The Gainsborough Spa, Bath

There are spa breaks, and then there's a trip to The Gainsborough Bath Spa. This five-star hotel is the only one in the UK to enjoy access to thermal waters, and by god does it know how to make use of them. The heart of the whole establishment is the "spa village", a cavernous bathing complex complete with three mineral-rich pools, towering columns, Roman mosaics and a glass roof. Each guest is greeted with a personalised consultation - simply describe your mood and an aromatherapist will create a custom mix of scented salts to be carried around with you. There are 11 treatment rooms (the Ginger Renewal is our pick of the massages) as well as a series of saunas. Things getting steamy? There's crushed lavender ice at hand should you need to cool down.

Then there's the hotel. Built in the 1800s, the Gainsborough Bath Spa is housed within two Grade II-listed buildings (it was formerly a hospital and later a college). Reminders of the building's Georgian history abound - there's a sweeping staircase (very Jane Austen) and lots of cosy nooks and crannies like the lounge, which serves an excellent afternoon tea. The Gainsborough has managed to create a magical journey for guests, one which transports you from the Roman times through Georgian drama and right up into the modern day.


The building's Georgian architecture is most impressive in the rooms. There are 99 of them, and all have high ceilings, tall windows and lots of natural light. Colours are kept muted - think chestnut brown, taupe and duck-egg blue offset by black lacquer furnishings. Bathrooms come stashed with Asprey products.

What's for breakfast?

There's a continental breakfast on offer and any style of eggs can be ordered à la carte.

How about lunch and dinner?

West Country chef Dan Moon is currently at the helm of The Gainsborough Restaurant. He makes use of local ingredients - expect starters like sautéed scallops and mains of stuffed courgettes or lamb. Roast lunch is served on Sunday.

Is there a bar?

Yes, and it's excellent. Friendly bartenders shake up custom cocktails according to your favourite flavours. We imbibed a spiced winter berry concoction during our December stay.


The spa is the showpiece but there's also a fitness centre, free wifi and valet parking.

Things you should know

This is a grown-up hotel, perhaps one for a couple without the children.

Within a short walk you can find...

Bath is a small city and the Gainsborough is in the thick of it, so pretty much all of the major sites - including the Theatre Royal, the Roman Baths, the Royal Crescent - are within walking distance. There's also a delicious vegetarian restaurant called Acorn just around the corner.

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City Guide: Bath, Somerset, UK