Travel: Standing the test of time - Bath’s Thermae Spa
11:16 13 July 2015
Dave Saunders Photography
Hampered by building delays, soaring costs and rows over peeling paint, Bath’s Thermae Spa was in the headlines for all the wrong reasons.
It is estimated that the final cost of the spa was £45million - £30milliom over budget. But nine years on this is undoubtedly one of if not the top attraction to this beautiful city, pulling in more than 250,000 visitors a year and contributing £15million to the local economy.
The building itself is described as a “fusion of glass, stone, light and water” and certainly stands out amongst the Georgian buildings with its giant glass exterior.
The spa houses two natural thermal baths where visitors can bathe in the hot spring waters which come from beneath the city which were first discovered in 863BC by Prince Bladud who was allegedly cured from skin disease after soaking in the waters.
After a good four hour soak, you can be left in no doubt that the healing properties of the water are true. Any sign of dry skin and tired, stressed muscles were completely banished.
Of course the healing properties of natural spring water are well documented. Nobody seems to know exactly why these warm mineral rich waters are so soothing but hundreds of years of use has confirmed its beneficial effects and it’s great to see the hoards of visitors coming to Bath for the same reasons they did hundreds of years ago.
The roof top pool offers the best view of the city and surrounding hills while the Minerva Bath in the basement lets you gently float around the grand columns on the whirlpool and “lazy river” cycles.
The spa also houses four infused steam rooms and a “waterfall shower” in the centre as well as offering a full menu of spa treatment. Perhaps the most unique of these is the Watsu - a water based therapy that combines the comfort of warm water with the benefits of shiatsu massage.
In the private thermal pool housed in the Hot Bath, a therapist slowly stretches your body as you float in the water.
There’s also the Cross Bath, an open-air private pool located on a sacred 2,000-year-old Roman cistern just across the road, which is ideal for booking out for private parties.
Having overcome relentless obstacles from the inset, Thermae has well and truly justified its time and cost. Striking the right balance of old and new and promoting health and well-being over beauty and vanity. Long may it continue.
Where to stay
It’s hard to believe the Queensberry Hotel has just three-stars, with it’s luxury Queen size beds, high ceilings and lavish white bathrooms complete with fluffy white dressing gowns.
Every room has been designed with meticulous attention to detail and epitomises what a boutique hotel should be, from the opulent ceilings to the enveloping beds, corner sofas and quirky cushions.
The hotel was commissioned and owned by the 8th Marquess of Queensberry in 1771 and is spread across four Georgian townhouses located just north of the centre and a five minute walk from the shops.
The star feature of this hotel is it’s restaurant. Nestled in the basement of the hotel, the Olive Tree is fine dining at its very best.
Head chef Chris Cleghorn has trained under Michelin star chefs and it shows. The menu is perfectly balanced - the starters complimenting the mains and vice versa.
The crab lasagne - a perfect cylinder shaped with layers of thin green pasta and rich crab meat surrounded by a rich lobster bisque - was particularly memorable.
Main dishes start from around £20, which considering what other luxury hotels in Bath charge is very reasonable and worth every penny.
The halibut, perfectly moist and beautifully presented with asparagus and a Noilly Prat sauce. Other mains on the Spring menu include pan fried stone bass, lamb loin and belly and duck breast with braised chicory.
The service, as you would expect, is top notch too.