In Review

Revive your weary spirits at The Gainsborough Bath Spa

When the current crisis has passed, we’ll need to take the waters

 

When in Bath, do as the Romans did – bathe. People have been coming “to take the waters” for centuries – long before the Romans made Aquae Sulis, as they called Bath, fashionable. Some came to relax, others to be “cured” of their ailments. These days you can’t actually go in the water at the world-heritage Roman Baths (which, by the way, are definitely worth a visit if you’ve never been). The water is pond-green and none too inviting. Happily, The Gainsborough Bath Spa hotel draws the water for its Spa Village Bath from the same springs. It is the only one to do this – and trust me, as I learnt in February, this water you do want to get into. 

The Village spa at The Gainsborough, Bath

Sitting under one of the pressure spouts in the main pool, the warm water pummelling your shoulders, its all too easy to slip into a trance. While you’re at it, you might as well contemplate where all this water comes from. Surprisingly, the source is still a mystery. It’s thought the water fell as rain 10,000 years ago.

It seeped into the earth to a depth of two kilometres to be warmed and returned to the surface in the form of three springs. One of these is Hetling Spring and it provides the three thermal pools with mineral-rich water. There are also two saunas, one of which is infrared, and a steam room. There’s also the “ice alcove” for hardcore spa-goers. Whether out of survival instinct or just raw cowardice, I found myself slinging the ice over my shoulder. I think one piece might have touched me. 

The Village spa at The Gainsborough, Bath

My 90-minute Magnesium Remineraliser treatment was much easier to get onboard with. I hadn’t realised that I needed to be “remineralised” – my focus being more on animal and vegetable (read on – that came later). But magnesium is apparently responsible for “promoting energy levels, sleep, circulation, metabolism and muscle movement”. I can vouch for the sleep part. The scrub, massage and warm wrap is terribly relaxing.

Muscle movement? I think I did turn over once. As for metabolism, I defy anybody to come up with a better way of preparing for dinner than with a good massage… followed by a cocktail in the bar, naturally, with The Gainsborough’s convivial general manager, Marc MacCloskey. He explained to me the history of the building.

The Gainsborough, Bath
Salus per aquam

The Gainsborough opened five years ago. As you may have guessed, it’s named after Thomas Gainsborough, who lived in Bath from 1759. But the artist was never actually resident at the site, which was just as well as the two buildings that make up the present-day hotel were former hospitals. The current buildings, with their Georgian and Victorian façades, date from 1826 and 1860, but the Hospital of Thomas Bellott, which served the sick and needy, had occupied the site since 1609.

“Do not leave dormant in your store that would relieve the poor. If the poor sleep soundly, so will you,” reads the Latin inscription etched in stone. That The Gainsborough today occupies former hospitals is somewhat fitting for a hotel that is built around a spa, albeit a luxury one. And you won’t have any trouble sleeping soundly in the cosy bedrooms. Ours was a corner room with views of the Abbey and the rooftop pool at the modern Thermae Bath Spa next door.

Dan Moon restaurant at The Gainsborough, Bath

But to dinner! If The Gainsborough is named for an artist, then so is its restaurant – Dan Moon. The only difference is West Country native Dan Moon is alive and to be found in the kitchen, using local ingredients to whip up works worthy of his three AA rosettes for our seven-course tasting menu. The smoked rabbit with ethical “foie gras”, Parma ham and tomato was served beneath a teeny, tiny glass cloche that, when lifted, unleashed a puff of smoke. All of the dishes from the cream of mushroom velouté to the dark chocolate marquise really were excellent, while the roast duck in a plum sauce, served with a homemade spring roll, was my particular favourite. Each dish was paired with a different wine.

And if all that leaves you needing a long stint in the pool, who could blame you? Salus per aquam, the Romans (possibly apocryphally) are thought to have said – “health through water”. Or simply, “Spa”.

Chris was a guest of The Gainsborough Bath Spa. The hotel is currently closed, but it is hoping to reopen in July. From £290 on a room-only basis, see thegainsboroughbathspa.co.uk

This article was originally published in MoneyWeek

Recommended

Portugal summer travel: hotels and experiences to book
The city of Porto in Portugal (PxHere)
The big trip

Portugal summer travel: hotels and experiences to book

UK food and drink festivals to book this summer
The Bars are Back, London
On the menu

UK food and drink festivals to book this summer

Combining business with leisure: the rise of the ‘bleisure’ trip
Paradis Beachcomber Resort © Beachcomber Resort & Spa
The big trip

Combining business with leisure: the rise of the ‘bleisure’ trip

UK hotels and resorts that feel like a foreign getaway
Aerial view of treehouse accomodation
The wish list

UK hotels and resorts that feel like a foreign getaway

Popular articles

Iron Dome: How Israel’s missile shield works
A missile is launched by an 'Iron Dome' battery in the Gaza strip
Fact file

Iron Dome: How Israel’s missile shield works

The link between Bill Gates and Jeffrey Epstein examined
Bill Gates
Behind the scenes

The link between Bill Gates and Jeffrey Epstein examined

Ten Things You Need to Know Today: 14 May 2021
10 Downing Street
Daily Briefing

Ten Things You Need to Know Today: 14 May 2021