Post-Christmas, London can seem rather bleak. Yet I am forever drawn to bright lights and fine dining, so escaping to the wildest nooks of the countryside lacks a certain appeal. For me, Bath is the perfect compromise – it's a small, gentle city where the bustle can be left behind with a few swift paces, replaced by quiet streets and rows of distinct Bath stone masonry.
In one such capital malaise, I booked myself into The Bath Priory. In its library, cosseted by plush sofas, ticking clocks and log fires, I felt like a guest in a private country house rather than a hotel. The most pressing concern was simply what book to read and which tea to drink.
A Relais & Chateaux property owned by Andrew and Christina Brownsword, the hotel is but a pleasant walk through Royal Victoria Park, past the magnificent Georgian splendour of the Royal Crescent to the eclectic shops and boutiques around Pulteney Bridge (including my favourite, stationers Meticulous Ink). Long strolls become short taxi rides in the evening, but with Sam Moody at the helm of the Michelin-starred restaurant, it’s tempting to never leave the hotel. The Menu Surprise (£100 per person) will present you with the most seasonal fare and creative dishes – on my visit the cauliflower velouté was followed by watermelon and tuna tartare, and venison shin ravioli.
While the bathrooms in the main part of the hotel are being revamped (along with renovations in the restaurant and spa in the coming months, and the addition of a new bar), I’d recommend the Master Crescent Suites (from £1,020) in the adjacent building. The Royal Suite is, surely, the finest: a traditional, perfectly proportioned set of rooms, it overlooks the Victorian landscaped gardens. Crisp white linens, custom-made Vi-Spring beds and heavy curtains make for a good night’s sleep.
A constant drizzle prevented me from exploring the four acres of gardens and meadows, nurtured by Chelsea Flower Show medalist Jane Moore – a shame as the gardens are one of the best features at The Bath Priory. Not to fear: I plan to return in the summer, just at the point when London heaves with humidity, and sit on the terrace overlooking the croquet lawn with a good book, or take a dip in the open-air pool. Escapism writ large.