Category Archives: Things to do in Bath

Things to do in Bath

Focus On: George Bayntun’s

As part of our new series of “Focus On Bath” Blog Posts, we have decided to start things with a Bath institution that many people will have perhaps passed but not necessarily heard of or visited. This we want to change, because “boy” are you missing out!

Just yards from Bath Spa Station, right next door to us, is a rather imposing Victorian fronted building, once the Postal Sorting Office of Bath. To enter you must ring a doorbell and wait for the hum and click of the door being released, as if by magic, by those inside. Here within this wooden enclave of glass, books and prints, occasionally disturbed by the tuneful strike of the mechanical clock, quietly lies an industry that once thrived in the city and across many cities in the country.

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Beavering away behind the oak doors and towering bookcases, hidden from public view, is a workshop flooded with light. Here books are carefully plucked apart, hand stitched, glued, gilded and tooled by a handful of craftsmen and women under the watchful eye from the upstairs office by the overseer and fourth generation owner of the business, Edward Bayntun-Coward. You can see much of the finished work in the glass-fronted cases in the shop, and admire the intricacies of the handiwork; each book is a miniature work of art in itself.

What is this place? This is George Bayntun’s or more correctly Bayntun’s Booksellers and the Bayntun-Riviere Bookbindery.

The full history of Bayntun’s is detailed on their in-depth website, but here is a basic summary of this amazing business. George Bayntun (1873-1940) opened his bindery in Bath in 1894 in Northumberland Place, after having been apprenticed at Taylor’s of Bath. He then moved to Walcot Street where in 1920 he bought the book collection of George Gregory, and finally moved the business to Manvers Street in 1939, where it has remained ever since. He acquired the bindery of Robert Riviere (begun in Bath in 1829) at the time of the Manvers Street move. The success and the renown of the business was such that in 1950 Bayntun’s received patronage from Queen Mary, whose coat of arms you can still see over an inner door that leads to the main staircase; plus in time they also acquired over 6000 books from Woburn Abbey.

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Bayntun’s is now famous all over the world. In the Visitors’ book there are signatures from Japan, Alaska, all over Europe, Africa and the Americas, the Antipodes, Russia, Indonesia and the Middle East. Peeking into the Visitors’ Book I noticed amongst the University professors and bookbinders from around the world, familiar names such as the comedians Barry Humphries and Eric Idle, the actors Timothy West and Simon Callow; the politicians Douglas Hurd and John Major, and the artists Sir Peter Blake and Marc Chagall.

So what brings people to travel hundreds if not thousands of miles to George Bayntun’s? It is simply the quality and craftsmanship of the work. It is now one of the last great Victorian binderies still in family ownership and every single process of the binding is by hand. Even the marbled paper inside the covers of the books has been created by hand, by Melksham based artist Jemma Lewis. To bind a book an be a painstaking but rewarding process. Nothing quite beats a hand bound book. A carefully, properly hand-bound book can last over 100 years!

Hannah with Queen Mary's coat of arms over the doorway

Hannah with Queen Mary’s coat of arms over the doorway

“There are over a hundred stages in binding a book by hand and none of them can be rushed.” – George Bayntun.

It was a fantastic privilege to be allowed to see behind the scenes. In what was the sorting office mail room in 1904, there now is the gentle hum of concentration. Nola who works on the first part of the process, unpicking stitching and carefully scraping off glue told me that this process alone can take up to a week depending on the size of the tome. Once the book is re-stitched and ready, it goes to Andrew, a cheerful chap who was taken on as an apprentice 13 years ago and is now a finisher and edge gilder.

A book ready for gilding

The start of the gilding process

I find Andrew next to a book clamped into a vice. He is gently smoothing the sides of the book using an Agate stone attached to a piece of wood – this is called a Burnisher and the technique is called “polishing”. This technique ensures that the book is smooth as glass ready to take the 23 ½ carat gold leaf that Andrew was about to carefully apply. First a layer of glue, then a mixture of egg whites and water is added; after this, using a squirrel hair brush that is as soft as velvet, Andrew applies the gold leaf. It’s amazing the traditional ways still used in bookbinding here. Andrew showed me how, by stroking the hair brush on his face, he could create static to use to attract the tissue thin gold leaf onto it. Then he said he blows gently on the gold once it’s been applied to the book and if the condensation from his breath disappears it has set and is ready for the next stage.

Next in line in the process was Don; surrounded by completed and ready to work on books. He has worked in the business for over 30 years and is Bayntun’s chief restorer. His “Holy Grail” he told me when I questioned him about the work he has done, was to actually handle a first folio of Shakespeare. He said he had bound a second edition dating to 1613, but a first edition would be the pinnacle.

Don with the specially bound Alan Titchmarsh book

Don with the specially bound Alan Titchmarsh book

At his workstation Don showed me a piece he had just finished for the presenter and garden expert, Alan Titchmarsh, a specially designed commission for Titchmarsh’s 2014 release The Queen’s Houses. It was gilded in palladium, gold and red gold, with a blue and silver silk headband and specially made designs on the inside and outside of the book. This was one stunning edition.

At Don’s workplace he was busy gluing front and back pieces to books, doing the headbands and adding the leather. Nearby were shelves stacked with rolls of goat skin – the leather that is used by Bayntun’s. They are supplied by two tanneries who obtain their skins from Africa. One of them, J.Hewit & Sons Ltd of West Lothian, has a Royal Warrant to the Queen. The skins come to Bayntun’s dyed, but they also have the capacity to hand dye the skins in house as well, especially if a customer requires a book to match others within his or her collection. Vellum, or calf skin, is used occasionally here if the occasion warrants it, but is apparently harder and less pliable than the goat skin. Unusual requests have also seen the team working with Kangaroo, Ostrich, and even Kudu skins.

