Where to rest your head when running away to Bath.
England brims with charming escapes, historic communities and townships famed for their iconic residents. However, only the truly magical locations - cities rich in literary history, Georgian charm and architecture built to delight - become icons. Bath is one such regal destination. And it has been for quite a while. This place is old, really old. Founded by a King with a questionable skin condition back in 863 BC, this city has hosted the Celts, Romans, Saxons and contemporary Brits; all looking to take the water (and presumably a pot of tea). It is this water, which can be spied from the Roman Baths and suitably decadent Pump Room Restaurant where afternoon tea is highly recommended, that gives you a real sense of Bath's majesty. It takes around 10,000 years for the soft rain that blesses England to seep through the earth, be heated by high temperature rocks and return, warm and mineral-rich, to the surface. No one knows exactly where the water's source lies (which makes you hope that the picturesque rural communities encasing Bath never develop the desire to expand), yet I do know that you can take advantage of its undeniably soothing properties at Thermae Bath Spa. This decidedly modern, ever-popular venue is dedicated to helping visitors take in easy, breath deeply and bask in the brilliance of floating in 40 degree rooftop pool as snow falls and the sunset illuminates the surrounding stone structures. That said, the experience is just as pleasant when experienced on a faultlessly clear day.
There are more modern attractions too, which tend to take the form of food and shopping. Bath is a Mecca for farm shops and design stores and while there are some wonderful High Street gems (Hay and Found spring to mind), my favourite discovery was The Foodie Bugle, the newest addition to Margaret's Buildings. Full of fresh local produce, homewares, cookbooks and vintage treasures, this is a delightful spot to stop at and savour a pot of tea ... or a charcuterie and cheeses plate for that matter. On the subject of cheese, a pilgrimage to Paxton and Whitfield is essential, your inner foodie will thank you indefinitely. Savouring your purchases within Victoria Park while looking up at the Royal Crescent or the flourishing Botanical Gardens is also highly advised. Other culinary attractions include the quirky Sam's Kitchen Deli, where all of Bath's creatives go to work, and Bea's Vintage Tearoom where time is utterly irrelevant.
For a really remarkable gastronomic encounter book a table at the Olive Tree Restaurant, where even the bread (made with treacle) and butter proves to be a taste sensation. In honour of its West Country setting, the fare is farm fresh and locally sourced with the focus clearly on bringing the very best out of individual ingredients - while getting a little playful with flavours - my passionfruit parfait enchased in chocolate and dotted with popping candy springs to mind here. The restaurant is attached to the relaxed yet refreshingly opulent Queensberry Hotel. Overlooking the Assembly Rooms (lovers of Austen and fashion rejoice) and a leisurely amble from The Circus, this luxury, boutique retreat is the ideal Bath base. Beds are the love child of a cloud and hug, rooms are spacious and homely, details are refreshingly Old World and the service is delightful. However, vagabonds be warned, it is forbidden to duel or ride horses through the lobby - and presumably the atmospheric Old Q Bar. Fanciful and fun, I don't recommend ever checking out. Of either the hotel or the city for that matter ...