In the heart of this UNESCO World Heritage city, you can bathe in the UK’s only natural thermal waters, including the indoor Minerva Bath and the open-air rooftop pool, with spectacular views over the city’s skyline.
The health giving waters of Bath have been attracting visitors for over 2,000 years – and it is easy to see why.
This is one of the prettiest towns in the UK. Set in a valley surrounded by hills, the soft yellowish local stone used for all the buildings adds to its attractiveness. You can experience a wide range of spa treatments, relax in the warm, mineral rich waters and later explore a fascinating town with Roman and Jane Austen connections. This is a place to relax, enjoy and explore.
Legend has it that Prince Bladud was cured of leprosy after bathing in the hot springs. In gratitude he founded the city back in 863 BC. What is more certain is that the Romans created a spa called Aquae Sulis, which became the largest spa outside Rome. Today visitors can walk round the Roman baths and see just how the Romans took advantage of the warm waters. The Great Bath is spectacular, with the constantly flickering reflections of sky, statues and surrounding columns. Even the flagstones on which you walk have a slightly warm feel, as you watch the steam rising from the water.
Even after the departure of the Romans, the springs continued to attract visitors. Edward Austen, brother of the famous novelist Jane Austen, came to Bath suffering from gout. Jane wrote ‘he was better yesterday than he had been for two or three days before….he drinks at the Hetling pump……is to bathe tomorrow’. It obviously had some effect for she later wrote ‘Edward has been pretty well this last week, and as the waters have never disagreed with him in any respect, we are inclined to hope he will derive advantage from them in the end.’
Modern visitors can still enjoy a drink from the spring near by, or visit the Pump Room to drink from the elaborate, giant fish bedecked fountain just as Edward Austen did. The mineral rich water is warm and slightly tangy.
For a much more intense experience of the thermal waters, a visit to the Thermae Bath Spa is essential. This is Britain’s original, natural thermal spa using water that fell as rain over 10,000 years ago. Heated by underground temperatures, bubbling springs bring it back to the surface enabling spa visitors to bathe in naturally hot water of around 34°C.
The main spa complex is housed in the New Royal Bath. There are two large pools: the indoor Minerva pool and the spectacular open-air rooftop pool as well as a separate hot bath. The Minerva and rooftop pools incorporate a combination of whirlpools, neck-massage jets and air benches. As the steam gently rises off the surface, you can relax and chat to friends while bathing in the mineral rich water. The open air pool provides an incredible experience as you bath in the steaming waters, while watching the views across the rooftops of Bath. The ancient spires of Bath Abbey can be seen in the distance, as can the statues forever on guard over the Roman baths.
A separate building houses the Cross Bath, and offers the opportunity to really follow in the footsteps of bathers across the centuries. A Grade I listed building, it is sited on an earlier medieval bath, and stands on the original 2,000 year old Roman cistern. The historic Cross Spring still provides all the water for the Cross Bath. A fountain beside the oval bath allows the water to rise naturally to the surface before being channelled off separately so that the untreated water does not enter the bathing area. The Roman style lighting, wall frescos and benches make for an intimate atmosphere.
So what makes this spa water so special? The temperature for one thing – it is naturally hot, a unique feature within the UK. The water contains over 42 minerals and trace elements including Iron, Sulphate, Sodium and Calcium. For safety’s sake, the water is tested weekly and is consistently hygienic.
Quite apart from the advantages of bathing in the mineral rich waters, spa users can enjoy a range of treatments. The hot thermal bath is used for one of the Spa’s signature treatments Watsu or water shiatsu.
Botanically based body treatments are designed to pamper and rejuvenate the skin such as the innovative Lumafirm treatment containing anti-aging extracts such as marine collagen, soy protein and elastin.
Also on offer are pedicures where your feat are cleansed, exfoiliated and massaged using hot stones; hydro massages, body wraps and a traditional Alpine Hay Chamber in which herbs are released through a stove.
Special treatments are available for mothers to be, as long as they are three months into their pregnancy. These include tailor made tummy treatments to combat stretch marks, facials, and back massages.
The Aroma steam rooms are infused with aromatic essences such as lotus flower or eucalyptus mint. A central ‘waterfall’ shower, complete with fibre optic lighting, offers a variety of sensations from gentle mist to a tropical shower.
Although the Cross Bath can be booked for the exclusive use of groups of 12 people or more; all the public sessions within the Spa complex are mixed sex. Children under 16 are not allowed in the New Royal Bath complex.
Meals, snacks and drinks are available throughout the day and evening within the Springs Café Restaurant. There is no need to carry money with you – all food and drink ordered in the restaurant is charged to a SmartBand and paid for when you leave the Spa.
Prices vary according to the type of package you have chosen. You can choose between a spa session in the New Royal Bath or the Cross Bath. Spa sessions in the New Royal Bath provide access to the rooftop pool, Minerva bath and Aroma Steam Rooms can last for 2 hours, 4 hours or a full day and range from £27 upwards. Spa treatments are extra or can be booked as part of an overall package.
Please note, this spa is a mixed spa for men and women.
For more information go to www.thermaebathspa.com
By Angela Youngman