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I asked if anyone had ever found anything unusual when re-binding a book. The answer was a plethora of things, from pressed flowers and insects trapped within the leaves of the books, to cigarette cards and even sailors’ songs hidden inside the leather linings. Often the spine of older books had been padded with torn up pieces of Bibles, engravings, tickets to shows. In one book they even found tickets to Suffragette events in the early 20th Century.

Bookbinders of the past would often carefully and secretly add their own mark, and sometimes these were found when rebinding. Don said he has his own secret moniker that he adds to every book he binds; so that if it comes back in again, he can identify it. Now, what job these days can you think of where you can do that?!

Once a book is bound, it needs to be “finished” and this is where it is tooled with a design. Luckily at Bayntun’s they are spoilt for choice for designs as with 15,000, they hold the largest collection of hand tools and blocks in the world! With new designs created for clients on request, they are forever adding to this important archive. A steady hand and full concentration is needed at all stages, but especially at this point, and I didn’t want to disturb Tony who, when I visited, was head down working on a stunning cover of Ulysses. The precision required to add the gold in to some of the tiniest tool marks is unbelievable.

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You can see how much the staff love their work here at Bayntun’s and their commitment and pleasure in each new binding is infectious. Their love for Bayntun’s and working in Bath can be reflected not just in their words to me, but in their longevity of service. Penny and Julie who work out on the main shop floor have both worked for 50 years each; while in the bindery, Tony and Don at 20 and 30 years respectively have some way to go to beat Derek’s longevity. At 83 years’ old he has been a bookbinder since 1947, and continues to work here, albeit 2 days a week now.

Do Bookshops and especially bookbinderies still have a place in the 21st Century, so overrun now with the internet, E-readers and technology? Speaking to the staff, both old and new, they all agree that even in this ever increasing digital age, the art and skill of bookbinding is still appreciated and required; perhaps even growing as more and more people begin to appreciate such handiwork.

The Savoy Cocktail Book

The Savoy Cocktail Book

Books are tactile objects and as I’ve seen from the work that is undertaken and commissioned here at Bayntun’s the books themselves can be considered pieces of art in their own right. A first edition copy of Roald Dahl’s James and the Giant Peach was plucked from one of the shop shelves for me to admire and running my fingers over the gilded birds and the carved orange leather peach sent a shiver up my spine. Later on, flicking through one of their catalogues, the crisp white leather cover and deco carved design for The Savoy Cocktail Book caught my eye. It is now something I aspire to own, simply for its stunning design, if not just for the cocktail recipes!

Bayntun’s isn’t for me, I hear you cry; isn’t it full of books that are worth hundreds, if not thousands of pounds? It may surprise you, but Bayntun’s has something for every budget, whether large or small. You can come in and rifle through old 19th Century prints and maps with some only £3.00 in price. Coloured works line the walls in the print gallery with starting prices at a reasonable £8.00. On the book front you can head downstairs to the second hand department and buy books from £2.00. They have everything from topography to children’s books down in the basement; plus drawers crammed with papers, sheet music and other books.

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Bayntun’s is a gem of a find and where you’ll find gems!

Only recently, my guide, Hannah told me, a book was discovered here, defaced throughout with the word “bacon” spelt out. It turns out this book was owned by Mrs Constance Pott the founder of the Francis Bacon Society (who perpetuates the theory that Sir Francis was in fact Shakespeare). A rare find indeed!

On the second floor of Bayntun’s are the Antiquarian books and here you can relax in their squishy armchairs, looking at books that date from the last century to the sixteenth century. Here you can find books from a more modest £20-£30 price range upwards. It’s lovely to spend some time admiring the titles and carefully exploring the shelves.

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The Ground floor is where you can find the first editions and specially bound books by Bayntun’s. Don’t think for a minute that a first edition is out of your price range – the copies here start from a few hundred pounds, depending of course on the title and the workmanship involved. What a great present to give a loved one, or to treat yourself to!

Amongst the freestanding bookshelves on this ground floor there are small items for sale, some even crafted by those in the bindery. You can purchase off cuts of the leather, buy binding glue and some of the tools that they use. There is also some fantastic polish to rub into your leather bound books – who knew? There are also beautiful cards, bookmarks, plus leather earrings and bangles.

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It’s not just books that are bound. People have commissioned Bayntun’s to make dust jackets, Wedding Albums, visitors’ books, backgammon sets, inlaid chess boards, gilded tables, and stationery boxes. Basically if it needs leather binding, then anything is a welcome challenge for Bayntun’s!

Bayntun’s will also sell books on behalf of customers. They welcome people to make appointments for valuations. Details of how to contact the shop are at the end of this post.

Before my visit ended I asked Hannah and Don their top tips for taking care of your books, Number one on the list was that Sellotape is definitely the enemy!

1) Never, ever, use Sellotape on a book repair. If you have to, always use glue.
2) Don’t remove a book from a shelf by pulling its top as this is where most tears occur
3) Polish your leather bound books using a conservation polish to protect and strengthen the leather.
4) Dust wrappers are great, even plastic ones, to protect your volumes.
5) Don’t get a book wet. If you do, put tissue in between each of the wet leaves and press it as it dries. This technique will minimise that “crinkled” effect water has on paper when it dries.

I urge you all to visit George Bayntun’s. It really is fantastic, and there’s more to it than meets the eye. You feel like you’ve stepped back in time when you enter the shop, and you’d be right – nothing has changed much here since George Bayntun himself moved in to the premises in 1939, but there is something here for everyone, young or old.

I whole heartedly reflect Eric Idle’s sentiments, as written in Bayntun’s Visitors’ Book,

“What a wonderful treat to find you. Thank you!”

GeorgeBayntunFront

George Bayntun, Manvers Street, BATH, BA1 1JW

Opening Times: Mon – Fri: 9am to 1pm/2pm to 5.30pm; Sat: 9.30am to 1pm. Closed Sundays and Bank Holidays.

