A Spirited Stay
Boutique bolthole Homewood Bath is a playful property brimming with character and good vibes, says Helen Dalley
Set on a gorgeous estate on the outskirts on the UK’s best-preserved Georgian town, Homewood Bath is an intriguing boutique hotel set in a former Georgian mansion that’s big on personality, from its wacky wall of clocks in reception to art installations dotted round the hotel, including a giant teddy bear and sausage dog sculptures crafted from artificial grass like the best boutique hotels, it’s part of the Small Luxury Hotels of the World group.
This is a family getaway – I’m here with my mum and my five and six year old sons – and the hotel immediately makes the right impression when we pull up at the long drive and see there’s a park (complete with zipwire, swing, trampoline and climbing frame) where we’ll later become regulars. Guests travelling with or without children can relax as the park is some distance away from the hotel grounds, giving families and non-families suitable breathing space. The boys are equally taken with the sculptures (particularly the giant teddy bear who they later christen Tucker) while I take a shining to a life-sized horse sculpture graffitied with the portraits and quotes of rock ‘n’ roll stars including Jimi Hendrix, Janis Joplin and Kurt Cobain.
We’re staying at the Mews Hot Tub Suite at Mallingford Mews, the newest wing of this slice of Georgian fabulousness that opened at the end of last year but hasn’t really got up and running due to the pandemic. More akin to staying with a generous, wealthy friend than actually at a hotel, a distinctly residential feel pervades throughout at this original lodge house with 10 bedrooms. The bold hand-painted wallpaper makes quite a style statement, while the antique furniture and 1980s telephone add a cute retro feel. The suite has an expansive patio area with sofa, chairs and table next to the hot tub, which proffers sublime views over the Avon valley. We change into our swimsuits and recline into the warm bubbles while sipping organic lemonade and munching on miniature shortbread biscuits from the complimentary fridge in Mallingford Mews lobby area, which is also stocked with fair-trade cola, ginger ale and water. Above the fridge, there are shelves of jarred sweets and lollipops, and this candy haven becomes a regular stop-off point to stock up on mini bags of Haribo during our stay.
Dinner at the hotel’s onsite restaurant, Olio, is best enjoyed alfresco and luckily we have just the weather for it, a balmy June night, the sky still a deep blue. We order Stokes Marsh farm ribeye steak (the hotel partners with many local farms) with Café de Paris butter and fries and amaranth & sesame crusted tofu and spring greens. Waiting for our meal, we gaze out at the garden in front of the restaurant at the hotel’s barbecue dining domes where butlers cook up flat iron steaks and lamb cutlets on the lawn. These adorable domes, which seat six, also double as a space for afternoon tea, where scones are topped with world-renowned West Country clotted cream. I skip dessert and depart for Bath city centre to meet some old friends (a taxi costs £17 and takes 10-15 minutes), where the beer gardens are buzzing with enthusiastic reunions having only reopened a month ago.
The next day, we don our swimsuits again and lounge by the heated outdoor pool, seeking shade in the cabanas, then head back to the suite for another hot tub session before a few hours’ wandering around Bath ticking off the tourist sites (Royal Crescent, the Circus, Bath Abbey). Back at the hotel in the evening for dinner, we excitedly spot hot air balloons in the sky and drift in and off the grass in-between courses, dining on lamb cutlets and pappardelle puttanesca paired with local Iford cider followed by vanilla ice cream laced with chocolate sauce topped with generous hunks of honeycomb.
As another scorching hot day dawns, we’re lucky to have breakfast at the best seat in Homewood under Olio’s grand gazebo with chandelier, the sky a gorgeous blue as we savour granola and yoghurt, pain au chocolat and smoked salmon & scrambled eggs. The boys say a final adieu to the teddy bear and we all reluctantly climb into the car to leave the calm cocoon of Homewood for the M4. A week later, my sons are still asking when we can return to this country house hotel, and I’ve been similarly won over by its charming eccentricities. homewoodbath.co.uk; slh.com