A Luxury Weekend Getaway in Bath, England
Updated: Aug 26, 2020
Have you ever dreamed of traveling in the footsteps of Jane Austen?
By Siri Kay Jostad
While you have ample opportunity to do so in Bath, England, where she lived, wrote and had many of her well-known adventures, there are many, many additionally wonderful things to do and see in infamous Bath.
My friend, Nicole, and I stayed at the famous Royal Crescent Hotel, which has long been the haunt of celebrities worldwide. I know first-hand that Nicolas Cage was a guest here frequently because Nicole had run into him in the elevator on a previous visit of hers. Hotel staff confirmed that 'Nick' often stayed at the RCH during Christmas as he apparently had a house nearby.
Prior to going, I actually thought the entire crescent was the hotel! 😆
It's actually only two addresses in the crescent--No. 15 and 16, which were combined in 1973 to form the luxurious hotel. All the other addresses in the crescent are private homes. That's kinda cool.
I booked us a beautiful ground floor suite that had a private entrance to the gardens of the hotel. Everything was perfect. They made us feel even more at home by personalizing our room with our names on the door! I 100% will stay at the Royal Crescent Hotel again! (More about the hotel in the Spa and Eat sections below)
Walking back and forth to 'town' is where we 'discovered' No. 1 Royal Crescent.
The Royal Crescent was built between 1767 and 1775 by John Wood the Younger (his father, John Wood, played an important roll in the whole development of Bath). No. 1 was built as a sort of 'model home'. The facade of the crescent required builders to follow stringent guidelines that create the uniform look you see today. Each home was constructed by a different builder, and they were not required to follow any rules for the non-facade rest of the home, so each is different and a peek from the backside shows a hodgepodge of elements lacking any congruency.
The lovely Georgian building of No. 1 is now home to the Bath Preservation Trust. If you stay at the Royal Crescent Hotel, you will pass this structure on the corner every time you walk bath and forth to town and most likely, you won't even fully realize it's a museum. We stopped to explore when I got curious about the sedan chair parked out front.
Inside is a fabulous depiction of 18th century life in Bath as told through the belongings of prior tenants of No. 1. Admission is only £10 with discounts offered for seniors, students, groups and couples. You get a lot for you money in here, including a little movie overview and a cute gift shop.
I thought the Royal Crescent was the ONLY crescent... apparently, though, crescents were a building 'thing' in the day.
Walking from The Royal Crescent into town led us through another remarkable landmark, The Circus (this is where Nicolas Cage had his house)--three curved segments of stone buildings that form a circle with three openings. 'Circus' is from the Latin word that means 'circle'. Started by John Wood the elder and finished by John Wood the younger, it is said that when viewed from the air, it forms a key shape ...which is a Masonic symbol similar to others that adorn many of the John Wood buildings. The key line is also said to represent the sun and the moon. Wood believed Bath was the epicenter of Druid life and thus built the Circus (originally named Kings Circus) with the same diameter as nearby Stonehenge.
Stand in the middle of the Circus in the Queen Square and see if you can find the spot where what you say will echo.
The Roman Baths
Ohhhh how I wish I could have jumped in to relax in these healing thermal waters (I DID find a way which you can read about later!) The baths are no longer used for bathing, though walking through the Temple, the Bathhouse, the Museum, and the Sacred Spring, you can understand what drew so many to the thermal waters percolating through the local limestone. It's enticing. Almost irresistible. The baths have been in ruins many times over their long life, after the first temple built there around 60CE. Their appeal keeps bringing people back, most recently the late 19th c.
At the end of your journey through The Roman Baths, there is a spot where you can grab a paper cup and actually drink the 'healing' waters. I chugged mine--didn't love the taste. I just wanted the benefits (assuming there are some). The Pump Room is currently a most lovely restaurant where you can drink the spring water, be serenaded by the Pump Room Trio and enjoy breakfast, lunch or dinner. Have a listen to some live music outside the Pump Room and Bath Abbey. Keep in mind you will FOR SURE need to make a reservation before arriving or you will NOT get in (book online here or call 01225 444477). It's a lovely place to take Afternoon Tea £20-30 depending on inclusions). Prices overall are not outrageous considering its popularity.
