You can tackle that Christmas shopping and chill out at the same time, says STEPHEN DAVY-OSBORNE

WITH Bath Christmas Market now well and truly underway there has never been a better time to get your Christmas shopping out of the way. But there’s no need to shop until you drop – take a leaf out of the Romans’ book and take life at a steadier pace – after all, Bath was built as place to kick back, unwind and most importantly, enjoy.

With that in mind, make a weekend of it. Don’t try and fit all that shopping in to one day, and then struggle like a packhorse back to the packed Bath Spa station to catch the last train of the day home. We are so lucky to have a city like Bath on our doorstep, but chances are that it has been years since you visited the whole reason that Bath exists.

Set yourself up with Homewood Park Hotel and Spa as your base. Originally dating from the 13th Century this boutique hotel and spa is close enough to the action of the Christmas market, without being in the city centre. A short drive away from Odd Down Park and Ride, which will get you into the city centre in just 10 minutes, this luxurious country house set in 10 acres of land makes the perfect bolthole from where to plan your weekend of festive shopping while being pampered along the way.

It's home to 21 luxurious bedrooms and suites, featuring many original touches such as aged wooden floors and antique paintings, paired with modern stylish furnishings, that see this hotel and spa ranked among the finest luxury hotels in Bath. And the spa itself is really quite special. Set slightly back from the hotel, it's best experienced in the evening when the warm, colourful glow from the open-topped pool and delightfully cosy health suite light up the garden as you amble your way there to enjoy the luxurious hydrotherapy pool, sauna and steam room.

Back indoors, and feeling fully refreshed, you will be eager to see what the kitchen has to offer. And the gourmet restaurant does not disappoint – which isn’t surprising when you learn that award-winning Head Chef, Scott Galloway is behind the stove. Having worked in impressive kitchens all over the country including Michael Caines’ ABobe and The Royal Crescent Hotel in Bath he has devised a seasonal menu to impress. With chicken, leek and date terrine and butternut squash gnocchi vying for your attention on the starters menu, you will have equally as hard a job deciding on mains as well with pheasant, halibut and pork and scallops all there for the choosing.

If you simply can’t decide, then there is also a tasting menu for £65 featuring smoked potato soup, confit salmon, grouse, black garlic crusted halibut, glazed beef cheek, a pre dessert sorbet, a green tea financier and an optional cheeseboard. Though in my books, the cheeseboard is never optional! You can work it off the next morning with a pre-breakfast dip in the pool.

Making your way into the city, before you get sidetracked by all of the wonderful stalls selling Christmas in every shape and form imaginable, head for the Roman Baths at the heart of the city’s World Heritage Site. These are what put Bath on the map and understandably gave the city its name. It’s quite something when you stop and realise that the water you see bubbling up in the Sacred Spring fell as rainwater on the Mendip Hills some 10,000 years ago. Packed with 43 different minerals, it reaches the pool at a sumptuous 46 degrees. The Romans must have thought they had struck gold when they discovered the spring themselves, and set about building an extensive bathhouse around it. Much of what you can see today of the Baths dates from the Georgian era when extensive excavations were carried out on the baths, with the grand columns surrounding the Great Bath added along with the nine statues of Roman governors of Britannia. Take a closer look at Julius Caesar though – as all is not quite as original with him as it would seem, thanks to some overzealous students in the 1970s who toppled him into the baths, breaking him into three pieces.

For far more civilised behaviour visit The Pump Room - arguably one of Bath's most elegant restaurants serving up stylish, modern British cuisine for breakfast, lunch and afternoon tea.

The baths make for a fascinating morning of learning that the Roman’s knew how to relax long before we did, but in order to get a taste of what that magnificent water actually feels like, you will need to take a short stroll along the road to Thermae Bath Spa. Take in the chalets along the way, maybe even popping in to the ski-lodge bar for a glass of something warming, before you reach the grand façade of Thermae. The spa is famed the world over for its beautiful roof-top bath with stunning views towards Bath Abbey, but this year the baths marked their tenth anniversary with a complete reimagining of their wellness suite. Gone are the glass steam room pods, which have been replaced with two evocative steam rooms harking back to the two ages that most left their mark on the city – the Romans and Georgians. True to form, the Georgian Steam Room is bright, elegant, with a flowing fountain and a bright floral fragrance. In contrast, the Roman Steam Room has a bold, muscular design, taking inspiration from city architecture of the day. If you can tear yourself away from the warmth of these rooms, the largest addition to the suite is the Infrared Sauna – which is quite unlike any sauna you will experience. With a warm acacia and lime wooden interior, guests breathe fragrant essences in the amber glow of the infrared heaters.

And then there are the twinkling lights of the Celestial Relaxation Room which will take guests on the ultimate journey of relaxation into deepest, darkest space while lying on tiled heated loungers as they lie back and breathe in the fresh scent. Total relaxation. For something a little more surprising and bracing, there is the new addition of the Ice Chamber. Shrouded in a cool fog, bathers can immerse their hands and faces in flakes of ice while breathing in the stimulation menthol fragrance.

End your day by taking the waters in the rooftop pool at sundown, where you will be able to relax confident in the knowledge that you have conquered Bath Christmas Market with a better battle plan than any invading Roman Centurion could have hoped to.


The Christmas Market runs in Bath city centre until Sunday, December 10.

Homewood Park Hotel and Spa is offering a 1 night spa break including a 25-minute treatment, dinner, breakfast and more starting from £167.50 per person.

Call 01225 723731 to book or visit

The Roman Baths are open in December between 9.30am and 5pm. Tickets start from £15.50 for adults. 01225 477785

Thermae Bath Spa

A two hour spa visit with robe, towel and slippers starts from £35. For more details call 01225 33 1234 or visit