City Serenity – with an Acre of Garden Tucked up its Sleeve Too…
Those seeking a calming and elegant bolt hole to enjoy the patrician delights of Bath should head for The Royal Crescent Hotel & Spa
Review by Louise Gillespie
Ever since reading Hodgson Burnett’s ‘The Secret Garden’ I have been on the look-out for a secret floral oasis of my own, where those lucky enough to discover its beauty and charms can while away their existence. It was in the heart of the Royal Crescent in Bath that I found it, tucked away behind the impressive Georgian façade of yellow stone, The Royal Crescent Hotel & Spa reveals an acre of hidden walled gardens, complete with a wedding garden, spa garden and a truly English garden complete with lawns decked with tables and chairs for taking tea. It’s rather amazing that the gardens are not one of Bath’s top tourist attractions, for where else can you find a five-star city hotel with an acre of gardens tucked up its sleeves? The serenity of the gardens made me ever thankful that it remains a best kept secret to surprise and delight guests who step across the hotel’s threshold.
The chequerboard tiles of the hotel’s foyer and its high Georgian ceilings give a sense of Alice in Wonderland delight as I found myself gazing around in search of a little bottle to make me small enough to explore every hidden corner of the hotel. The two concierges akin to Tweedle Dumb and Tweedle Dee only in terms of their attentiveness and the fact that there are two, (that is where the similarity ends), for these two men are the oracles on Bath and as I bombarded them with questions of things to do and see, they not only plied me with “50 Things to Do in Bath” – a superb little itinerary come rain or shine created by the hotel – but also took the time to determine what my particular interests were.
The city of Bath is an oasis of independent shops, one being the Fine Cheese Company, an unmissable stop for cheese lovers who can while away an hour trying different cheeses and their expansive chutney selection. But although the city beckons to be explored, it is easily and completely acceptable to prefer to take in the view of the city from my enormous suite much as the Georgian upper class would have done, whilst the city smog and industry played out below them. In the distance, the rising swells of the Cotswold Hills remind me that I am far from London and its rat race as I ponder whether to take a swim or afternoon tea.
The quiet of the hotel is not at all unnerving, instead it is a cosy peacefulness akin to a quiet Sunday afternoon and the hotel encourages guests to treat the property as their home from home, whether it be reclining with a paper in the library or relaxing in the garden enjoying one of a choice of five delicious Afternoon Teas. A former coach house to the rear of the main property houses The Spa & Bath House, a haven of tranquillity and peace in the heart of the city complete with relaxation pool, steam inhalation room and sauna. The therapists at the hotel are extremely knowledgeable and lead you on a holistic journey with their chosen spa brand Elemental Herbology, selected for its natural and holistic approach to wellness. With the help of the therapist, I soon discovered that my element was Fire – and given my personality traits I can’t say it was much of a surprise. The ‘fiery’ version of myself was whisked away for a massage which left me feeling completely relaxed having had a fully tailored experience to suit my element and body’s needs. A dip in the vitality pool certainly invigorated the senses, after which I decided to don my fluffy bath robe and took my time in The Taittinger Spa Garden relaxing amidst the heavy scents of Bergamot, Geranium and Lavender, a glass of Taittinger Champagne in hand – this is The Royal Crescent Hotel & Spa after all, it would be rude not to.
Returning to my suite, I was once again taken aback by the detail and luxuriousness of the room. The hotel truly tells a story which one can delve into thanks to Historian Jeremy Seal’s work with the hotel to untie the knots of history and reveal its most hidden treasures. It was whilst relaxing on the sofa, that I learnt it was down to the audacity of Lady Amabel Wellesley- Colley that number 22 has the only yellow door on the Crescent. Amabel refused to bow to society’s demand to paint it black, and the door remains to this day a vibrant canary yellow as testament to her stubbornness and determination. Every one of the hotel’s suites is truly a room with a view, be it of the internal gardens, the city or the spectacular Crescent lawn where you can stand and imagine Jane Austen penning Northanger Abbey or Persuasion.
An aperitif in The Montagu Bar & Champagne Lounge is simply a must given the enthusiasm of the mixologist who effortlessly flips and spins flavours and Sipsmith gin into incredible concoctions. The signature Queen of the Blues cocktail is certainly an eye-catching glass of the brightest azure blue.
Dinner is served in The Dower House and the sommelier is the exuberant stage opener to the evening’s culinary performance. As he curates the wines, you find yourself itching to dash off to Bordeaux to experience the vineyards as he talks about the warm richness of the earthy soils, the rich aromas and the dark green leaves of the vines. With perfectly paired wines, the food at The Dower House champions the best of British produce and Head Chef David Campbell takes the finest ingredients and produces exceptional dishes. The contemporary twist on ‘dippy egg and soldiers’ featured a slow-cooked free range duck egg, with pork skin crunch and summer truffles, not forgetting the sumptuous duck fat soldiers. The Anjou Squab Pigeon was my next foray into culinary heaven, complete with Wye Valley asparagus, and a wild garlic and cep puree. Squeezing in a pudding, the milk chocolate and peanut bar would make any Snickers cower in the corner. Accompanied by malt marshmallow and peanut brittle, it was the perfect finish to a wonderful evening.
Back in my suite, I noticed the quiet once more and had to remind myself that the city centre was just a few hundred yards away. As I drifted off, my thoughts were filled with the stories I had read of the many characters who had inhabited these amazing buildings, as I fell asleep in a house filled with 250 years of history.
Rooms at The Royal Crescent Hotel & Spa start from £330 per night B&B
Enquiries: The Royal Crescent Hotel & Spa, 16 Royal Crescent, Bath BA1 2LS / 01225 823333 / www.royalcrescent.co.uk