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A trip to Bath Thermae Spa

I’m not over-keen on spas, and was rather underwhelmed with the one in Malvern. But since I was in Bath last week, staying just a few minutes walk away from the new Thermae Spa complex, I took the opportunity to pay a visit. Partly, I was curious to see the new spa, having spent a fascinating morning pottering around the ruins of the Roman Baths. But the deciding factor was that the stress of the end of the financial year had led to my shoulders and neck seizing up again, and I was desperately in need of a massage to get them mobile once more.

The business model the Thermae Spa operates is somewhat unusual. You can’t just book a massage, which is all I actually wanted, and nor can you pre-book treatments other than on the day. Instead, you have to buy a minimum of a two-hour pass to the entire spa complex, including the pools and steam rooms, and then book individual 50-minute treatments on top of that. Which works out rather expensive if all you want is your shoulders sorted out! I pointed this out to the staff at the front desk and opened some serious negotiations with them. They then “remembered” that they did actually offer a 20-minute “express massage” – which I couldn’t find mentioned in the printed literature nor on-line – which did what I wanted at a much more reasonable price. I still had to buy a two-hour pass to the spa complex as well, but decided that would be an interesting experience.

The changing rooms were the first surprise. They were mixed, rather basic, and very reminiscent of a municipal swimming pool. The lockers for your clothes were opened and closed with an electronic wrist-band, colour-coded to show what package you had bought, which also acted as electronic money in the cafe. I dithered about whether to put my glasses in the locker, but decided I’d have to keep them on as I wouldn’t be able to see the direction signs without them, nor would I be able to see a clock to know when it was time for my treatment.

The roof-top pool was very pleasant. It’s  filled with naturally-hot water from a bore-hole next to the old (Roman) thermal springs, and has delightful views over the city. It wasn’t a “swimming pool” as such – it was too crowded for a start and I was never out of my depth – but was much more a “bobbing-around” pool. Which was great as it meant I could hold my head out of the water and  keep my glasses on to enjoy the long-distance views. Indeed I noticed several people in the pool trying to look cool in sunglasses. The drawback of being able to see clearly was having to avert my gaze from the several couples who had obviously found the atmosphere extremely romantic and were more than snogging in the pool! Heavy-petting would be a more accurate description of what some of them were up to…..

I was less keen on the basement thermal pool. It was bigger, and had a jacuzzi/whirlpool area and currents that swept you around the pool. But it was more claustrophobic and smelled more like a traditional swimming pool, and the whirlpool made me feel seasick!

So next I tried the steam rooms. These are on the middle floor and are overpoweringly scented with eucalyptus, frankincense, and I think lavender. I opened the door and the smell was completely overpowering and made me feel nauseous. Plus my glasses immediately steamed up completely. I decided the steam rooms weren’t for me and went to while away the remaining 20 minutes before my treatment in the cafe.

The shoulder massage itself was very competent and professional. The therapist listened to what I wanted done and acted on it, and I felt much better afterwards. But I have confirmed my opinion that I’m not really a “Spa” sort of person. The roof-top thermal bath was pleasant, and might be good fun with a group of friends. But on my own it was a bit dull frankly.  I’m pleased to have tried it once but don’t expect to go back.

{ 1 } Comments

  1. David A | 6 May 2011 at 10:19 pm | Permalink

    We’ve always thought the spa building in Malvern looks rather like a nuclear power station or similar.

    It also has one of those odd URLs that I always read wrongly at first glance ( = Malvern’s P.A. ?). Though that’s not as bad as (What’s a twoking dom? Sounds distinctly dodgy).