Telephone: +44 (0) 1225 466000

Email: enquiries@georgebayntun.com

Half Term Happenings!

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If you’re aiming to visit Bath over the upcoming Half Term holidays, and are looking for some fun things to do with your children, not just the usual museums, then we’ve got a few suggestions for you.

Go Medieval mad this February with the unique Ora Et Labora. Not only do they sell products exclusively made my monastic communities around the world, have sampling suppers and now Lunchtime platters for everyone to enjoy; but from Monday 16th to Friday 20th February your kids can step back in time and enjoy a range of craft activities from candle making and brass rubbing to quill and ink writing and learning apothecary skills. Cost: £2.50 per child. No booking required.

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If they haven’t had enough of medieval life then Bath Abbey is running a “Day in the Life of a Monk” on Tuesday 17th February, where from 10.45am to 2.30pm children will have a chance to enjoy a range of activities, dress up as a monk and even meet a real-life Benedictine Monk from Downside Abbey in Somerset! Bring a packed lunch to enjoy in the surroundings of the Abbey. Booking is essential and costs £5 per child.

If you want your little ones to get green fingered and enjoy the fresh air then grab the wellies and head on over to some of the National Trust owned parks in and nearby Bath this holiday. At Dyrham Park you can join in with the Spring bulb planting, from 2-3pm from Monday 16th to Friday 20th February. What a wonderful sense of satisfaction for all to return later on in the year to see your hard work blooming. If you don’t want to get so “hands on” then on Tuesday 17th and Thursday 19th February you can join a guided discovery tour around the more wilder parts of the parkland, with pond dipping and bug hunting to enjoy. There is also the chance to feed the Deer until March too.

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The Bath Skyline walk is always a popular option when the weather is lovely, and a great way to tire the kids out with plenty of fresh air and hills! Prior Park has free activities for children (normal admission fee applies for entry to Park) based on traditional English customs, and working with local artists. Your children can enjoy Greenman workshops, tree dressing and magical trails through the Park.

Talking of traditional English customs, on Tuesday 17th February it’s Pancake Day! Otherwise known as Shrove Tuesday, in the Christian calendar it signifies the last day before the 40 days of Lent leading up to Easter. Traditionally a time to use up all your excess food before the time of self-restraint; in England, Pancake Day now sees perfectly sane people run up and down streets, gardens and roads with a frying pan frantically flipping a batter mix! Bath is no exception and it’s that time again for Bath’s Flipping Pancake Race, organised by Fringe Arts Bath. Taking place in the Abbey Courtyard on Tuesday 17th, both children and adults can join in the fun or simply cheer on the competitors. All money raised is going to Food Cycle, a charity that aims to reduce food waste and food poverty in the U.K.

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During Half Term another important celebration takes place – that of the Chinese New Year. Thursday 19th February sees the Year of the Horse ride off into the sunset and the Year of the Sheep make its way to the forefront. The Museum of East Asian Art will be holding its Annual “Lunar New Year Extravaganza” on Sunday 22nd February, at the Assembly Rooms in Bath. This free event is a fantastic family attraction, and everyone can enjoy a day of entertainment, arts and crafts, and dance spectaculars. It’s certainly not an event to be missed!

For further ideas of what to do and where to take your kids this Half Term, take a look at Visit Bath. There’s plenty on at the Museums and Art Galleries, plus other great suggestions to keep everyone happy and having fun. If you’re celebrating the Lunar New Year, we wish you a very “Gong Hey Fat Choy/Gong Xi Fa Cai”, plus, we hope that everyone enjoys the Half Term!

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Love is all around…in Bath

There are plenty of reasons to believe Bath is the city of Love – not only is the famous Pultney Bridge built by Robert Adam in 1774 based upon the Ponte Vecchio and Ponte di Rialto in those most romantic of cities Florence and Venice respectively; but Bath was chosen as the setting for most of the action in both romantic novels, Persuasion and Northanger Abbey, by Jane Austen. John Betjeman even wrote a love poem about a couple lost in each others company entitled “In a Bath Teashop”. Geoffrey Chaucer wrote of the multi-betrothed “Wife of Bath” in his Canterbury Tales (14th Century), whose tale to the pilgrims about what women desire is a much studied text even in the 21st Century. Plus in the 18th Century the developing relationship and eventual elopement between the famous playwright Richard Brinsley Sheridan and Bath born resident, singer and actress, the beautiful Elizabeth Linley captivated society at the time, even leading to a duel just outside the city to defend Elizabeth’s honour! This love story also inspired a ballet called “The Great Elopement” and an arrangement entitled “Love in Bath” which was written by Sir Thomas Beecham in 1945 compiled from a suite of music by the famous composer George Frederick Handel.

Sheridan and Linley

Today, couples can stroll hand in hand in the very steps of Richard and Elizabeth, Catherine Morland and Henry Tilney (Northanger Abbey) or Captain Wentworth and Anne Elliott (Persuasion). There are plenty of wonderful places to discover together and museums, art galleries, markets and gardens to visit in the city; but we want to highlight a few special events and suggest romantic ideas for this year’s Valentine’s Weekend.

Brief Encounter

For the true romantics, on Saturday 14th February, The Forum, will be putting on one of the most romantic movies of all time – Brief Encounter. The showing of this 1945 classic film will be even more special as there will be a performance by the Bath Philharmonic Orchestra beforehand of some of the music that inspired the film’s soundtrack, including that of Rachmaninoff’s Second Piano Concerto with international soloist Alexandra Darieuscu. There will also be roses and champagne available to purchase in the foyer if you wish to treat your loved one even more.

