Natarsha Brown channels a Jane Austen heroine at a grand mansion hotel in Bath.
Located among expansive gardens on the edges of Bath’s CBD and comprising an impressive blend of Georgian, Victorian and 20th-century architecture, the Macdonald Bath Spa Hotel’s grandeur could be borrowed directly from an Austen novel: a glamourous, country house-style hotel in the heart of the city.
Traveller: Natarsha Brown
Room: Classic Room
Address: Sydney Road, Bath, BA2 6NS
Date: July 2018
Best for: A peaceful, quintessentially British escape in the heart of Bath
The Signature factor
As smart as the rooms and dining options may be, the substantial spa is the key enticement at Macdonald Bath Spa Hotel. As well as seven treatment rooms it includes a 15-metre indoor pool, an outdoor hydrotherapy spa, plus a cocoon-like thermal suite offering infrared cabins, rock saunas, salt infusion, salt mist and aromatic steam rooms. After a £300 million investment in 2012, it is clear that every penny was put to good use as the treatment list is extensive, and the treatments themselves are lengthy.
The 131 rooms range from Classic and Garden View Rooms, which both offer views either into the back gardens or across the Bath skyline. Whichever you choose, all are stylishly decorated with a muted colour palette and sumptuous, linen-clad beds. Bathrooms are similarly stylish, made from grey marble and offering indulgent Elemis miniatures.
The hotel stands imposingly atop a gentle hill, overlooking three hectares of sweeping lawns, imposing cedar trees and a folly and grotto. Wide stone steps lead you from the lush grounds directly into the marble lobby hall, which oozes sophistication with its ornate high ceiling, velvet wingback chairs, grandfather clock and freestanding, antique floor vases.
Striking pillars, large windows and elegant chandeliers run throughout the hotel, hinting at the hotel’s past as a Greek revival-styled mansion built in 1836 as a home for a general and which has subsequently served as a boys’ school, offices for the Admiralty and a nurses’ home. Oil paintings and photographs of the evolution of Bath throughout the years line the walls of the hallways, also suggesting at the rich history of the hotel. Public areas are plush and stately, most notably the Vellore Restaurant in a former ballroom and the lavish drawing room.
Our Classic Room is on the second floor overlooking the manicured gardens and offering sweeping views of the local Bath Stone, Georgian houses cascading down the surrounding Mendep Hills. It is filled with two comfortable armchairs, dark wood furniture – a small table, desk and bedside table – and soft, metallic fabrics.
The Belgrave, The Cavendish and Presidential Suites are the finest offering at the property, featuring large separate bedrooms with a Georgian four-poster bed and panoramic views of Bath, a roll-top cast-iron bath and a separate lounge with a mirror television and open fireplace.
On my plate
Indulgence doesn’t end with the spa; upstairs in the former grand ballroom the award-winning Vellore Restaurant offers a menu of modern British cuisine and a comprehensive wine list. On the seasonal menu during my stay are dishes such as pan-fried wood pigeon, North Sea hake with a side of squid ink gnocchi and an array of elaborate puddings. The sleek decor includes colonial white pillars, plush carpets and sky-high ceilings, and to top it all off is a live pianist playing well-known and beloved classical tunes in the corner. Alternatively, you can dine more casually in the Colonnade Lounge or outside on the terrace. Buffet breakfasts, served in the Vellore Restaurant, are an optional extra. An after-dinner tipple should be taken in the upmarket bar where leather armchairs, equine prints and dim lighting provide the perfect backdrop for a nightcap.
I wish I could take home…
The superior service and the attentive staff add another level of refinement to your stay. The service is always impeccable and check-in is seamless; whether at reception, the spa, the bar or in the hallways, we were always greeted with a smile and some friendly banter.
The hotel offers 24-hour room service, a state-of-the-art gym, extensive spa facilities and an indoor pool. In addition, drinking and dining options are vast with two separate dining choices – inside at the Vellore Restaurant, and an al fresco option for those balmy summer nights – and both the Colonnade and Rotunda bars, the latter perfect for a little extra privacy.
Take an afternoon high tea in the Pump Rooms (a favourite of Austen herself), take in the gorgeous architecture at the Royal Crescent and The Circle, learn a little history at the Roman Baths and the Bath Abbey, peruse the galleries of the Holborne Museum, and if you need a little extra R&R, visit the rooftop Thermae Bath Spa, Britain’s only natural thermal spa.
Double AA Rosette-rated restaurant (Vellore)
Winston Churchill came during World War II when the hotel had been requisitioned by the Admiralty. Joan Collins stayed more recently – in the early 1990s – when the building had reverted to its luxury hotel status.
If arriving by car, there is a large carpark for guest use so there is no need to worry about finding space in the streets, however, this is not included in the price.
Room for improvement
Bear in mind that some rooms are due to be refurbished; request to stay in a recently renovated room instead.
In the more basic rooms, a stocked mini-bar is not provided. The lack of mini-bar was even more pronounced when we went to have an after-dinner drink at the hotel bar one night and it was already closed for the evening, even though it was only just after 10pm.
Where to find Macdonald Bath Spa Hotel
The hotel is a pleasant 15-minute walk from the centre of Bath through the lush Sydney Gardens and the grounds of the Holborne Museum (Bath’s top art gallery) and then along the great Georgian sweep of Great Pulteney Street.