Sitting on natural hot springs, it’s no surprise that Bath boasts some of the finest and most indulgent spas in the UK – the Romans clearly hit watery gold when they first started using the city’s springs for bathing and relaxation. I was lucky enough to visit the Spa & Bath House at Bath’s super-swanky Royal Crescent Hotel recently, and was impressed in particular by the luxurious atmosphere created and quality of treatments on offer. With several top spas in Bath to choose from (the stunning Thermae Bath Spa is another), what makes the Royal Crescent stand out?
First, it is important not to underestimate location, location, location. Situated slap-bang in the middle of the Royal Crescent, surely one of Bath’s finest architectural sites, the hotel has prime position. Stepping into the smart lobby and away from the hoards of tourists outside posing for selfies adds an air of exclusivity, and guests are smoothly escorted across the quiet lawns to the spa at the far end of the garden. Elegantly fitted out with sleek, minimal decor, the spa itself is small but perfectly formed: areas such as the changing rooms and waiting area are scrupulously clean, calm and relaxing. The spa’s small size also limits the number of visitors, and careful management of clients and treatments ensures minimum disturbance – at times, we felt as though we had the whole spa to ourselves. By contrast, the busy changing rooms and communal areas of the Thermae spa can feel less than peaceful, and despite its large size it occasionally feels rather packed. The treatments themselves were beyond luxurious, and included one of the best hot stone massages I have ever had. Prior to a treatment, guests are asked to select answers to questions about their habits, health, skin and other aches and pains – but rather than being a rather mundane questionnaire, answers are tallied to reveal the ‘element’ that best aligns with you and your specific needs. Products from the spa’s primary brand, Elemental Herbology, are then selected to be used as part of your treatment – whether that be the most appropriate scent for an oil, or the right serums and creams to suit your complexion.
The recently renovated facilities provide the perfect setting in which to relax either before or after treatments. The glassy Relaxation Pool is beautifully lit by large windows looking out into the spa’s walled garden, and is heated to an ideal temperature for lazy swimming or just soaking in the water. For something slightly more vigorous, the hot Vitality Pool filled with bubbling massage jets is perfect. A sauna and steam room (as well as a gym, for the more energetic) round off the facilities on offer, with huge hot and cold rainhead showers available nearby to either cool off or warm up as required. Despite the opulence of the bathhouse’s renovation and stylish looks, however, the Royal Crescent perhaps loses out in this respect to Thermae Spa, with it’s mind-bogglingly beautiful open-air rooftop bath, indoor thermal bath, smaller private open-air ‘Cross Bath’ and extensive Wellness Suite. For visitors wishing to only use the spa facilities at either (with no treatments), it is worth noting that both charge the same amount for entry between Monday to Friday (£35). The Royal Crescent does have an extra string to its bow however, in the form of its wonderful outside space. In addition to its extensive hotel gardens, the bathhouse has its own private walled garden, where spa visitors can enjoy the sun alongside food and drinks without having to de-robe and get dressed. Sitting outside sipping on one of the delicious herbal teas provided after treatments was supremely relaxing, although the downsides of the walled garden also became apparent when trying to get the attention of a waiter. Afternoon tea followed after several hours of relaxing, and unfortunately again this was somewhat hit and miss. Despite this being ordered as part of the spa package, there was some confusion as to whether this had been booked or not, and the same issues seemed to occur with several other guests as well. Given how smoothly the hotel and spa managed all other aspects of the day, it shouldn’t be difficult to iron out these issues, and would have elevated an otherwise relaxing day from pleasant to perfect. Nevertheless, when the afternoon tea arrived it was divine: sandwiches were piled on plates and generously replenished, whilst excellent teas, cakes and pastries completed the set. All in all, if you are after a spa day that goes above and beyond soaking in hot springs, and also offers delicious food in a beautiful setting, the Royal Crescent will go far in satisfying your needs.
The Royal Crescent Hotel & Spa, 16 Royal Crescent, Bath
Disclaimer: I was a paying guest at the Royal Crescent, and all views and opinions are my own.