If you fancy something a bit more up to date in the cinema then on Friday 13th February sees the general release of the hotly anticipated Fifty Shades of Grey, which can be seen in both the Bath Odeon and Little Theatre. Back seats will be filling up fast we’re sure! If some S&M isn’t really your scene then another romantic film released soon is The Last Five Years. This is an adaption of a 2002 off Broadway musical that chronicles the love affair and marriage of a couple over five years told almost entirely through song.

Fifty Shades of Grey

Eve may have been tempted by an apple in the Garden of Eden, and you can too in Bath this Valentine’s weekend at the 9th Bath Cider Festival, taking place at The Pavilion. Opening on Friday 13th until Saturday 14th February, you can enjoy over 100 ciders and perries along with a hog roast and cheese platters. The Wurzel’s tribute band, The Mangledwurzels will be playing at all sessions as well, to add some Scrumpy and Western flavour to the event.

There are plenty of other musical events over the Valentine’s weekend that everyone (not just couples) can enjoy. Komedia will be running its regular Saturday Comedy Night followed by the fantastic Motocity where you can dance the night away to some soul and funk classics. On Friday night at Komedia there’s also a DJ set entitled “Valentine’s Payback Special”; while over at The Chapel Arts Centre you can enjoy a night of 60’s and 70’s classics by The Mods Band. The Chapel Arts Centre will also have the Zen Hussies playing on Valentine’s evening, bringing you a night of swing, jive, boogie and surf from this fantastic six piece band.

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If the theatre is more your thing, then at TheTheatre Royal, you can enjoy Tom Stoppard’s Olivier award winning comedy about science, sex and landscape gardening, Arcadia. Over at the Ustinov Studio you can take your loved one to see Stella, about Jessica Bell and Caroline Herschel and their two loves – men and astronomy. A rather apt play as Caroline lived and worked with her astronomer brother William (who discovered the planet Uranus) in the 18th Century at 19, New King Street, Bath, where there is now the Herschel Museum. The Rondo Theatre will have on Saturday 14th February the celebrated chanteuse Fiona-Jane Watson who will be recreating the changing times for women in the 20th Century in a one woman show, Wartime Women – the Khaki Cabaret.

Of course, we mustn’t forget food. After all, it is said that the way to a person’s heart is often through their stomach! At The Royal Hotel we are delighted to be organising our candlelit romantic dinner once again. Arrive at our Parisian style Brasserie Brunel to be seated and surrounded by warm wood, candlelight and crystal chandeliers. A complimentary glass of pink bubbly will be offered to you as you contemplate our specially created Valentine’s menu. You will then be served six courses of sumptuous delights to dazzle and delight the sense. This romantic menu is only £28.50 per person. If you’re thinking of making it even more special with a proposal, simply talk to our staff on booking and we can see what we can do to make the night even more memorable for you both.

Valentines Candlelight Dinner 2015 Royal Hotel

Other romantic things to do over the Valentine’s weekend that we can suggest include –
• A Hot Air Balloon ride over the city
• A pampering time at the Thermae Spa
• A walk around The National Trust owned Prior Park – a popular place to drop to one knee and propose!
• High Tea at The Pump Rooms
• A night’s stay in one of our Four Poster or Superior rooms at The Royal Hotel – where you can enjoy romantic DVD’s in the comfort of your own room, our Valentine’s Candlelit dinner, and even order flowers, chocolates and champagne on arrival.

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If you’re be looking for presents for your loved one then you’re spoilt for choice with so many shops in Bath – perhaps consider a box of handmade chocolates from Charlotte Brunswick, they have a Captured Heart Cube for £8.50 or their Heart Boxes start from £14.95. Nearby San Francisco Fudge Factory can tempt with cookies and cream, vanilla and caramel or raspberry and white chocolate Pavlova fudge pieces that you can buy by the piece or box. Say it with flowers, and you can’t go much wrong with the beautiful bunches from Flowers of Bath. They offer a stunning selection, plus bespoke orders are taken too. During the Victorian period the meaning of flowers was incredibly popular and you can’t go wrong with a red rose which is said to represent “passionate love”. If you want to be someone’s secret Valentine then yellow chrysanthemums are for you, Yellow tulips represent “hopelessly in love” and Lilacs mean “first love”.

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If wine is more your other half’s passion then why not try a tutored wine tasting with Raisin Wine; tickets start from £17.00. On Sunday 15th February there is Bath Market (9.30am to 4pm) at Green Park Station where you and your partner can go explore and perhaps buy something special for one another. There is everything from food and jewellery, vinyl, book and art, as well as gifts, crafts and much more. If your other half is a label and fashion lover, designer goods need not be out of your reach – simply call into Grace & Ted and take your pick of their second hand designer accessories, shoes and clothes. Finally, for that special piece of jewellery, you can’t go wrong with the family run Mallory’s of Bath. Based in the city for over 100 years, they sell the finest in watches, jewellery, handbags and much more. A fantastic place to go and hint at the engagement ring of your dreams.

We’ve also asked a few of the local independent retailers about Valentine inspired gifts this year:

For the beguiling bibliophile in your life head to the experts, George Bayntun’s on Manvers Street. They recommend for the budding foodies in your life The Foods of Love a little book about aphrodisiacs (£2.00), for your gorgeous Gothic romantic try A Sicilian Romance by Ann Radcliffe or perhaps a First Edition of Philip Pullman’s The Amber Spyglass (£35.00); and for the charming Classicist perhaps purchase bound copies of Restoration Love Songs and Shakespeare’s Sonnets (from £400.00).

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Along with a good book one needs something to nibble on, and perhaps a box of scrumptious “sealed with a kiss” Valentine cupcakes or Love Bug cookies from Coffee@Camden will do the trick. A box of 4 Valentine’s Cupcakes, ribboned with a love tag costs £11.00; Single love bug cookies ribboned with a love tag are £4.00 each. You could even get your children involved in Valentine’s Day with the fun Cupcake class Coffee@Camden are running on Friday 13th February, 4-5.30 pm where they will make 4 cupcakes to enjoy, along with tea afterwards (£15.00 pp).

