapy expert who, after interviewing you about your wellbeing, creates a bespoke concoction of oils and salts for you to inhale from throughout the bathhouse experience.
The Bathhouse has three thermal pools of varying temperatures and invites guests to 'take in the water' in a circuit much like the Romans would have. The spa is very spacious and the Gainsborough takes care not to let too many people in at a time so that it does not feel crowded. This means on a usual day you may have the opportunity to enjoy the smaller pools alone. I also found the spa attendants to be very attentive and key to keeping the timings right so that one does not have to stress about one's schedule, while in one of the chambers, or even about that Magnesium Wrap you booked...
I was surprised to find out that the word SPA comes from the Latin phrase ‘Salus Per Aquam’ meaning ‘health through water’, but this was certainly the case. The wondrously floaty water left me and my skin feeling utterly refreshed and revitalised. It is a sheer delight to know you are bathing in a pool of rainwater that fell over 10,000 years ago, spending an age meandering underground through hot rocks only to burst forth today thoroughly enriched with the earth's minerals and crystal clear at a perfect 45 degree temperature for your health and convenience.
The Bathhouse also benefits from an infrared sauna as well as a traditional sauna. An ice alcove (pictured above), steam room and relaxation terrace.
There are 11 treatment rooms in total where massages, facials and scrubs take place and a VIP room with a thermal water bathtub for the ultimate in private luxury.