27 June 2021

Birthday Weekend in Bath

This spring, we hired a car and drove to Bath for a long weekend to celebrate my birthday.  We booked the (refundable) trip back in February, unsure if international or domestic travel would be on the cards, and fortunately for us, our little staycation fell on the first weekend after UK hotels were allowed to reopen on 17 May.

Rainy weekend in Bath - Emma Louise Layla Berry, UK travel & lifestyle blog

wearing navy Barbour jacket, silk floral Equipment dress & leather Dune boots

I hadn't visited Bath since I was little and my husband had never been, so we chose it for some much-needed R&R away from London - it's a beautiful city, even when the weather is not...  We had a wonderful home to shelter from the rain, staying at The Gainsborough Bath Spa, a grand, 5 star hotel smack bang in the middle of town.

Doorstep flowers in Bath - Emma Louise Layla, UK travel & lifestyle blog

Each day we pottered around the historic city centre - Bath was awarded UNESCO World Heritage status in 1987, and there's plenty to visit.  Bath Abbey, founded in the 7th century and reconstructed in the 10th, 12th and 16th centuries, is the last great medieval cathedral to have been built in England, with magnificent stained glass, ornate fan vaulting and honeyed stone columns.

Bath Abbey fan vaulting, English architecture - Emma Louise Layla, UK travel & lifestyle blog

A visit to Bath isn't complete without a visit to the Roman Baths.  One of the best and most popular historic sites in the UK, and one of the best-preserved Roman remains in the world, the baths were constructed in around 70AD as a grand complex for the city to bathe, swim and socialise.

The Roman Baths, UNESCO World Heritage Site in England - Emma Louise Layla, UK travel & lifestyle blog

On the least rainy day, we walked the Bath Skyline, the National Trust 6-mile circular trail with wildflower meadows, tree-lined hills and sweeping views across the city.  We strolled along the canal and Sydney Gardens, the 18th century pleasure gardens and landscaped park frequented by Jane Austen, and around the world-renowned 18th century Royal Crescent with its stunning Georgian architecture.  We wandered over the historic, shop-lined Pulteney Bridge overlooking the crescent weir, visited the preserved, grade II-listed Parade Gardens, and sheltered from the rain whilst rummaging through little antiques shops.

Wildflowers on the Bath Skyline Walk - Emma Louise Layla, UK travel & lifestyle blog

We had an excellent lunch at Olive Tree, the city's only Michelin-starred restaurant.  The food was fantastic, served in a welcoming, warm space beneath the Queensberry Hotel.  Award-winning head chef Chris Cleghorn has created a six and nine course tasting menu (I love when restaurants give you options to suit different appetites, time restraints or budgets), plus menus for vegans and vegetarians, all celebrating local produce.

Roman architecture in Bath - Emma Louise Layla, UK travel & lifestyle blog

As it was my birthday and pouring it down outside, we thought a long, leisurely lunch was in order and chose the nine courses.  Favourites included the salty, tangy smoked eel with asparagus, the perfectly cooked monkfish, and the unexpected flavours in the chocolate dessert, served with yoghurt sorbet and olive oil.

Chocolate dessert at the Michelin Star Olive Tree Restaurant, Bath - Emma Louise Layla, UK travel & lifestyle blog

Another good lunch spot was The Elder, a newly-opened, cosy, wood-panelled restaurant championing provenance and game.  For dinner, we went to the always-reliable Ivy Brasserie on our first night after checking in late, booked a table at Henry's, a laid-back Michelin Guide bistro serving simple, modern dishes and a short tasting menu, and stumbled across the newly-opened little French place Bar Breton for some delicious small plates.

Pulteney Bridge Flowers in Bath - Emma Louise Layla, UK luxury travel & lifestyle blogsurprise birthday blooms from my best friend, from Pulteney Bridge Flowers

The Gainsborough has 99 bedrooms and suites with high ceilings, tall windows, comfortable beds, Aromatherapy Associates toiletries, and a casual brasserie for breakfast (currently closed for lunch and dinner).  On our first morning, it was an absolute thrill having perfectly poached eggs benedict with avocado on toast - the first breakfast we hadn't made ourselves in months - with steaming pots of tea and fresh fruit.

The Gainsborough Bath Spa - Emma Louise Layla, UK luxury travel & lifestyle blog

The hotel's landmark building was originally a royal hospital in the early 1800s, built on ancient ruins - Roman coins were found on the site during an excavation, now displayed in the lobby, as were Roman spa remains.  It's a beautiful hotel, but its award-winning spa is the star of the show.  I had a relaxing full body massage on my birthday, and we visited the serene bath house each day for a swim in the natural thermal pools, supplied by the city's original, mineral-rich springs (it's the only UK hotel with direct access to a thermal spring).  It's a Leading Hotels of the World property for good reason - I'd highly recommend staying there.

Rainy bluebells in the Parade Gardens, Bath - Emma Louise Layla, UK travel & lifestyle blog

  Inclement weather aside (did I mention it rained?), we were grateful to leave our London flat for a lovely long weekend, and explore a new part of the UK together - I'm sure we'll be back soon in the coming years...

Browse other travel features & hotel reviews

Bath Abbey stained glass windows, English architecture - Emma Louise Layla, UK travel & lifestyle blog

National Trust Skyline Walk in Bath - Emma Louise Layla, UK travel & lifestyle blog

Bath Abbey - Emma Louise Layla, UK travel & lifestyle blog

Bath architecture - Emma Louise Layla, UK travel & lifestyle blog

Sydney Gardens in Bath - Emma Louise Layla, UK travel & lifestyle blog

Parade Gardens in Bath - Emma Louise Layla, UK travel & lifestyle blog

Bath Royal Crescent, UNESCO World Heritage Site - Emma Louise Layla, UK travel & lifestyle blog

Bar Breton, Bath - Emma Louise Layla, UK luxury travel & lifestyle blog

Bath Georgian architecture - Emma Louise Layla, UK travel & lifestyle blog

Buttercups on the Bath Skyline Walk - Emma Louise Layla, UK travel & lifestyle blog

Roman Baths - Emma Louise Layla, UK travel & lifestyle blog

The Royal Crescent, Bath - Emma Louise Layla, UK travel & lifestyle blog

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