The pressure was on from the moment I booked our train and discovered that our return tickets weren’t just for Bath, but for Bath Spa. Flooded with visions of Mr Smith and me lavishly enrobed in some sort of Austen-high-society-meets-Roman-god get-up, my mind alternated between us sipping healing water and slurping the best claret. Our Brindleys escape just had to be wonderful… my train ticket had promised it would be.
Corset packed, off we set. To my imagination’s delight our special-treatment weekend began even before we hit spa-town territory. Fearing a late arrival, I called Brindleys from Oxford's train station and spoke to our host Jamie about a tardy check-in. ‘We’ll be waiting for you – no worries!’ he told me cheerily. ‘It’s only 15 minutes from the station’ – which allayed my concerns about disrupting the bed part of the B&B routine.
Jamie wasn’t kidding. It is exactly a quarter-of-an-hour trot from Bath (Spa!) station to the stone gates of 14 Pulteney Gardens. A charming corner guesthouse on a quiet, residential street with a terrifically groomed garden, well-lit front, and an instantly homey feel. Passing a number of plain guesthouses marked with ‘no vacancy’ notices, then spotting Brindleys sophisticated, spotlighted ‘Boutique B&B’ signage hinted that at this private-road property we were in for something above and beyond the usual accommodation so popular in this beloved city-break destination.
Owners Michael and Sarah wisely recruited their cherished nephew to run their joint, and it was the man himself who answered our ring. Jamie promptly oriented us to the neighbourhood gesturing that a 10-minute walk in one direction (truly) takes you to the centre of town, and the same in the other (no, really) has you in Somerset’s ripe-for-walking rolling hills.
Base camp for us was room 6 – intriguing for the lovely top-floorer of what is in fact a five-room bed and breakfast. Jamie also took special care to relay all the important details: self-service tea and coffee, wine fridge, how to turn off the noisy bathroom fan, a reminder to tuck into the complimentary KitKats which are replenished with the daily tidy-up (he obviously spotted us eyeing them up), and finally that the (full) breakfast hour is a modest 9–10am slot. Jamie sort of hinted that they are lazy regarding serving breakfast: I argue that they are over-keen.
We were more than happy with the prospective menu of full English and continental spread and/or eggs any way the heart desires… especially since we were already impressed with a room that was immaculately clean, well-upholstered (think 21st century grandma – in a good way) and laden with an enormous window, sizeable bathroom and luxurious walk-in shower. I’ll refrain from the ‘Lack of bath in Bath? How ironic’ type comment because the shower really is more suited to a Roman emperor's ablutions than those at your usual English B&Bs.
Given our late arrival, dinner was on our mind and we were wowed with Jamie’s quick presentation of the local restaurant map as well as notes on a few off-the-radar recommendations. His tip for local Italian, Sotto Sotto, seemed to good to ignore. We were soon enough won-over by their hospitality despite a full reservation schedule. I don’t know if it was their down-pat routine or Mr Smith and my fresh-faced look, but our hosts were outrageously accommodating, funny and generous with the limoncello. Needless to say, we don’t remember much about wandering home but we can report that the beds back at Brindleys are very comfortable indeed.
Post-liqueurs, I woke pre-breakfast hour and upon discovering our forgetfulness of toothpaste (a reminder that B&Bs are not five-star hotels), I decided to venture on an early run to explore Bath solo leaving Mr Smith to savour the delicious duvet and quiet morning amid Toile de Jouy.
Now I won’t make excuses: I got lost. Very. The famous John Wood-designed Georgian Circus leading to the Royal Crescent is confusing to an American first-timer and Bath is in a rather more hilly basin than I expected – but my goodness is it splendid. Exhausted and glowing (I believe that’s the ladylike term for sweaty), I was welcomed back to Brindleys by Mr Smith, Jamie and his wife Anel’s chuckles – 18th-century courtesan I looked not – and a delicious plate of smoked salmon scrambled eggs. It was just right, and served on charming china with croissants, fancy jam selection and a bottomless cup of coffee.
My poor orientation had put paid to meeting any other breakfasters, but looking around at the empty plates I could tell it was a full house. Jamie furnished us with a few not-to-be-missed dining spots for our day out, including the Circus on Brock Street, to which we made our afternoon mission.
Waters at the Roman ruins were the headline act of the day, and we even learned a lot: who knew they were only discovered in the late 19th century? Not us. We spent the rest of our time wandering around this town that has just celebrated 25 years as a World Heritage Site, indulging in the eye candy that is Bath’s architecture. Between the run, all that history and lovely wine list at the Circus, we found ourselves in great need of afternoon respite.
Rather than hitting up Britain’s only natural Thermae Spa bath, we retreated to the comfort of our Brindleys shower, which I dare say did the trick. The local rugby match was gathering in the city centre just minutes away about the moment we dosed off for a nap, but with the country hills in view, and quiet street below, we felt perfectly spoiled. Like Jamie and Anel and their Brindleys, the city itself emits a sense of calm wholesome, luxury – little wonder this Bath boutique B&B ensured our spa weekend lived up to its name. This is a land where lavender sprigs are left on pillows and home-made biscuits are wrapped with ribbon… you get the drift. Bath Spa, thank you for spoiling us.