22 September 2020
Sweeping across Victoria Park, the majestic Royal Crescent (built by John Wood, the Younger) is one of Bath’s – or indeed England’s – most iconic façades. It has housed a historic cast of Dukes, Duchesses and dandies, as well as inspiring both Charles Dickens and Jane Austen.
Today, this prestigious row of honey-coloured buildings is home to the five-star Royal Crescent Hotel and Spa, which occupies two Grade I listed townhouses. Local law prohibits any signs on the crescent’s exterior and the hotel therefore remains unmarked. It is, however, easily identifiable by the pin-sharp, ebullient porters and the stream of Bentleys and Porsches parked outside.
The hotel’s Georgian footprint interplays with contemporary menus and a five-star spa, encircling a beautiful, lavender-filled garden. Ordinarily peppered with American accents, the Royal Crescent is currently booked out with affluent Brits on staycation. During my visit, I encountered Londoners enjoying a night away while viewing nearby properties for sale – thus demonstrating how lockdown has prompted cooped up urbanites to consider pastures new.
This Georgian showpiece is perfectly positioned to explore Bath’s cobblestone streets, whether admiring the nearby Circus (John Wood, the Elder), visiting one of myriad museums, or venturing further afield to the independent boutiques and delis of Walcot Street, dubbed the ‘artisan quarter'.
Rooms & Decor
The Royal Crescent lovingly pays tribute to its historic past through a remarkable curation of artwork by painters including Sir Joshua Reynolds and Thomas Gainsborough. In the drawing room, the Duke of Cumberland and Sir Edward Collingwood mingle in gilt frames by a roaring fireplace, alongside heavy draped curtains and a central chandelier. Impressive artwork continues throughout the 45 rooms and suites, which are casually peppered with intricate Georgian tapestries, alongside playful cartoons detailing quintessential Georgian life. Each bedroom is unique and many are decorated with ornate plasterwork ceilings, evocative of a wedding cake.
I bed down in one of the Garden Villa suites, a tremendously private enclave tucked away behind two grand columns. The building has its own walled garden and can be exclusively booked to accommodate up to eight guests.
The private hotel garden is a classically English retreat, which gently hums all day long with holidaying couples and well-heeled families sipping on Tattinger champagne and Somerset cider. Lanterns light up as night falls for an enchanting, fairytale setting.
The serene Spa and Bath House feels almost monastic in its design, with vaulted windows and a glass-covered archway, which leads to an enclosed area of the garden where guests are free to pad about in privacy. There is a 12-metre pool with shimmering mosaic tiles and a whirlpool bath, as well as a Himalayan salt-infused sauna and a herbal steam-inhalation room (both currently closed due to Covid-19 restrictions). The extensive spa menu includes a range of facials and body treatments, including massages, detoxing wraps and reflexology.
Food and drink
The Dower House restaurant offers an all-day menu including Cornish mussels cooked in cider and a posh Royal Crescent Hot Dog. Afternoon tea is served during the day and those seeking an extra-special occasion can indulge in the decadent evening tasting menu. The restaurant has a rather formal, hushed atmosphere, which is softened by the cheery staff. For those seeking something more casual, the nearby Marlborough Tavern is a smart gastropub serving local ale, cider and upmarket comfort food.
Forget your European city break and enjoy some R&R on home turf – because you really can’t beat striking, beautifully preserved Georgian architecture, extraordinary artwork and superfluous service in one of England’s most picturesque towns.
From £330 per night, 16 Royal Crescent, Bath BA1 2LS, royalcrescent.co.uk
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