The Hetling Pump Room
Hot Bath Street
Tel. (+44) 01225 33 1234
I was SO happy when I discovered The Cross Bath (thank you Mrs. O!) My opportunity to dip into the benefits of the local thermal waters. Run by Thermae Bath Spa right in the middle of town. You can book just yourself and a friend and hope no one else books into your time slot, or guarantee your alone time by booking the entire bath to yourself. Maximum of 10 people. On our visit, we booked ourselves and only 5 others showed up. There was plenty of room to feel a bit of privacy. I personally loved it and highly recommend.
Prices in the Cross Bath (Includes use of towel, robe & slippers)
1½ hour spa session Mon - Fri: £18 per person Sat & Sun: £20 per person
Exclusive use Mon - Fri: From £200 Sat & Sun: From £400
The Thermae Bath Spa has massive additional public facilities that include The Minerva Bath, Open-Air Rooftop Pool, The Wellness Suite, a restaurant, and more.
Lots of things to see, learn and do in Bath. Top on the list for most people:
40 Gay Street, Queen Square
Tel: (+44) 01225 443000
This exhibition is quite informative and it was delightfully interactive--smelling perfumes of the day, trying on clothing from the time etc. I wouldn't say I'm like a Jane Austen fanatic....I like the movies; haven't read any of the books. However, she is a significant historical figure and I like history, thus learned a ton here (Can't say I 'loved' the wax works figures)
Adult tickets are roughly £11 with discounts for children, seniors, students and families.
Buy tickets online here and save 10%.
Upstairs is the Regency Tea Room...just ever so slightly shabby, likely from a high volume of guests, but not horrible...and the food was GREAT. We had a window view to the street. Tea menu options begin as low as £9.
For reservations call (+44) 01225 443000 – Option 2
Assembly Rooms, Bennett Street
Tel: (+44) 01225 477789
This was an unexpected treat! Who knew there was a fashion epicenter in Bath? This museum has extensive collections with some EPIC clothing from periods relating to the heyday of Bath and beyond. I walked through and read every placard, fascinated by the history and beauty of fashion.
Like many places in Bath, there is an interactive area where you can transport yourself back in time by trying on clothes and posing for Instagram pics. Take a look here...I didn't post anything 🤣
The gift shop hosts loads of unique and interesting treasures: gloves, scarves, robes and other garments and some very interesting fashion books. I took note and bought several for my fashion-student daughter. I also came home with the cutest blue and orange gloves.
Admission costs £9.50 with discounts for children, seniors, families and groups.
Buy tickets online here.
So many delicious places to grab a bite in Bath, and at all price levels. Sometimes food can be dicey for a California girl in England. Ha Ha. Here are my favorites. I'll be going back in order to add to this list!
1 New Bond Street Place
Tel: (+44) 01225 313 296
Bertinet Bakery supplies bread to most of the restaurants in Bath. And I say 'thank goodness!' During our stay, we visited Bertinet every day for a little treat. Oh yes...and on the last day, we loaded up a supply and took some home to the family in London.
Want to learn bread making from the master himself, Richard Bertinet?
You can for around £215 pounds per class, here.
11 Margaret's Buildings
Tel: (+44) 01225 487846
The Green Bird Cafe was our first stop, after asking at the hotel for a light, healthy meal option. Serving breakfast, lunch and really good coffee with alternate milk options. Oh...there is a scrumptious bakery case. It was crowded every time we went, with charming cafe ambiance of wooden tables, both inside and outside seating. I had smashed avocado on Bertinet sourdough one day, Chorizo hash another day and all kinds of sweets and chai in between.
