If you’re looking for a city break with added health benefits, make sure a trip to Bath is on the cards. During my visit to The Royal Crescent Hotel and Spa earlier this year, I spent an afternoon getting to know the Thermae Bath Spa – the most famous and historic spa in the city and a great reason to visit this UNESCO World Heritage Site.
And what a lovely afternoon it was.
Built on the grounds of the original natural thermal springs next to the five-star Gainsborough Bath Spa, Thermae Bath Spa is the only spa in the UK where you can enjoy naturally hot spring water.
If you want to know the history, they were actually discovered by Prince Bladud in years BC and it’s claimed the waters helped cure him from leprosy. Fast forward several hundred years and the pilgrimages of Romans, Celts and Saxons to Bath also began… In fact, the word SPA derives from the Latin phrase ‘Salus Per Aquam’ which means ‘health through water’.
There are three hot spring sources in Bath – the King’s Spring which supplies the Roman Baths (which are a visitor attraction but can’t be bathed in); and the Cross Spring and Hetling Spring, which source the Thermae Spa. The water is naturally around 45 degrees centigrade once it gets to the surface of the earth. They then cool down to 34 degrees which is said to be optimum temperature for bathing.
During our visit, I had the pleasure of having a nosey at The Cross Bath; a lovely private outdoor pool surrounded by Bath’s glorious Georgian architecture. You can hire this space for large parties such as hen dos and it’s recognised as a sacred site. As you can see, it’s a beautiful place to sip on a glass of bubbles as you ‘take to the waters’.
The dome you see here is where the spring water rises to the surface and is cooled down to optimal bathing temperature.
‘Taking to the waters’ as I learned, is the official term used to describe the way you enjoy the waters at Thermae Spa. My initial urge was to start doing breast stroke as I dipped into the Minerva Bath – the main indoor pool at Thermae Spa. But in fact, the correct way is to simply wade and drift along on one of the floats.
The Minerva pool has a lovely feel to it. As part of a huge refurbishment of the New Royal Bath, this part of the building is a contemporary space of huge windows and modern amenities that’s been tastefully added to the historic Georgian building.
All aglow with coloured lights and surrounded by loungers, it’s a relaxing place to spend the afternoon. While the water wasn’t as warm as I expected, it was lovely to drift around the lazy river. We were there on a Friday – one of the busiest days of the week – so it was pretty packed. Go earlier in the week to avoid the crowds.
One of the most exciting parts of The Thermae Bath Spa is of course, the much talked about open-air rooftop pool. If you’re visiting in the winter, take my advice and do this bit first. That way you are dry when you get in (to avoid the chill of walking outside sopping wet) and be sure to park your robe and towel as near to the pool edge as possible. Once inside, you have beautiful views across Bath and there are seats moulded into parts of the pool so you can sit and relax.
Our final experience at The Thermae Bath Spa was the Thermal Vitality Suite – a series of steam rooms scented with various healing spices and oils, from lavender to lemongrass. I particularly enjoyed these and some of them get VERY hot so beware! This section is about to get a bit of TLC in the way of a brand new refurb for summer 2016, so keep a look out for this.
If you really want to go all out on the pampering front, book in for a relaxing spa treatment in the luxurious spa rooms. They offer everything from hotstone massages and body wraps to ‘Watsu’ – a signature water massage that combines shiatsu and acupressure – that’s performed in the historic hot bath.
As we began to get a little wrinkly, we dried off and walked into the bright and airy Springs Café Restaurant – where you can sip on healthy juices, (or something stronger and fizzier if you prefer) and snack on sandwiches, salads and light bites while still in your slippers and robes.
While we found the changing rooms and shower system a little confusing (the showers and changing rooms are on different floors and it’s quite a maze) we left the Thermae Bath Spa feeling thoroughly relaxed and rejuvenated. And it’s all less than 90 minutes away from London on the train. Bliss.
Until next time x
Oh So London was a guest of Thermae Bath Spa as part of this review. All views expressed here are my own. For more information about Thermae Bath Spa, visit their website ThermaeBathSpa.com, follow them on twitter, Facebook and instagram.