A Spa Is Born At The Gainsborough Bath Spa
The Romans knew a good thing when they see one. They came, they saw and they conquered Bath when they discovered its natural thermal spring with healing power. They settled in Bath not as a garrison but as a rest and recreation place and built a bath spa and a temple circa AD60 dedicated to the goddess Sulis Minerva. They called the settlement “Aquae Sulis” – the waters of Sulis. Today visitors can see the well-preserved Roman Baths in the heart of the city and marvel at the engineering skill of the Romans who built such a sophisticated spa system that is replicated by many modern spas today. Bath became famous as a spa town throughout the centuries attracting visitors from Britain and abroad all eager to experience the healing power of the thermal waters. Royal patronage in the 16th and 17th century further enhanced the fame and fortune of Bath. This travel article follows the opening ceremony of the Gainsborough Bath Spa with comments on the facilities of this spa hotel.
In 1590, Queen Elizabeth I declared Bath as a city and gave orders that ‘the thermal waters should be accessible to the public in perpetuity’. Fast forward many centuries to the 21th century, a Thermae Bath Spa was constructed to avail the thermal waters to the public to experience the healing power of aquatic therapy. Today going to the Thermae Spa Bath is a like a pilgrimage for many visitors from far and near. Under the new management of the Malaysian-owned hospitality company YTL Hotels, it was spruced up and given a makeover offering various therapeutic treatments and a rooftop pool heated by mineral-rich thermal spring. Bath, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, is one of the most visited cities in Britain not just for its magnificent Georgian buildings and Roman legacy but also for its wellness in the healing thermal waters.
Gainsborough Bath Spa: A Chinese Lion Cometh
The Romans were not the only ones who fell in love with Bath. YTL Hotels also succumbed to the magical charm of this gorgeous city of splendid Georgian architecture a-glowing in golden hue of Bath stones, an oolitic limestone, distinctive of this region. Following in the footsteps of the Romans, YTL Hotels, which is one of the brand leaders in luxury hotels and resorts in Malaysia, Bali, Thailand, Japan, Shanghai, Australia and St. Tropez, has opened a classic luxury spa hotel in Bath – The Gainsborough Bath Spa, a stone’s throw from the Thermae Bath Spa. On a warm late summer evening on 29 September, the tranquillity of Bath is shattered by the clanging of cymbals and drums while a Chinese lion prances mischievously outside the Gainsborough Bath Spa Hotel to mark the official opening of the hotel. I don’t think this quintessentially English city has ever seen anything like this! Invited guests and passers-by enjoy the spectacular lion dance performed by students from Bristol University. The occasion is celebrated with a lavish dinner and entertainment to mark the renaissance of once derelict buildings.
Gainsborough Bath Spa: A Trinity Of Georgian Grandeur
The Gainsborough Bath Spa is YTL’s first hotel in UK, a new addition to their Classic Collection. The company has a track record of acquiring and restoring historic buildings and transforming them into luxury hotels without compromising their heritage pedigree by skilfully marrying period features with contemporary design for the comfort of modern guests. Examples of these beautifully transformed classic hotels include their idyllic Cameron Highlands Resort, Majestic Kuala Lumpur and the Majestic Malacca in Malaysia and The Swatch Peace Art Hotel in Shanghai. The Gainsborough, named after the renowned 18th century portrait and landscape British artist Thomas Gainsborough who was a resident in Bath, is a grand trinity of three period edifices sitting over Roman antiquity. During the construction of the basement area, a treasure-trove of 17,500 Roman coins was discovered along with Roman mosaics. Some of the coins are displayed in the hotel lobby today while an exact replica of a Roman mosaic floor is built directly over the original mosaic in the Roman ruin below in the Spa Village. The main building was built in 1826 as a hospital while the adjacent Albert Wing was built in 1864 and included a chapel. These two buildings are connected to the Bellott annexe by an underground passage. The oldest of the three buildings, it was reputedly built in 1608 as an almshouse by a Thomas Bellott to house the poor who were visiting the bathhouses at the time. The Bellott wing houses 14 guest rooms with its own private courtyard and entrance and is ideal for a group booking.
Gainsborough Bath Spa: Old World Charm Modern Chic
The Gainsborough Bath Spa is an impressive building, Herculean and imposing on the outside supported by columns and porticoes but cosy and warm on the inside in shades of soft grey and cappuccino cream. Styled by the renowned New York-based Champalimaud Design, the interior is magnificently designed sympathetic to its historic heritage complemented with contemporary features with a nod towards an art-deco old world charm in synergy with modern gadgetry.
Gainsborough Bath Spa: Food and Drinks
The Johann Lafer Restaurant, named after the Michelin-star German chef who is the Chef de Cuisine, will add to the fine dining accolade of Bath. The spacious and bright restaurant serves a delightful menu of western haute cuisine with a hint of Asian flavour contributed by Chef Wai Look Chow, the Malaysian chef consultant. Lafer’s gourmet philosophy is “Dining without borders” where only the freshest and seasonal ingredients are selected and cook to perfection with innovative and diverse cooking techniques to grace the dishes for their discerning guests. There is an impressive selection of fine wine to pair with the food.
The Gainsborough bar set in a chic and cosy ambience serves bespoke cocktails prepared by the hotel’s mixologist Joel St John and his team. The drink menu includes a stellar selection of Champagne, artisan gin, Martinis and local ale. For socialising and relaxation, the Canvas Room has a great and homely lounge in a quintessentially British décor with a touch of contemporary elegance. The all-day dining, drinks and Afternoon Tea are perfect for a spot of light refreshment, business meeting or just to chill out to read a book, newspapers or magazines.
Gainsborough Bath Spa: Salus Per Aquam (SPA)
The piéce de résistance of the hotel is the amazing Spa Village in the lower ground floor with a four-storey glass atrium that draws in natural light and yang energy into the ambience. It is an eye candy sanctuary with an enticing warm pool with massage water jets surrounded by two smaller Balneo pools in private rooms with temperatures of 35˚C and 40˚C respectively forming a ritualistic part of the bathhouse experience. Traditional and infra-red saunas and a steam room treatment is a nod towards a Roman spa practice of cleansing the pores followed by a modern method of cooling down by ice pellets dispensed through a lion head called Maximus. It is the only hotel spa in UK that has access to the original Roman Bath natural thermal waters. The philosophy behind the spa concept is that “Spa Village Bath integrates the treasured waters of Bath with aquatic body therapies and classic treatments that focus on personalised aromatherapy, balancing the fine line between science and art”.
Gainsborough Bath Spa: Bath Time Roman Style
When in Bath, do what the Romans did – indulge in spa therapies! After pounding the streets of the city in the name of research, I am in dire need of an energy boosting experience. First up an ‘Ultimate Age Repair Facial” at the Thermae Bath Spa after my mirror fails to tell me I am the fairest one of all, then a “Ginger Renewal” to invigorate and exfoliate with ginger oil and a pampering head to toe massage at the Gainsborough Spa Village. Finally on the last day of my stay, another anti-aging rejuvenation with “Renew with Rose” facial to keep the wrinkles away though sadly that boat has sailed on. With my ying and yang energy perfectly balanced and my chakra aligned, I could see why the Romans were preoccupied with the magic of Salus per Aquam, health through the waters of a goddess.
This travel article has described the opening ceremony of the The Gainsborough Bath Spa. Included is a short description of the hotel and the Spa facilities.
For the ultimate Spa Village experience and a luxury stay among Roman Antiquity contact the The Gainsborough Bath Spa . Relax and rejuvenate in the therapeutic natural thermal pool at Thermae Bath Spa
By Helen Oon
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