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What about something to wash all those goodies down? You could prepare yourself pre-Valentine’s Day at Independent Spirit’s Cocktail Masterclass on Friday 6th February where if you fancy yourself as the next James Bond you’ll learn to make the perfect Martini, shaken or stirred. Woo your loved one with your mixology skills by picking up from the shop, the very special Kwai Feh liquor (£26.95). Recommended by Chris Scullion, Director at Independent Spirit as their Valentine’s Day drink, this Lychee liquor not only has a romantic story attached (naturally) to its name but it works well as a floral alternative to Kir Royal with champagne or added to a cosmopolitan. Perhaps while you’re there pick up a bottle of their bestselling Cartier NV Brut champagne (£24.95) to create your own Kwai Royals.

Most of all during your time in this beautiful of cities just simply take time to be together with the person that means the most to you. Life can go by too fast these days so just pause a moment and take in the words of John Betjeman from his poem, “In a Bath Teashop”,
“Let us not speak for the love we bear one another –
Let us hold hands and look…”

 

 

 

Happy Healthy New Year!

With Christmas and New Year behind us, January is typically the month of good intentions; and we at The Royal Hotel can recommend some great ways to get fit and eat well in Bath this year.

If you’re thinking of staying with us at The Royal, then enjoying one of our great value Spa Packages is one way to prep your body for a new you. The naturally hot spring waters at the Thermae Bath Spa are packed full of different minerals that are great for your body, and having been enjoyed by the Romans, Georgians, and Victorians, centuries of use can’t be wrong! Your visit to the Spa can be supplemented with one of the many treatments on offer, from facials to massages and wraps, they will detox your body and rejuvenate your skin. If you’re visiting The Pump Rooms, then you can also take the waters internally too, trying a sample of the mineral rich water from the dipper.

Thermae Bath Spa

Exercise is a great way to boost the body’s metabolic system and clear the head, and there are plenty of walks for all abilities throughout the city (or run the routes if you’re even keener!). Even just strolling up and down the city window shopping and enjoying the sights can burn off calories. There’s a great incline from Queen’s Square to The Circus up Gay Street, or via Milsom Street and Bartlett Street past the Assembly Rooms. Plus don’t forget to enjoy walking up and down bohemian Walcot Street, and you can cut back into the city via The Paragon which takes you back to the top of Milsom Street again. If you’re feeling a bit fitter and want to see another crescent, then head up Lansdown Road and go explore a part of Bath you may not have discovered before.

Bath Skyline Walk

The National Trust Skyline walk around Bath is the most downloaded walk on the National Trust website, and with good reason, as you are treated to beautiful views over the city, hidden valleys and woodland, while walking past 18th Century follies and Iron Age hill forts. According to the website if you complete the full 6 mile walk you can burn on average 735 calories (kcal) which is as much energy as playing 90 minutes of football! The walk can take up to 3 hours depending on speed, and dogs are welcome on the walk as long as on a lead. Remember to dress appropriately and wear suitable footwear as the paths can be muddy and there are stiles to negotiate. Starting point is up Bathwick Hill near The American Museum.

If you fancy something a little easier on the feet, maybe try a walk along the Kennet and Avon Canal path that runs through the city. There are also other riverside walks available too, but we particularly like this 2 mile walk that starts off at Pultney Weir. From there you head over Pultney Bridge and along Argyle Street towards the magnificent Holburne Museum. From here you can detour through Sydney Gardens behind the Museum where you can find a Roman temple, tea rooms and little bridges that take you over the Avon. Considered a “little Venice”, this park was created in 1795 as a pleasure garden, and continues to delight visitors to Bath today, as it did back when Jane Austen visited. Back to our route, carefully cross over the main road on Beckford Road where you will find the canal path. Follow the path along the canal until you reach The George Inn, a 17th Century hostelry usually surrounded by narrow boats, where you can relax with some refreshment before heading back into Bath the same way you walked.

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Of course Bath doesn’t have to be explored by foot – cycling is a great exercise too, and there are a number of places you can hire a bike from if you haven’t brought your own – Green Park Bike Station is one place, as is Bath Bike Hire. Remember to always make sure you get and wear a helmet with your hire too. Maps and recommended routes are available if needed, but again you have the city to explore, the waterways through and out of the city – both toward Bradford on Avon, and toward Bristol; plus the new Two Tunnels cycle route is a recommended 13 mile new route out of Bath.

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There are of course Golf Courses around the city if you prefer to be out on the green with a putt in your hand, such as one of England’s oldest clubs – Bath Golf Club, or the 9 hole Entry Hill Golf Club. If you want somewhere if the weather is wet, perhaps for tennis, squash or badminton, then you can enjoy the Gym and other facilities of the YMCA Bath, or the Pavilion Sports Centre, where membership is not always necessary for certain activities (please contact sports facility directly to check).

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After all that exercise, you will need to refuel with something tasty, but healthy, and here, at The Royal Hotel, we try and cater for all. We pride ourselves on our great range of freshly made to order food; most of which is sourced locally. You can view our menus online, but to give you an idea of some healthy choices, perhaps we can tempt you with a starter of Avocado and Strawberry salad, with mixed leaves, toasted pine nuts, fresh Parmesan and balsamic dressing (£4.55), then to follow a Fillet of Salmon garnished with fresh asparagus and lime hollandaise (£13.25), finishing with perhaps a selection of sorbets, or a Poached pear in red wine syrup with honeycomb ice cream (both £4.95 each). These delights are from our A la Carte menu where our steaks are grilled to your liking, and you can enjoy side dishes of seasonal vegetables or a mixed salad too.

