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Splash Out in Bath on Any Budget PDF Print E-mail
Written by Sheila Sobell & Richard N. Every Creative Syndicate   
Thursday, 16 August 2012 04:57

CREATIVE SYNDICATE

The Queensberry Hotel in Bath, England, plays on its historic connection with boxing to provide comfortable accommodations for its guests. Photo courtesy of the Queensberry Hotel.

When George Austen retired in 1801 and moved his wife and daughters Jane and Cassandra to Bath, England, they expected to live a fashionable life on a budget they could afford. But when Austen died four years later, his "grace and favor" pension died with him. Suddenly impecunious, the family moved twice more in search of affordable accommodations until they wound up in the countryside in Chawton, Hampshire. Dating from 500 B.C. when a young prince afflicted with leprosy discovered Bath's curative thermal spring and returned cured to assume his throne, Bath has been a royal treat. In 1688 Queen Anne took the waters to cure gout, but there's no evidence it did. Nonetheless her visits and those of Princess Victoria in 1832 put Bath on the map.

The coronation of the first king of England in Bath Abbey in A.D. 973 made real estate pricy and kept it that way. The Duchess of Cornwall has a home in nearby Reybridge, and many attractions from the Royal Hotel to the Royal Crescent have historical connections with aristocracy tied to their names, but on a recent visit we discovered that even on a budget you can splash out in Bath.

What fun to be housed in a property with a sense of wit. From boxing gloves to cartoons about pugilism, the Queensberry Hotel plays on its connection to boxing. The Marquess of Queensberry built the property and lent his name to the famous Queensberry Rules designed to make the sport safer. Like many listed buildings, it's been cobbled together (though fashionably in this case) from four 18th-century town houses into one sumptuous boutique hotel. The layout of this meticulously restored 29-bedroom hotel is certainly quirky. Some rooms in the 16-year-old family-run hotel are serviced by a lift, while others have internal stairs down to the bathroom. On the ground floor are a lounge, two bars and a courtyard. Service and courtesy are the bywords here. When there was a snafu with a reservation, the hotel not only put the guests up elsewhere but also included a bottle of champagne.

You'd think that a property with a AAA Rosettes restaurant would carry a royal price tag. Not necessarily so. The smallest doubles start at $200. Pricier rooms are larger with better positions. All are smartly appointed in a minimalist style. Our favorite for value and size are the Deluxe Doubles from $260. Breakfast is not included. This gorgeous mansion's proximity to the Royal Crescent and the Circus, outstanding staff and overall elegance with not a touch of stuffiness make it worth a splash out.

With a stunning English walled half-acre garden that hasn't changed in a century; rooms with views of the Royal Crescent, Abbey and the city; and even a separate little fourposter cottage tucked away in the garden, it's easy to see why this 11-room listed Georgian property calls itself the Paradise House Hotel.

This non-smoking hotel is refreshingly decorated and well-maintained with little amenities that make guests feel welcome — complimentary coffee, tea or wine on arrival; complimentary parking; free Wi-Fi; heated towel rail; and a computer station in the drawing room. The least expensive room ($190) is unexpectedly the only one with French doors leading to a small terrace with chairs to enjoy the view. The larger rooms have baths as well as showers and period features. There's no lift and, unlike the Queensberry Hotel, it's a good seven- to 10-minute walk to the city center.

Rooms range from $190 to $275 (for the private garden room) in season and on weekends, including VAT and full English breakfast. Opened in June 2010 with just six rooms, Brindleys Boutique B&B is both the newest and smallest of the hotels we visited. Like the Paradise, it's located on a lovely residential street about 10 minutes from the hub of things. And like Paradise, it has that small mom-and-pop ambience that's very welcoming, especially if you are new to Bath.

Managed by Jamie Grundy, a friendly, garrulous chap with 18 years of experience in the hospitality business, and his wife Anel, the B&B excels in the little touches — heart-shaped bon appetit napkin rings, lavenderfilled bags on the bed, sprigs of lavender on the towels and even a painting of lavender done by Anel.

Built in 1871, this B&B also has no lift but some modern features like power showers instead of bathtubs to maximize space. Each room is uniquely proportioned and decorated, but some can be quite small. The Twin Super King room No. 5 ($200-$235) has more floor space, a chair and small table, a favorite for friends traveling together. On a tighter budget? Tucked up in the eaves, Classic Double room No. 4 ($175-$200) has a small desk and chair with a street view. Rooms look freshly painted with cheery accent pillows, French-style furniture, smartly equipped bathrooms with heated towel rail, flat-screen LEDfree-view TV, complimentary Wi-Fi, parking and breakfast presented in a bright dining room. No children under age 12; weekends have a two-night minimum. Phone for special rates for extended stays. Room tariffs range from $175 to $280, depending on the season. Dining is more fun in small pubs and restaurants that have been recycled architecturally. To relive the grand age of steam-train travel, dine at the Green Park Brasserie housed in a former 19th-century ticketing and reception hall. A pub with a buzz, it hosts live jazz Wednesday through Saturday accompanied by a great selection of beer, wine and reasonably priced traditional British food with a continental twist. We had the early evening prix fixe dinner for two ($47) before wine.

What a contrast between the unpretentious storefront premises and the wow quality of the food and service at the relatively new Lime Lounge! There are no shortages of options for vegetarians and traditional British dishes that you don't often see are well prepared.

WHEN YOU GO

•Bath is an easy train journey on First Great Western, which delivers first-class service from Paddington Station about every half-hour, arriving 90 minutes later: www.firstgreatwestern. co.uk.

•Don't leave Bath without taking the plunge at Thermae Bath Spa and experiencing Britain's only hot springs. Opened in 2006, it combines historic buildings with new architecture. More than just a spot to take the waters, it offers a full range of massages, wraps and facials. Since it opened 65 percent of guests have come from abroad or other parts of the United Kingdom. Forgot your bathing suit? Stylish ones are sold onsite: www.thermaebathspa. com

•The Queensberry Hotel: www.thequeensberry. co.uk

•Paradise House Hotel: www.paradise- house.co.uk

•Brindleys Boutique Hotel: www.brindleysbath.co.uk  Green Park Brasserie: www.greenparkbrasserie. com

•The Lime Lounge: www.limeloungebath. co.uk

Sheila Sobell and Richard N. Every are freelance travel writers.

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Last Updated on Thursday, 16 August 2012 05:01