With its unbeatable location and inimitable style, Bath’s Abbey Hotel provides the perfect base for exploring everything the historic city has to offer.
Ah, Bath – the original rejuvenating escape from London life. This buttery stone paradise has always been the place to come, not just to ‘take the waters’, but for other restorative treatments such as elegant cream teas and a little light flirting along the Georgian terraces. But probably the most wonderful attribute of Bath compared to London is that while it was fashion incarnate in Jane Austen’s time; nowadays it’s not at all hip. What a relief.
The Heart of the City
We stayed at the Abbey Hotel in North Parade – which is not lying when it says it’s in the heart of the city. It’s right in the centre of the action, but still peaceful due to its sweeping views of the River Avon and the Cotswolds beyond.
The hotel is made up of three smart townhouses with welcoming, colourful and deeply comfortable interiors. It’s alive with its own history but hasn’t given in to chocolate-box cuteness. There is eye-catching modern art at every turn – some from the owner’s private collection and some by Bath University students. Both the restaurant and the bar are honeypots for visitors and locals alike – the whole place buzzes with happy souls of all ages.
The Observer’s Jay Rayner declared the food at Allium Restaurant ‘worthy of a journey’ and I wouldn’t disagree. Jerusalem artichoke soup (always a pleasure to order as it’s so fiddly to make), followed by roasted cod with a lemon thyme sauce was incredibly cheering on a chilly evening. But my favourite corner of the hotel was ArtBar, a cocktail bar that manages to be both cosy and cool and that utterly mesmerises with its gin varieties (64). Look up from your cocktail for a minute to also drink in the installation of 500 vintage wine glasses hanging from the ceiling, like souvenirs of so many of the best parties ever.
Our room was simple and sleek – one exposed wall of Bath stone with an original fireplace the only barely perceptible nods to olde worlde. A Tivoli radio, TV, iPad and waffle cotton robes – what more do you want in a place to crash after a day of hand-holding strolls? The eponymous Abbey could be seen, and indeed heard (in a good way – those Sunday chimes are so cleansing), from our luxurious bed, and we wanted to chase the sun away in the morning. But do prise yourself out of that perfect duvet’s clutches and explore. It’s a five-minute cobbled walk to the glorious Pump Rooms – where you’re encouraged to drink Champagne as well as tea at any time of the day. Then nip next door to the Roman Baths, so popular in every era that the steamy waters seem to blur the lines of history between emperors and empire line dresses. To actually immerse yourself in Bath’s natural spring waters, head to the contemporary Thermae Bath Spa and emerge a goddess. Then it’s just a quick hop back to the station and London – one and a half hours, and half a world away.
From £125 per room per night based on two sharing on a B&B basis.
(01225 809130; abbeyhotelbath.co.uk)