Wednesday, 16 July 2014

Hotel in Bath - Great City Centre Walks

Three great walks in Bath

Before you book your hotel in Bath, spare a thought for your planned activities. A city centre hotel may at first appear convenient, although on a Friday and Saturday night it may be a little noisy. A hotel on the outskirts of the city may be quieter , however, it will necessitate a long walk or a taxi or two. We firmly believe that Dukes benefits from a ‘goldilocks’ location - being less than a five minute stroll into the heart of Bath and only a few minutes’ walk from the canal path out into the countryside.

Bath is very much a walking city, where all the historic sites, retail outlets, Abbey and gardens are within an easy stroll. For those who enjoy invigorating, insightful or humorous walks, Bath has a number on offer but three walks in particular stand out. For those with an abundance of energy and time, little may compare with the Bath Skyline Walk, which is reputedly the National Trust’s most ‘downloaded’ guide. For those more in need of a little inspiration and re-energising, Bizarre Bath offers insight into West Country humour and the spirit of Bath. Our third great walk, equally central and accessible, is the Ghost Walks of Bath.

On a fine afternoon little is more uplifting than to embrace the skyline of Bath while sitting on an adjacent hillside. One may eagerly pick through the roof tops, chimneys and spires pinpointing the famous and less familiar buildings, searching for the crescents visited and the arched rooftops of streets not yet seen.

The Bath Skyline Walk

The Bath Skyline Walk is particularly well described and follows a broadly circular path to the east of the city, with Dukes hotel an ideal start point. With little more than a stout pair of walking boots and a map in hand, one may follow a comfortable level path out of the city, passing the Stag Pub at Widcombe. A gradual ascent will take you up past Prior Park Landscape  Garden, a garden created by Ralph Allen in the grounds of Prior Park Mansion, the  home that he constructed to demonstrate the charm and pleasing qualities of ‘Bath stone’.  As one reaches the top of the ridge, one is rewarded with broad and embracing views across the city and to the hills beyond.

On a summer’s evening, the preparation and ascent of a hot air balloon from within the city will provoke delight. It’s a magical scene as the basket and balloon gracefully rise above the roof tops. One continues on to Claverton Down and heads off to the north. The walk navigates the boundary of Bath University before passing Bathwick Wood and the golf club, before starting a gradual descent. One passes Sham Castle, an eighteenth century folly commissioned by none other than Ralph Allen, to provide both employment for the local stonemasons and to enhance the view from his home in Lilliput Alley in the centre of Bath. The descent through Bathwick takes one past some of the finest and grandest Georgian houses in Bath, towards Dukes and Great Pulteney Street. Once back at Dukes hotel, we have ample storage and drying facilities for any wet, muddy clothes or boots. A long, hot soak will ideally complement the afternoon’s activities.

The Bizarre Bath Walk

An alternative and very different activity is the ‘Bizarre Bath’ walk. For this we would recommend leaving Dukes hotel at 7:30pm, taking a stroll down Great Pulteney Street and across Pulteney Bridge, and following the river bank round to the left where one may overlook the weir. Passing the old Empire Hotel on the right, head for the Huntsman Inn which is adjacent to the Abbey Hotel, a city centre establishment. The walk starts every evening, between April 1st and November 1st, as soon as the Abbey bells strike 8pm. Adults are invited to contribute £8 and students a more modest £5. The walking tour is recognised as being irreverent, the guide blending script with ad-libs, gently ribbing passers-by. More of a  stroll than a rigorous march, guests enjoy the street theatre and banter of the guide. The 90 minute tour is good family entertainment, a fun filled take on Bath city living. As the evening turns to night your guide will return you to the Huntsman Inn. Here you may enjoy one of a number of cask beers before making your way gently back to Dukes, chuckling as you recall the evening’s pranks and humour.

The Ghost Walks of Bath

For those who do not wish to return to the welcome of a boutique hotel and would prefer not to snuggle beneath the warm duvet, with their head peacefully resting on the soft feathered pillow, there is always the night time pleasure of the ‘Ghost Walks of Bath’ to contend with. Highly acclaimed, the walks have a history that stretches back to 1974. Guests staying at Dukes hotel on Great Pulteney Street will leave the the hotel at 7:30pm. Making your way down Great Pulteney Street and across Pulteney Bridge, continue on west across the heart of the city towards the Theatre Royal. Arriving at the Garricks Head pub shortly before 8pm, your guide will take you to many places within the city of Bath that are noted for their strange events. All participants are invited to part with £10, students and pensioners  are encouraged to part with a more befitting £5.

