Thanks to its thermal waters, the City of Bath, UK, has been a wellness destination since Roman times.
However, for almost 40 years, since the closure of its municipal thermal baths in 1978, Bath was a spa town in name only. The opening of the Thermae Bath Spa day spa in 2004 went some way to addressing the lack of access to the city’s famous waters, but unlike most other European spa towns, Bath still had no five-star spa hotel.
Until now that is. The opening of the Gainsborough Bath Spa Hotel in 2015 means the city now has both a day spa and a luxury spa hotel, and tourism chiefs hope it heralds the start of a resurgence for the city of Bath as a global spa destination.
The project has been many years in the making. Plans for a hotel were announced in 2004 but stalled in the recession until Malaysian conglomerate YTL – which also owns both the Thermae Bath Spa and local utilities firm Wessex Water – took it on in 2011.
The hotel occupies two Grade II listed buildings above the remains of ancient Roman baths, which made the refurbishment extremely complex. Delays were caused by the discovery of more than 17,000 Roman coins and an original Roman mosaic on site.
Finally, however, Gainsborough Bath Spa hotel is open. It’s operated by Bath Hotel and Spa Ltd, the YTL subsidiary which also manages the nearby Thermae Bath Spa.
New hotel spa
The hotel taps into natural thermal waters via a newly created borehole. It has 99 bedrooms, including three above the spa which have direct access to it.
The 1,300sq m (13,993sq ft) Spa Village Bath within the hotel is spread over two levels. Highlights include three pools with thermal water cooled to 40?C, a salt room, ice grotto, infrared sauna and relaxation terrace. The 11 treatment rooms include a VIP suite with a Japanese ofuru thermal bathtub and two tatami rooms.
Spa Village Bath was designed by Sylvia Sepielli, who’s known for creating YTL’s original spa village in Pangkor Laut, Malaysia (see SB11/3 p46). As a result, the UK spa has some Asian influences, such as treatments using Malay, Thai, Chinese and Indian massage.
Sepielli created the spa with Melissa Mettler a consultant who’s worked exclusively for YTL for six years. Mettler worked on the concept, seeing it through the design and planning stages, recruiting the team and helping ensure the vision was delivered.
Sepielli worked with DaleSauna on a number of the thermal experiences and with Barr + Wray on the filtration and water treatment system. The hotel’s interior design was by Champalimaud, while EPR were responsible for the architecture.
As Bath emerges on the world stage as a leading wellness destination, we speak to the key people involved in the project.