There are two spas in Bath where people can enjoy bathing in the healing water of the city’s famous natural hot springs. Georgette McCready takes the waters at the Spa Village in the Gainsborough Hotel
When it first opened, the five-star Gainsborough Hotel only allowed its guests the use of its spa facilities, but more recently day visitors and Spa Village club members are also now able to enjoy the only hotel spa in the country with direct access to natural thermal waters.
It’s clearly a first world problem, but as we were about to begin our mother-daughter spa day at the Gainsborough I fretted that there might not be a clock so we’d know when it was time to go for our treatments. I needn’t have worried about this – or anything else for that matter, as the spa and hotel staff have every thoughtful detail sorted for you.
This begins by encouraging you to arrive a good hour before your booked treatment, giving you time to begin unwinding as soon as you change out of your street clothes, leave your phone and watch in a locker, and slip gratefully into the soothing warm, naturally healing waters of the baths.
But even before that, our sensory journey began at the Aroma bar, where given a series of aromatherapy oils by Neal’s Yard Remedies to sniff and choose from, our bespoke aroma pouches were made up. Would we intuitively choose the essential essences our bodies and mood instinctively need? We were then each handed a little sachet of scented Cornish natural salt which we were encouraged to inhale throughout our day. The answer, it seems, was yes. Our noses led us to the essences that lifted our mood and spirits.
This spa truly is a sybarite’s dream. Float your troubles away in one of the small, warm baths filled with Bath’s natural thermal waters or make like a Roman emporer in the large pool under the glass atrium. Sit as long as you can in a steam room, followed by a cold shower – there’s also a less intense infra-red sauna. We had plenty of space and peace and quiet as there are only a handful of people using the spa at any given time. We enjoyed the cool of the ice alcove where a lion’s head in the wall patiently continuously erupts ice cubes from its mouth.
While we were wallowing in the large pool a tray was brought to us bearing bottles of chilled water, scented cold hand towels and two shots of Georgian style hot chocolate with just a hint of a kick of chilli – delicious and made to an 18th century recipe. It’s a nice touch, referencing Bath’s 18th century bathing rituals along with those of Roman times and the 21st century.
One of the nice touches of the spa is there are no nagging signs telling you not to do this or that. There are eye make up remover and pads in the changing rooms, another considerate gesture.
We were given a good ten minute notice period to prepare ourselves for our treatments. Introduced to our therapists we were gently led away, Becki for a ginger renewal wrap that boosted her circulation, and me for a magnesium wrap.
This is a 90 minute treatment, which includes a salt scrub and a warming wrap at the end. But, in the middle of the session my therapist Adam gave my office-tense back, neck, arms and shoulder a thorough and deep massage. You know how you think smugly that there’ll always be some bit of tension that you’re not going to let go? Using Swedish professional massage techniques Adam patiently and persistently worked away at every niggle of tension, right down through my elbows, fingertips and toes. By the time I floated from the room I wasn’t in any fit state to operate heavy machinery, such was my state of blissful maxed-out relaxation.
I was gently warned not to try to race back into my lifestyle, but to try to take things easy, so we lay back on a pair of loungers with a herbal tea and a macaroon before slowly dressing and ambling up to the restaurant for lunch. A two course lunch in the hotel’s smart restaurant is included in the spa day package. And this is no snack and run, but rather a feast for the eyes and the tastebuds.
The style here is the big reveal, with waiting staff lifting domes before your expectant eyes. We thoroughly enjoyed the spectacle of the glass domes over our smoked salmon starters lifted to reveal gentle clouds of grey smoke dissipate, after subtly infusing the fish with delicate flavours. Every dish is as pretty as a picture, garnished with flowers or arranged with the main ingredient presented three ways, as was our poussin. The dishes tick the boxes between satisfying but not over filling us.
After a very leisurely lunch a happy mum and daughter drifted back to the Spa Village for a further hour’s indulgence before easing our way back into the outside world. We both enjoyed the sensation of wonderfully smooth, soft skin and I am pleased to report that we both slept exceedingly well that night and the benefits of our massages on muscle and tension lasted for days afterwards.