The walks were established by a local historian and psychic and have been followed by visitors from all over the world for the past 40 years. Taking place every Thursday, Friday and Saturday night, against the beautiful backdrop of the Georgian architecture, the guides embroider the evening with stories and tales, events and happenings. The streets of Bath take on the mystery of times gone by. The toil , the heartache and heartbreak of the countless generations with a sprinkling of danger and fear. As the walk draws to a close, with slight misgiving you may find that slumber beckons and you return to your hotel  where a calming nightcap is in order!

Dukes, an ideally located hotel in Bath for those who enjoy walking

Saturday, 12 July 2014

Dukes Bath Hotel - City Centre Accommodation

City centre restaurants complementing the city centre accommodation.

For many years, Dukes has been a highly respected participant within the Bath hotel market place.
We appreciate that the Bath hotel scene is diverse, dynamic and driven by consumer demands. Dukes has always benefitted from a superb location, although we have never considered ourselves as one of the Bath city centre hotels.

In the 80’s and 90’s the city attracted a wave of very formal hotels in central Bath offering silver service restaurant meals, a full cocktail bar, and 24 hour laundry and room service. Over the past 10 years, as travel expectations have altered, we have seen the emphasis change with the introduction of more mid-range hotels supported with celebrity chef restaurants. More recently,we have seen a trend towards more budget style hotels opening in the centre of Bath and these have been promoted heavily across all media.

Regardless of whether you choose the modern option of  a budget room , or the slightly more self-indulgent option of boutique hotels, one thing is for sure, an enjoyable evening spent in one of Bath’s great Italian restaurants will help turn a good hotel choice into a great hotel choice. The Italian restaurant scene, as with Bath accommodation, is diverse. You may choose from Italian fine dining through to large steaming bowls of provincial Italian food. Let us share with you four of the most popular independent Italian restaurants in Bath.

Aio Restaurant

Aio restaurant is a very popular Italian trattoria. Located at 7 Edgar buildings on George Street,  Aio sits in a commanding position at the ‘head’ of Milsom Street. Aio is unique in offering a snug front restaurant, a back room very suitable for family celebrations and re-unions, and a third dining area, a large secluded terrace that stretches out behind the property. From the Sardinian word meaning come and join us, Aio offers an opportunity to enjoy both Sardinian and Italian food. Home made pasta, chargrilled steaks and a selection of fresh seafood are all on offer. Phone 443900 to make a booking.

Nonna’s Italian Restaurant

Not too far away, in fact round the corner at 39 Gay Street, you will find  Nonna’s Italian Restaurant Tel: 427919. Attentively run by Angelo and Lama, they named their restaurant Nonna’s  after the Italian word for Grandmother – the cradle and home of all classic Italian recipes and cooking! Concentrating on these classic Italian recipes helped Nonna’s win ‘Best Italian’ at the Bath Good Food Awards in 2003 and will ensure you of an enjoyable lunch time or evening meal in this fine independent Italian restaurant.

Rustico Bistro Italiano

A third option is nestled between the Royal Crescent and the Circus on an attractive pedestrian cobbled street. The premium location within the upper heights of residential Bath belies the rural emphasis of the food prepared within. Rustico Bistro Italiano  – as the name suggests - takes great pride in offering guests the rich tastes of country cooking. Run by two Italian brothers, Franco and Darix, Rustico Bistro Italiano has won a reputation for authentic, well priced, memorable Italian cooking. The cioppino (fish casserole) is without parallel and the fettuccine rustico (chicken in creamy mushroom sauce with pasta) is of undoubted excellence. Franco and  head chef Fabio take great pleasure in preparing classic Italian cuisine using locally farmed produce wherever possible. Intimate, friendly and unassuming, Rustico Bistro Italiano is claimed by many to be the best ‘ Italian Trattoria’ in Bath.

Sotto Sotto

For those wishing to enjoy the ‘best’ Italian ‘ristorante’ meal in Bath, then Sotto Sotto would come in as the marked favourite. Privately run by Antonio and Carlo, the restaurant may be found at 10 North  Parade . A distinctly up market, subtly lit cocktail reception bar with an impressive barrel-brick roof, introduces a taste of the pleasure that awaits you. From the opening of the entrance door through to the  moment of departure, you will be enveloped in attentive service. Antonio and Carlo manage operations with a passionate commitment to the guest experience. With smart, precise and enthusiastic overtures, meals are professionally prepared, well-seasoned and served with great care. Once the evenings guests are seated, Antonio is on hand to ensure that each dish is savoured, from the osso bucco (veal shank) to the orecchiette mare monti (top hat pasta with seafood, beans and pancetta).

