It Takes a Village

The Gainsborough Bath Spa is a splendid example of YTL Hotels’ Spa Village concept

Gazing out the window, as the train glides westward from London to the southern edge of the Cotswolds, I realize how much I love the light in the English countryside. I know that the south of France is renowned for its painterly light, which is, of course, very beautiful. But the English light is so warm and sharp. Each blade of grass is distinct, with a bit of a glimmer.

That feeling of clarity continues throughout my entire experience at Spa Village Bath at The Gainsborough Bath Spa. A Leading Hotel of the World, the focus here is on the natural mineral-rich thermal waters, with over 42 minerals and trace elements, which have bubbled up from local underground springs for millennia.

The only hotel in the UK with a natural thermal spa, the centerpiece of the Gainsborough is its spectacular Thermal Pool, where guests take the waters under a glass roof that brings in lots of natural light. The pool is flanked by an invigorating Bath House Circuit, with two small thermal pools, infrared and traditional sauna, and lavender ice alcove. And, to continue the water theme, the spa menu features unique and spectacular Aquatic Body Therapies that take place in the pool: Aquasana, a blend of yoga, tai chi and karate moves; Freedom, a sophisticated mind-body mashup of guided stretches, which leaves Watsu behind in the baby pool.

Now a UNESCO World Heritage Site, the city of Bath has a rich history that dates back to the Ancient Romans. When the Gainsborough, formerly The Royal Bath Hospital, was under renovation, Ancient Roman coins (dinari) were found, and are now displayed in the lobby. Before the Romans, the springs were considered sacred by the Saxons and the Celts. Bath was a social hub in the 18th century, and Jane Austen had a home here. The hotel is named after Sir Thomas Gainsborough, who made his name in Bath painting portraits of Georgian society.

The 99 light and airy rooms (and three spa suites, distinct for the thermal waters that are pumped directly into their bathtubs) feature beautiful views of the city and surrounding hills. Spa check-in begins at the Aroma Bar, not the spa desk, where a personalized aromatherapy blend of Neal’s Yard massage oils and Cornish sea salt is mixed at the apothecary. (The Thermae Bath Spa, a day spa next door with the same owners, houses four natural thermal pools and 24 treatment rooms, with a spa menu featuring the Aromatherapy Associates brand.)

The Spa Village Bath is one of 10 properties built around the Spa Village concept, created by renowned spa consultant Sylvia Sepielli, founder of SPAd, for the YTL (Yao Tao Le) Hotel group. “We’ve tried to tightly and narrowly define what is unique about each location,” says Sepielli, who has worked on the project since its inception at Pangkor Laut, a small island paradise off the coast of Malaysia. (The cornerstone of each Spa Village menu remains the Malaysian Experience, with roots in the Malay culture of the YTL owners.) A family-owned brand, YTL Hotels’ luxury properties, initially, did not feature spas. In 1997, a visiting journalist said, “The only thing missing here is a spa.” The journalist gave them Sepielli’s name, and she’s been working with them ever since.

YTL now owns and manages a prestigious portfolio of 10 luxury hotels with Spa Village spas. All feature initiatives that reflect a deep corporate commitment to sustainability. The tagline for Spa Village is “honoring the healing culture,” and Sepielli and her colleague, Melissa Mettler, studied historical rituals, ingredients, flora, fauna, shamanic traditions and the local connection to create each concept, with treatment protocols unique to each property.

The Gainsborough Bath Spa is one of the most relaxing—and culturally stimulating—spa experiences I have had. When it comes to spa, sometimes it really does “take a village.” thegainsboroughbathspa.co.uk


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Rona Berg

Rona Berg

Editor-In-Chief at Organic Spa Magazine
Editor-in-chief of Organic Spa Media, longtime journalist and best-selling author of Beauty: The New Basics and Fast Beauty: 1000 Quick Fixes (Workman Publishing), Rona Berg is the former Editorial Director of ELLE and Deputy Style Editor for the New York Times Magazine. She has been cited as an industry expert by Huffington Post, Fox News and New York Magazine and contributed to and been quoted in dozens of publications. Berg co-chairs the Personal Care Committee of the non-profit Green Spa Network, is a Charter Advisory Board Member of the Nutritional Aesthetics Alliance, and is a frequent speaker at conferences around the globe.
Rona Berg