To Bath - for a visit to Britain's only natural thermal spa. In recent years I have visited natural spa's in Hungary, Slovenia, Iceland, Serbia and Germany, so given the re-emergence of Bath (it closed in 1978) I wanted to visit as soon as it opened. Indeed, given the Spa arrived three years late and £10 million over budget, I was not the only one keen to see what was on offer!
The first thing to say is the Spa is not cheap. My trusty companion and I paid £29 each for a four hour session. For 2 hours, it is £19. Add rail fares from London and a bit of lunch and you are comfortably breaking the £100 barrier for a day out for two.
What do you get for your money? Two baths, the Minerva Bath on the lower ground floor, and the spectacular rooftop pool, where you can lie in beautiful warm water whilst looking out across Bath and its environs. For many people, that experience alone will be worth the visit.
Elsewhere there are four steam rooms, each of varying temperatures, and assorted foot baths. The hot bath appeared to be reserved only for those taking treatments, and a massage suite is available for those interested in mud wraps, reiki and traditional massage. What was missing? Well a Finnish, wooden sauna usually makes me sweat more than the type of steam rooms on offer, and it is curious to be surrounded by so much water and there not be a cold plunge pool. Given the medicinal benefits, particularly to athletes, of cold water after exercise, this is a curious ommission.
Massaging Fat Wallets
It has to be said that the prices for massage and specialist treatments at Bath Spa are truly shocking. A Thai massage retails at £48 or 50 minutes, which when you have had an expert Thai massage, in Thailand, for 200 baht (about £2.80) hardly appeals. Mud wraps at £45 for a 50 minute session are no bargain either - indeed it would almost be cheaper for anyone whose skin actually needs this on a regular basis to fly to Budapest with a budget airline and use one of the many Spa's there.
Bath is a tourist city, and nearly all of the people we saw inside the Spa had, like us, travelled some distance to be there. Given it is local taxpayers though who have stumped up much of the £45 million total cost of Thermae Bath (some funding also came via the national lottery) the Spa may have to do more to justify itself to local council taxpayers. Time will tell.