Bailbrook House Hotel, Bath

“The Bailbrook House hotel features an elegant Regency mansion, twenty acres of wooded grounds complete with tennis court and prices that are remarkably low for those qualities...”

IT'S NO SECRET that when the economic landscape improves, the Eighties-era bedroom blocks will be demolished and a five star hotel will emerge from the rubble. In the meantime, we can all take advantage of the situation.

On arrival we quickly learnt that the levels of service were higher than the prices, as our diminutive receptionist insisted she carry all our heavy bags to our room. Not only did our spacious bedroom have a pleasant view but it was spotless, the complimentary bowl of fruit contained enough to feed a zoo and there was also a good selection of teas and coffee plus a fresh doughnut each, which more than made up for a rather plain decor.

Bailbrook House Hotel, Bath

We later explored the grounds and buildings, deciding to wander down and eat in the more atmospheric George pub by the Kennet and Avon Canal. The food was good and we were spoilt for choice when it came to real ales. It was a pleasant walk down but next time we'll take the car — after a long day the uphill return was a little too energetic.

The Bailbrook's dining room was fine for breakfast; a good selection was on offer so you could either stay slim on the Continental or indulge with a full English.

All the Hilwood Resorts and Hotels have good teams working at them and despite Bailbrook House waiting for its up-grade, there was no exception here and the staff were all friendly and helpful.

Bath and Bristol will surely feature on most peoples' travel plans at some stage as both have attractions for a great diversity of interests.

The whole of Bath City's remarkably compact centre is a UNESCO World Heritage Site — courtesy of the amazing display of splendid neo-classical Georgian architecture throughout and, of course, the very grand Royal Crescent. This magnificent piece of architecture is set off to perfection as it faces a generous green swathe of grass and trees — rus in urbe or transferring the 'countryside into the city', a ground-breaking idea that dates back to Nero, Rome's notorious emperor, who built a massive palace known as the Golden House and landscaped grounds in the very heart of Rome.

Back to the present day. Can anyone better the legend about the founding of a great city than that of Bath? The story is that the city was founded in 860 BC by Bladud, father of the unfortunate King Lear immortalised by Shakespeare. Prince Bladud contracted leprosy and, banned from the Court, was made to look after swine. The swine also had a skin disease but after they had wallowed in Bath's hot muddy waters they regained their good health. As in all good legends, Prince Bladud did the same and was cured, later becoming king and founding the city of Bath.

Bath is a treasure house of beautiful buildings, streets and squares; you do not want to be in a hurry as there is so much to see with many nooks and crannies well worth exploring. Central to our pleasure was the charming Abbey, founded in the 7th Century — its high fan-vaulted ceiling is truly spectacular.

There are several strong contenders for 'favourite building': it is so easy to transpose yourself through the millennia at the Roman baths, complete with temple, imagining the toga-clad Romans indulging and enjoying themselves exactly where we just gawped at the marvel of it all. Built around 50 AD, the temple was dedicated to Sul, a Celtic god, and Minerva, the Roman goddess of healing — by dedicating it to both gods, the Romans clearly hoped to please everybody!

Fast forward to the 18th century and the oh-so-elegant Pump Room, a striking neo-classical salon where hot Spa water is drawn for drinking. Admission is free, by the way.

Also not to be missed is the National Trust's Assembly Rooms — once the heart of fashionable Georgian society. When completed in 1771, they were described as 'the most noble and elegant of any in the kingdom'. The atmosphere prevails to this day, almost demanding that you speak quietly as polite society would not appreciate anything above a whisper.

You might well walk over one of the world's most famous bridges without noticing it as it just melds into the elegant street scene. I speak of the Pulteney Bridge (one of only four bridges lined with shops in the world), designed by the lauded Robert Adam. However, viewed from below, alongside the grassy riverbank, it really stands out. But please, can somebody redecorate the flaking paint on the windows!

Do not be sidelined by that gripe, but it's like finding a pimple on the Mona Lisa. Bath is very special indeed, and deserves the best standards to maintain its elegance and integrity.

This true gem of a city can be the focus of any trip but do not ignore the quintessentially English countryside around it. Nor the Bailbrook House hotel, which makes a good, relaxed and inexpensive base from which to explore. — Bonnie and Tim Stevens

The Details

Bailbrook House Hotel, Eveleigh Avenue, London Road West, Bath, Somerset BA1 7JD. Telephone: 01225 855100.

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