These are just four marvellous Italian restaurants for you to consider, explore and visit, regardless of whether you choose to stay in one of the boutique hotels Bath has on offer, a city centre Bath hotel or in a one of the multitude of accommodation options on offer.  We feel confident that in their own unique way  Aio, Nonna’s, Rustico Bistro and Sotto Sotto will complement or enhance your choice of accommodation and add greatly to your stay in Bath.

Dukes a Bath hotel, close to city centre restaurants, for further information click here

Friday, 11 July 2014

Bath City Centre Accommodation - Roman Bath by Torchlight

Bath offers a breadth of city centre accommodation. Today we are faced with an almost overwhelming variety of propositions: small boutique hotels, city centre budget rooms, apartments for couples, and Georgian townhouses for reunions and family gatherings to name a few. However, the city’s role as a place for people to meet, as a location for social gatherings or a peaceful riverside location for rest and recuperation, has changed little over the past 2,000 years. The formation of Bath today is largely attributable to the discoveries made back in those ancient times and the actions taken by the Romans of building accommodation and areas of hospitality.

Visit in the summer and as the sun settles gently in the west leaving the warmth of her day’s embrace on the honey coloured Bath stone, relax and wonder at her charms. The stunning architecture of Bath holds us in her embrace long into the summer’s evening. As we glide into the long evening months of July and August, Bath willingly shares the depths of her memories with us all. Every evening the Roman Baths welcome visitors to submerge themselves in memories of our Roman past, each evening, until late at night.

The Roman Baths by torchlight take on a glow of the centuries past. Standing within the Roman Baths one may only wonder as the water rises at a rate of 240,000 gallons per day. A gurgling mineral rich flow of warmed water gushes out into the Roman Baths, as has happened for at least the past 2,000 years. The water rises at a temperature of 114F, making Bath the source of the hottest naturally flowing springs in the entire United Kingdom. The Romans, when first shown the hot springs were unable to understand the phenomenon. The flow and warmth of the water was beyond their comprehension. The mineral rich waters were surely of another world. They believed it to be the work of the ancient gods. In tribute to this Sacred Spring, a great Temple was built to accommodate the source. The Temple is known to have been a grand building. As the rag torches burn beside the Roman Baths, throwing dark shadows across the ancient walls, one may catch a glimpse of centuries past. The Temple was dedicated to the goddess of healing, Sulis Minerva. The healing waters and magnificent Temple attracted visitors from across the Roman Empire. Many of those who visited the Sacred Site made small offering to the goddess, a horde of more than 12,000 Roman coins have been recovered.

The Temple is one of only two classical Roman Temples known to have been built during the Roman stay in Britain – a further tribute to the importance of Bath and the Sacred Spring. The temple courtyard houses the spectacular gilded bronze head of Minerva, one of the most widely known and recognised objects from Roman Britain. The head is believed to be from a full body statue of the diety. The statue is believed to have stood with ‘her’ temple beside the source of the flowing Sacred Spring. The bronze head was unearthed in 1727 by men working in the nearby Stall Street. This tremendous discovery was the first intimation of the Roman ruins below the streets of Georgian Bath.

With the lamp light flickering behind you, make your way into the Great Bath. The water is believed to be sourced form 2 miles below the Mendip Hills. In Roman times, the Great Bathwas  covered with a vast vaulted roof. The alcoves surrounding the Great Bath were used for beauty treatments, relaxing and entertaining. The city of Bath has indeed a long and lustrous heritage as a place of care, nurturing and reinvigorating the weary soul.

As one enters the East Baths, the table lamps offer up a welcoming glow of soothing light. For the Roman these were the treatment rooms. Supplementing the naturally warm water the Romans created a tepidarium (warm room). In this room, little different in purpose from those in a modern spa, trained masseurs would apply fragrant oils and massage the joints and muscles of the weary Roman politicians and leaders. Beside the tepidarium is the caldarium (hot room) with elevated flooring, heated by a hypocaust steam system beneath. Passing further into the West Baths, where the Circular Bath stands, a lone flickering candle is reflected on the glassy surface of this, the cold plunge pool. The classic combination of warm, hot and cold rooms was deemed to be invigorating and uplifting for the body and souls of those who led the Roman Empire.

Bath remains to this day a destination for those who wish to relax, reflect and refresh themselves.
Over the past 2,000 years, little has changed. The desire for city centre accommodation remains as strong today; as does the desire for close proximity to the Roman Baths, easy access to local eateries, and a lively interest in advice over the locations that offer fine wine and relaxed entertainment.

Dukes hotel Bath city centre, click here to view our accommodation and luxurious offer