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Our Bar Menu and great value Fixed Price Menu also have great healthy options – from Chicken and Fresh Mango Salad to Omelettes or a Vine tomato, rocket and fresh Parmesan salad. We have a wide range of non-alcoholic drinks if you’re having a dry month, plus herbal and fruit teas available. Do let our staff know if you want something left out, or a sauce on the side so you can add it yourself, and we’d be happy to help. We also cater for food intolerances, such as Gluten; just inform us at the time of your booking. We also offer a healthy choice at Breakfast too, if you’re staying with us, so you can start your day off the right way.

Whatever your intentions are this New Year, we hope you have a happy and healthy 2015!

Beat the January Blues in Bath!

All the excitement of Christmas is over…the last of the turkey has been eaten…those New Year resolutions are tentatively being planned out; what a perfect time in what can be a dull, quiet and cold month to come to beautiful Bath and enjoy a lovely Spa Break and all the events that are on during January.

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There is plenty to do in Bath during the month of January. The Ice Skating Rink in Royal Victoria Park finishes on the 4th January so you could get some last minute practice in. From the 3rd to 10th, there will be the fantastic free, Festival of Light – Illuminate 2015, throughout the city. Now in its fourth year and organised by Bath Spa University, this collaboration of local and international artists bathe the city in wonderful light installations in unusual and unexpected public spaces, making a walk around the city an adventure to find these wonderful pieces of art.

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If you want to be in the warm and keep everyone entertained, then the Theatre Royal Bath’s annual pantomime runs until January 11th. It’s that classic tale of Cinderella, with CBBC’s Tracy Beaker (aka Dani Harmer) in the feature role, and Gavin & Stacey’s, Gwen (Melanie Waters) as the magical Fairy Godmother. Full of fun, laughs and magical moments, this pantomime is not just for the kids!

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There are plenty of exhibitions running in all the museums and galleries in Bath to delight and entertain during January too. One particular interesting exhibition that begins on 17th January and runs until 1st March, is Jeremy Gardiner’s installation at the Victoria Art Gallery entitled “Jurassic Coast”. Cleverly linking two UNESCO World Heritage Sites – Bath and the Jurassic Coast of Dorset and Devon, Jeremy’s work involves him building up layers of paint into collage and sanding it down to create fascinating textures and effects. The exhibition includes fossils and a 3D model of the coastline, plus a film. Cost is £3.50 for the exhibition, the rest of Victoria Art Gallery is free.

Pembroke Castle, Wales circa 1829 by Joseph Mallord William Turner 1775-1851

To tie in with the recent release of the biopic film about J.M.W. Turner, “Mr Turner”, starring Timothy Spall, get your fill of those swirling landscapes and big skies and head to the fantastic Holburne Museum. From the 10th January to 8th March 2015 there is an exhibition of eight of Turner’s work including those painted during his time in Bristol between 1791 and 1793. Entitled “Turner: Watercolours from the West – An Intimate Touring Show” this is a FREE exhibition and should not be missed.

Of course, while you’re visiting Bath, why not enjoy not just a taste of the famous waters in the Pump Room near the Abbey, but immerse yourself in it’s warm waters and have a relaxing few hours, half or full day experience in Britain’s only naturally heated spring, the Thermae Bath Spa, in the centre of the city. After all that indulgence of Christmas and New Year a Spa Break would be the perfect treat, and our Spa Breaks offer all that luxury without breaking the bank.

Thermae Bath Spa

We offer two options for great value indulgence – the Classic and the All Inclusive Package here at The Royal Hotel. Your Classic Spa Break involves two nights accommodation in one of our comfortable en-suite bedrooms with complimentary toiletries and room tray that includes tea, coffee, mineral water and biscuits. A full English breakfast every day (or “healthy choice” breakfast). One two hour visit to Britain’s only natural hot spring, the £40 million Thermae Bath Spa, with a complimentary robe, slippers and towel provided by the Spa. Plus, a glass of delicious and refreshing Tattinger Champagne to enjoy after your spa visit, along with a complimentary cream tea.

Our All Inclusive Package includes all of the Classic Break, but with an excellent 3 course dinner to enjoy each night from our wide and varied menu in the Parisian style Brasserie Brunel also included. The Classic Option is from £159.00 per person, the All Inclusive Option from only £189.00 per person (all prices are based on two people sharing a twin or double bedded room). Supplements for upgrade to Superior or Four Poster Rooms. For information about single person options, or to book, please call us on 01225 463134.

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Everyone deserves a little pampering in those cold winter days of January, and with plenty of things on during the month, and with such great value prices, we look forward to seeing you soon!

Christmas Shopping in Bath – Part Two

We hope you enjoyed reading the first part of our Blog piece about alternate festive shopping in Bath during and after the Christmas Market. Now, here’s Part Two for you all; so put up your feet, have a munch on a mince pie and start planning your trip to The Royal and shopping in Bath!

Food & Drink Gifts

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Bath has a plethora of great places to not only sit and enjoy lovely local food, but also to take-away. Again, we can’t name them all, but here are a few to whet the appetites, perfect to pick up a gift from; and you may find more on your stroll around.

