The Spa -
Thermae Bath Spa

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Although I had been thinking about coming to the Thermae Bath Spa for some time, I finally went because I was passing by and I was feeling really emotionally drained - what better time to come to a healing spa? 

Apparently Thermae Bath Spa has been voted 2010 "Best Spa in the World" by readers of the Daily Telegraph’s Ultra Travel Magazine for the second time running.  Did you know that you can enjoy the “Best Spa in the World” for only £14? 

You can’t book spa sessions unless you also book a treatment or you’re in a big group, so unless you book a treatment it really is a case of just showing up.  (Quick piece of advice - if you do book a treatment, such as a massage, try to ensure you have this after your spa session, so that you can leave on any essential oils overnight.  This is a common recommendation in most spas but they don’t seem to mention it here.)

It’s a mixed spa where swimwear is always required - if you’ve forgotten yours they have some in the gift shop.

I have to say, for someone a little bit wobbly, trying to figure out the different options and prices is daunting and that’s without even trying to get to grips with the over 50 treatments on offer! 

I was intending to try both the New Royal Bath and the Cross Bath, but the receptionist advised that the Cross Bath, although it’s situated on an important sacred site, is more for private parties, and can be a bit of a let down as it’s just one pool.

I was also a bit confused by the whole renting thing - I could see that there were slippers in the shop next door, so I asked the receptionist how much they were.  (Why rent when you can buy?)  She looked at me like I was stupid and eventually managed to get across to me that they just throw the slippers away when you are done - so you can keep these.  (Okay maybe I was being stupid, but they are washable so I don’t see why they don’t reuse them!) 

Anyway it kind of made it easier for me that there were no treatments available (and that I was feeling so fragile I couldn’t have coped with a massage without bursting into tears.)  Some of their treatments look almost designed to have you blubbing - the Watsu treatment has a therapist cradling you in the private pool.  So I just went for the basic 2 hour entry into the New Royal Bath with the trio of towel, robe and slippers - all for £33. 

If you want to make sure you get into the spa on a particular day it’s probably best to book a treatment (then you at least get your trio of robe, towel and slippers thrown in for free), see right for some packages if you do want to book in advance.  They also have a Twilight package (see right) but this is not bookable with a treatment so you just have to show up from 4pm onwards to see if you can get in - so maybe one to try if you don’t mind coming back the next day if you don’t get in?

I started with the Minerva Pool on the lowest floor (all the floors are connected by a circular staircase and a lift).  As soon as I took one step into the pool I could feel something very different about the water.  Apart from the heat, it felt denser, and I thought “yes, this is where I need to be”.  The Minerva Pool had quite a nice vibe, it’s not as busy as the rooftop pool, and although there are massage jets and a whirlpool it was enough for me to just linger by the side in a quiet spot for while.  There are also loungers dotted around this pool where I came for a little rest later and could very easily have snoozed off (if I had had more time!)

On the Steam Room level you can find four intensely aromatic, circular glass steam rooms; eucalyptus and mint, frankincense, mint (and one I really like which I’ve forgotten - sorry!) around a waterfall shower, as well as massaging foot baths, hot and cold showers, and a small roof terrace.

Just sitting soaking up the heat in each of the steam rooms was perfect for me.  There are instructions dotted around the room to help you understand how to use all of the different functions together - when to take a cold shower and so on, and not to spend too long in the steam rooms, that kind of thing, which was really useful, as the foot baths are not that simple, and, without a reminder, I would have just spent half an hour in each steam room!

The waterfall shower is amazing, it operates on a cycle, with the “rain” falling at different intensities - be careful when it’s going on full  strength though - if you put your face up to it you might find that it stings a bit - it’s that powerful!

I also really enjoyed the small roof terrace.  It was quite a cool day so it was completely deserted.  I even borrowed a magazine from the treatment area and sat out there for a few minutes at one point (before I realised that it was freezing!)

And so finally to the rooftop pool.  Yes, it’s lovely to be able to relax and look out over Bath’s spires, and enjoy the jacuzzi jets, but, be prepared, this is the busiest place in the spa, and the view is not that impressive!

I did think about popping into the Springs Cafe and Restaurant for something to eat and an extra 45 minutes in the spa, but everyone else seemed to have the same idea, and it had a slightly department store cafe air to it, so I decided to find somewhere more interesting outside the spa.

I spent my last 45 minutes trying not to fall asleep on the lounger, sampling the one last steam room I hadn’t already tried and going onto the roof terrace because it had started raining and I fancied a real life rain shower!

On the downside you do have to keep putting your towel, robe and slippers in metal “cages”, so, not only could you easily lose them, but they get wet and cold very, very quickly.

The design of the place is also a little too cool - the Steam Room level is so symmetrical that I kept forgetting which room I had been in and which side my robe was on - and finding your way around the changing rooms is a daunting prospect, especially if you’re trying to get out on a time limit!

Having said that, any overrun in time is priced very fairly, you just pay an extra £6 for every additional half hour - the same rate as the original spa session.

The timing etc. all works from your Smart Band - an electronic wrist band that you use for your locker, any purchases from the cafe, and which is fed into a machine at the end to check you haven’t overstayed your time limit.  But do check yours before you go in, mine kept trying to fall off (and you are charged an additional £10 if you lose it!)

Overall I loved this spa, it’s not an elegant retreat, it had much more in common with Spa London, a spa for everyday people - and I was also impressed with the disabled facilities that I saw and the huge 50% discount for disabled guests AND their carers!  Yes, there were couples there, but there were also groups of women, families (over 16s only, I’m afraid, although over 12s are allowed in the Cross Bath - see right for details) and people of every age, size and race.  It was exactly what I needed on that particular Monday, and I did leave feeling healed.  That night I also noticed the bottoms of my feet looked really healthy and clean (and that doesn’t usually happen without a £50 pedicure - so a great result for me!)

Thermae Bath Spa - New Royal Bath

Prices and offers are bewildering, but:

Basic entry into the New Royal Bath Spa for 2 hours is £24

£19 for local residents,

£12 for disabled guests and “bona fide” carers (50% discount on all spa sessions),

£9.50 for local disabled guests and “bona fide” carers

You also get an extra 15 minutes for changing / drying hair etc.

If you purchase anything from the Springs Cafe and Restaurant you get an additional 45 minutes.

If you do overrun, don’t worry, you are just charged at the same rate for every half an hour i.e. £6

Hire of towel and robe (and purchase of slippers): £9 for all three, or towel £3, robe £4, slippers £2.50 individually (you are welcome to bring your own.)

Basic entry into the Cross Bath for 1 and a half hours is £14

£7 for local residents and children (12-16), each must be accompanied by an adult,

£7 for disabled guests and “bona fide” carers (50% discount on all spa sessions),

£3.50 for local disabled guests and “bona fide” carers

No extra changing time and no access to the Springs Cafe and Restaurant.

First Great Western rail travellers get 4 hours for the price of 2 Monday to Friday

Thermae Bath Spa Packages that you can book in advance from £65 (including trio of towel, robe and slippers)

Twilight Package for £39 (including trio of towel, robe and slippers) - not bookable in advance

As at August 2010

How To Book

Pearl Escapes. 

Getting to grips with complicated pricing...

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