15A George Street
Tel: (+44) 01225 724386
At Clayton's we began with a plate of breads with dips (yum!) Then filled our tables with delicious bits of other Mediterranean and French-inspired dishes created from the freshest of ingredients. It's nice to note that Clayton's also offers a Vegan Menu which is no less enticing than that of the main menu. Our table had a nighttime view of the bustlings of George street and service was par excellent.
16 Royal Crescent
Tel: (+44) 01225 823333
Breakfast every day was included in the price of our suite, so we took our first meal at the Royal Crescent Hotel in the Dower House Restaurant. It was a rainy January for my visit, so we sat inside, but they offer lovely al fresco dining as well. Dower House also serves an Afternoon Tea that looks delightful. (We took our tea at the Regency Tea Room in town). I was happy to find a version of Avocado Toast here that included a roasted pepper paired with cucumber juice with apple and celery. The chai came at my request with oat milk. Nicole had baked beans (?) with her breakfast (an English thing?).
Overall, the restaurant is formal. They took our coats upon entry and the wait staff had a French formality. A place as nice as The Royal Crescent is gentle and gracious with their guest services.
Beau Nash House, Saw Close
Tel: (+44) 01225 330030
Located in the home of famed socialite, Beau Nash, and situated next to Theater Royal, Amarone is a great place for a pre-theater meal. Open for lunch and dinner, meals are served throughout the house, which means you could end up on the 3rd floor tucked in the most adorable nook, like we did. The Italian food was exquisite and was their extensive wine selection. Reservations are recommended. Though we snuck in during low season when the theater was closed and got a great seat without one. I had a delicious Pear, Spinach, Walnut salad then Penne Arrabiata. Food is plated artistically. It's a lively, happy atmosphere.
3 George Street
Tel: (+44) 1225 789010
This is a sweet little shop where you can eat in or grab takeaway. We grabbed sandwiches, drinks and desserts for the train ride home. The girl behind the counter was SO sweet and called us a cab to the station when we were unable to flag one on the street.
One place we did NOT visit was the Bath Bun shop. It's a typical touristy thing to do, and I kinda wished we'd tried one. I guess I always need to save something for the next trip. Want to know what it looks like so you can find it? Watch this video.
The shopping was such a good surprise! I bought more in Bath than I did in London, if you can believe it. For my husband, I brought home a fabulous Loake Balmoral Weekend Bag from the bespoke Gieves and Hawke men's store at 20 Old Bond Street. For myself I went bonkers in Sam Wilson where I fell in love with some grey dishes, some intoxicating drawer sachets, cards and more. And then French Grey Interiors....the cutest ever yellow wool bee blanket and a yellow purse + some earrings came home with us.
In a town named Bath, you gotta imagine there will be a lot of places to 'spa'. I had my first-ever Elemis facial at Radiance Well Being. Nicole and I did 1.5 hr facials together in the same dimly lit room. It was just what I needed. We met the owner and his wife and they are a special couple. I had the funniest experience in the bathroom at Radiance...I could NOT figure out how to flush! Watch the video here. I came home with a bag of Elemis product and am getting ready to reorder. I didn't know Elemis before, and have discovered they are a UK brand. I had the nicest surprise flying home when I discovered that British Airways offers free Elemis mini-facials in the lounge at Heathrow!
During our brief stay, we also got massages at the Royal Crescent Spa and Bath House. The facilities include a sauna, a steam room and a 12-meter pool. We enjoyed chatting in the facilities but I wasn't 'wowed' by my treatment.
How to Get to Bath
We took the train from Euston Station in London (GWR-Great Western Railway). The journey takes 1 hour 50 minutes. Tickets range, depending upon departure times approximately £69-90 return. From the Bath train station, we grabbed a cab to the Royal Crescent. Staying in town, you don't need a car. If you want to visit nearby sites such as the stone circles of Stonehenge and Avebury, Glastonbury, Kilver Court Designer Village (outlet shopping), Cheddar Gorge, Gough's Cave, Dyrham Park, you are best to have a car on hand.