* Charlotte Brunswick - Handmade chocolates in the heart of Bath. Having worked with an historian to create these yummy products around local stories, your box of goodies includes cards with the history written on them. Enjoy the experience of selecting your own tempting carton of treats from the piles of milk, white and dark delights piled up around you in this lovely shop. [3 Church Street, Abbey Green]

* Independent Spirit of Bath – The two witty chaps who run this great off licence offer more than just your average bottle of plonk and can of low grade lager. You come to Independent Spirit for expert advice on spirits, whiskies, fine wines, champagnes and a fantastic selection of world and craft beers. With tasting evenings ever popular, and the guys happy to try and source customers requests, shopping for alcohol got a whole lot more pleasurable! Found opposite the Parade Gardens and Bog Island. [7, Terrace Walk]

* Gillards of Bath – Established in 1886, this lovely stall inside the Guildhall Market, is the place to go for your tea and coffee requirements. Still blending teas and roasting  coffee beans for the aficionados delight, you can also pick up a infuser or grinder as well. [Guildhall Market]

* The Fine Cheese Company – Established in Bath for twenty years this mecca for cheese lovers is one to delight all the senses! Specialising in British cheeses, there are also artisan cheeses sourced from Europe; plus a wide range of biscuits, jellies, jams and other accoutrements all to add to your cheeseboard. Planning a wedding? Then try a cheese wedding cake as something a bit different! Next door there is also a popular cafe where they sell sandwiches, salads, quiches and cakes to eat in or take away. [29 & 31 Walcot Street]

* San Francisco Fudge – For all you sweet toothed fudge lovers out there you will love this great shop near the Abbey Courtyard. All handmade in Bath, the owner is an American lady who ran a fudge stall in San Francisco, but since opening her shop here in Bath in 1995, her fudge is enjoyed by people from all around the world, and shipped around it too! Children’s parties and wedding favours are catered for, and what’s best of all is there are no artificial ingredients. Most of the fudge is also suitable for vegetarians and those with gluten intolerances (always check beforehand). [6 Church Street]

Sport Lovers

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After indulging in all that lovely food and drink, New Year is usually when new intentions are started and the trainers are donned; however there are plenty of you out there who enjoy sport (both watching and partaking) all year round. Bath is the home not only to Bath Rugby and Bath City FC but also has it’s own Racecourse out at Lansdown and a West of England Premier League Cricket Team. There are lots of local sporting groups throughout the city, plus we’re lucky enough to host and train many of the past, present and future Olympic and Paralympic athletes who train as part of Team Bath at the University of Bath. You can find Bath Rugby’s Official shop just along Pultney Street opposite the entrance steps down to The Rec. Here’s a couple more independent shops that may be able to cater for the sporting types whom you have to buy a gift for this Christmas.

* Running Bath – Don’t be too surprised on your walk around Bath if you’ll suddenly see a suited office worker pound up and down The Corridor shopping arcade in Bath with a pair of bright trainers on their feet being watched closely by one of the team at this expert running shop, for this is all part of the service here at these trainer specialists. They make sure that the footwear you choose isn’t based on the name, but on the suitability for your shape of foot and running gait. Great for the first time runner or the ironman triathlete. Sell accessories and clothing too. [ 19 High Street]

* John’s Bikes – Bath’s oldest bike shop, John’s Bikes has been a well loved shop on Walcot Street for 36 years. Offering expert advice and tips as well as servicing and repairs, it’s a great place to go to catch up on the latest cycling news and events in and around Bath too. Of course they sell bicycles here too and they’ve got all makes and models for all budgets, from commuting to competing, from children to adults. [82-84 Walcot Street]

Unique Gifts

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* Vintage & Rare Guitars – Established in 1982, this fantastic shop is hidden down the cobbled streets of Queen Street. Selling investment pieces to gigging guitars these guys know their Fender’s from their Gibson’s. Amps and other accessories sold too; plus they also buy Guitars if you dare part with your old one. With 20 different brands from the past 60 years this is Guitar heaven and what makes it even more special is you can “try before you buy”; often the sound of a potential rock god can be heard echoing around the streets. Bliss for the budding Hendrix in your life. [11 Queen Street]

* Frederick Tranter – Now known under the “Havana House” brand name, this tobacconist and cigar specialist has been established in Bath since 1898. Although smoking is no longer as accepted as it once was, for those of you who still enjoy, this little shop is a blast from the past. You can purchase cigars, blended tobacco, pipes and other smoking paraphernalia in here; plus 30 flavours of snuff, and shaving accessories.[5 Church Street, Abbey Green]

* Ora et Labora – This shop lies within what were once Bath Abbey’s Cloisters and sells unique gifts made by monastic communities from around the world. From Trappist beers, cheese and leather goods to toiletries, scarfs and ceramics you’ll be surprised and delighted by the artisan products that monasteries are still producing today. The shop also sells the unique Bath Medieval Pudding, based on an original recipe found in Bath Archives dating to 1430. You can taste more of history here with regular sampling evenings and dinners, plus there is a small museum downstairs. [3 Church Street, Abbey Green]

* Bath Stamp & Coin Shop – This little shop does exactly what it says in its name and has done so since 1958 in Bath. This family run business not only buys and sells coins and stamps but also military medals; plus free valuations are available when the shop isn’t too busy. A philatelists paradise, it brings back childhood memories for many, and continues to delight every age. [12 Pultney Bridge]

 

Christmas Shopping in Bath – Part One

With the Bath Christmas Market in full swing, we thought we’d also add to your shopping foot-miles by suggesting some great independent traders to visit while you’re staying in the city. The Market is a mecca for local businesses but we’d hope that you’d take some time out to explore a bit more of the city on foot and perhaps one of these shops you will stumble across may tempt you too. We’ve split our post into two parts. The second which will be online later this week will feature Food & Drink, ideas for the Sports Lover in your life and a list of some unique gifts you can find in the city.

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Clothing & Accessories

Bath is so lucky to have many independent retailers within the City, plus lots of great charity and vintage shops too. These will require a separate post another time; but here are a choice few for your Christmas delights.

