A visit to Bath inspires a desire to step into the pages of this living Regency town’s
colourful history, and The Francis is one of the few hotels which allows you to live
An elegant and buzzy reinterpretation of Dandy life, The Francis Hotel sits on Queen Square, the first grand collection of Regency townhouses in the Upper Town, a perfectly preserved example of 18th century town planning. Queen Square was where it all started, long before Bath’s Royal Crescent and Circus were on the drawing board, and the man with the original vision was John Wood the Elder.
Records dating back to 1734 show Wood lived at no.9 in a house which is now the
imposing entrance of this hotel made up of seven Regency properties. It was
named for Solomon Francis, who opened the first hotel on the premises in 1858, and one would never guess that the hotel suffered two direct hits during WWII.
Perhaps partial demolition actually helped the transformation of the Francis, a Grade I listed property, into a luxury hotel replete with 21st century mod cons, although it has lost none of its graciousness or ambience. The 98 bedrooms have a modern vibrancy which shows a distinctly gallic touch, though, perhaps because the Accor group has spent £6m transforming it into one of their prestigious MGallery, top-end properties.
We enjoyed touches of bright purple and bold black and white Regency stripes in the decor and a bathroom wittily wallpapered with a giant image of the nearby Roman baths which are a jewel in the city’s crown. The addition of a Nespresso machine in Superior rooms spans the 2000 years since these baths were built, and brings these rooms bang up to date.
Breakfast was superb; the Accor group has made a point of perfectly interpreting the Great British Breakfast at its best in all its higher-end UK properties. The choice was unparalleled, with cooked to order hot dishes like eggs Benedict at no extra cost, and the hotel also specialises in afternoon tea, albeit with those Gallic additions of macaroons and a glass of Champagne. There is also a Brasserie Blanc on the premises for a French-accented lunch or dinner – not out of keeping with Bath’s history, where a touch of “je ne sais quoi” continental elegance was all the rage during Regency times.
Just up the road is the Circus, a second triumphal square – perhaps that should be circle – designed by Wood, followed by the nearby Royal Crescent drawn up by John Wood the Younger. Add the Pump Room, Fashion and Building of Bath museums, the baths, magnificent abbey and Pulteney Bridge, and Bath remains the greatest must-see attraction for visitors to the UK outside London. And it would be hard to find a more fitting place to stay offering better value than the Francis.
Rooms from £129
Queen Square, Bath
Tel +44 (0)1225 424 105