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* Liz Cox – Since 1995, Liz Cox has been selling her 100% Made in England bespoke leather handbags here in Bath. All produced locally you can even create your very own customised bag to suit your style (or even your car or dress, whatever takes your fancy!). Men aren’t left out either with their own range of bags and accessories as well. With the monogram currently fashionable on the catwalk, you can make sure your clutch or satchel is initialed too. Head up towards The Royal Crescent and this hidden shopping street of other great independents is found between the Crescent and The Circus. [17 Margaret Buildings]

* Grace & Ted – We all love a bargain and this mother and daughter run boutique is an Aladdin’s den of designer resale clothes, shoes and accessories for both men and women. The fashionable set of Bath come here to sell on their last season wardrobe as well as pick up a Prada or Hermes classic. They also create bespoke hats and fascinators here too. Found in the 18th Century delight of Kingsmead Square there are plenty of great cafes and restaurants around here in which to rest your weary legs. [10 Kingsmead Square]

* The British Hatter – A really unique find, you can almost walk past this shop without realising. It feels like a step back in time when you go in, but The British Hatter still creates and sells headwear to the gentlemen and ladies of Bath of styles both contemporary and traditional. Perfect for that hat for races, weddings or garden parties. [9-11 Walcot Street]

* Alexandra May & Not Cartier  – There are many wonderful designers and both small and big shops in Bath that deserve mention; but I will mention in this blog two businesses who bring out the magpie in most people. Alexandra May can be found on the walk up to The Royal Crescent from The Circus; a fabulous shop crammed with jewellery, beads, gifts and curios that will be perfect this Christmastime for stocking fillers. Not Cartier is based inside the Guildhall, and sells everything from early plastics to 80s cast offs and everything diamante in between. Great to pick up that princess tiara, but it’s the earrings and necklaces that truly dazzle here. Clip on Earrings also are a great find for those with un-pierced ears.

Books & Maps

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If you’re a Bibliophile then you’ll love spending hours in these wonderful shops getting lost amongst the tomes.

* George Bayntun – Antique Books & Bindery. Dates to 1894. Located just next door to us on Manvers Street. [5 Manvers Street]

* Topping & Co. – Lots of collectible books and very popular talks by authors. To be found just at the top of Broad Street as you turn right onto The Paragon. [The Paragon]

* Bath Old Books – A co-operative of 5 experienced book dealers who run this small but fascinating shop. Filled to the brim with general and specialist books on two floors. [9c Margaret Buildings]

* Mr B’s Emporium of Reading Delights – winner of Independent Bookshop of the Year twice this haven for booklovers is hidden around the back of busy Milsom Street. [14-15 John Street]

* Antique & Map Shop – Located on the world famous Pultney Bridge, this small shop is full of maps from all around the world from the 16th to 19th Centuries; along with books and atlases too. [9-10 Pultney Bridge]

Antique Shops/Markets

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Bath was once filled with lots of independent antique shops at once point, but there has been a decline of late. Some have remained though and the ever popular Bath Vintage & Antiques Market that’s run out of Green Park Station every fourth and first Sunday of the month and is a great place to start searching for that gem that will get you on The Antiques Roadshow! Occasionally on a Saturday there is also a pop up Flea Market in the car park next to the Hilton Hotel on Walcot Street; however there are no regular dates for this, so best just to walk along to check.

* Bartlett Street Antiques Centre – This is a great undercover place to visit where there are over 150 dealer showcases and 12 stands filled with jewellery, fine art, glass, toys and many other pieces of Ephemera and Collectibles. Bath’s Goldsmith Company are also on site for restorations, repairs and commissions. It’s to be found on your way walking up to the Assembly Rooms and Circus. [8 Bartlett Street]

We hope we’ve wet your appetite and that you’re looking forward to Part Two coming soon!

Christmas at The Royal Hotel

The temperature is dropping, the decorations are up, and the festive menus are out; we’re all getting in the Christmas mood here at The Royal Hotel!

Bath has seen the Christmas Lights switched on last week and over the next two weeks will see Bath Ice Rink open in Royal Victoria Park, and the Christmas Market open throughout the city.

Bath Christmas Market

If you’re thinking about visiting Bath, whether to stay or for a day to do some Christmas shopping, make The Royal your port of call. Situated by the train and bus stations, we’re a perfect stop off to warm up with a hot drink and a tasty meal before you start your day; and being in the heart of Bath we’re only minutes from the famous sites and markets which make us a perfect location to lay your tired head after pounding those streets in search of those presents and gifts.

If you’re looking for somewhere to hold a Christmas party or meet up with friends, then our festive menus are online now; you can enjoy lunch from only £10.95 per person, or dinner from £17.95 per person for 2 courses.

xmasthe-royal-hotel_10    Christmas at The Royal Hotel

Bookings for stays over the Christmas period are being snapped up, especially our great all inclusive offer where not only do you get all meals, but you can upgrade to include drinks too! Or why not wait until the sales after the 25th, and see in the New Year with us at The Royal Hotel. You’ll enjoy a Gala 8 course dinner with resident DJ and champagne at midnight as well as a great night’s sleep in our comfortable rooms.

We’ve got lots of exciting festive additions coming up too, so let The Royal Hotel put the sparkle in your Christmas this year!

Popular Festivals of Bath

If you’re a lover of festivals, then Bath has something for you. There are many festivals taking place through-out the year, and there really is something for everyones taste. If there’s a festival you want to be a part of or visit, make sure you book your Accommodation in Bath well in advance. If there’s a major festival taking place in the city rooms can fill up fast! Find out when the festivals are, and book your room as soon as you can.
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Experience Bath in a Narrow Boat

If you’re looking to add that special touch to your time in Bath, then you need to experience the joy of Bath in a Narrow Boat. This fascinating form of transportation is a highly unique yet fascinating one that will help to make your time in the city unforgettable.

Take a look at the range of Bath Spa breaks available and get ready to enjoy a trip on a narrow boat.

The great news is there are quite a few narrow boat experiences on offer in Bath, which means you have plenty of opportunities to enjoy your time here on a whole new level and add that touch of magic to your time away.
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