If you feel that you are staying in a magazine photo-shoot, it’s probably because you are. You’ve read the Country Living magazine, now live the life.
Bath, the very essence of quintessential England – Jane Austen, Bath buns, Poultney Bridge and Regency architecture – was the ideal location for Country Living to begin their project of bringing gracious rural living to the city.
Remember that Bath, a World Heritage City, rolling down to the River Avon, is a collection of honey-stone architects’ dreams, nestling in a verdant English landscape. Some hotel rooms look out over the Georgian terraces to Somerset’s hills and vales. It’s appropriate that prints of sheaths of wheat, grazing sheep and eggs in a birds’ nest bring sylvan themes into the hotel.
The staff, wearing lightly oatmeal-checked sage waistcoats, walk the country-chic-vibe. It’s a trendy country squire look, consciously dressing down, as they welcome guests.
Carbon-dating the Lansdown Grove Hotel, even with the classically balanced Regency facade, is challenging. Inscribed brickwork proclaims 1913, black retro telephones suggest the 1950s and the artwork adds ambiguity. A vast life-size portrait of a Byronic figure about to mount his steed, contemporarily frameless, almost coalesces with Bath’s Regency traditions. Yet, brassy outsize lanterns, with exposed filaments are classily avant-garde.
The Lansdown Grove Hotel is mainly stylish-Regency-meets-designer-country- house. It’s the Country Squire’s new wife introducing a slightly edgy contemporary makeover: a bold slate grey feature wall, darker than you would have dared, contrasts seamlessly with surrounding cream tones.
Yes, there are plumped cushions, a comforting throw on the bed, generously sized farmhouse kitchen mugs – to go with the in-room coffee-maker – but there’s innovation too. In the bathroom, there is a random but striking pattern of monochrome tiles.
There’s a confident creativity to the Country Living mix-and-match aesthetic that will have design aficionados striding down the hill to check-out Milsom Street. Once grand three-storey townhouses, with mansard roofs and Corinthian columns, are frequently now homes for inspirational interior designers and artists.
Sometimes Bath, with mists resting on the vales and a folksy feel, seems like a dreamy gateway to the West Country but there’s an intellectual, international buzz to the place. After all, it’s got two universities and a never-ending stream of international visitors. Want a magazine on Scandinavian foraging or the very latest coolest travel magazine? Then Magalleria, which “gallerises” an astounding left-field collection of international journals and magazines is the place to browse. There’s artisanal shopping along Walcot Street as well as it’s boutiques and market stalls. If you’ve been searching for a DDR street-name-sign from behind the Iron Curtain or a lovingly pre-owned Harris Tweed jacket then look no further.
Wending your way back uphill to the hotel – don’t worry it’s on a bus route – thoughts turn to dinner. Although the menu should be the focus there’s an eye-catching classical, almost ecclesiastical balance, to the architecture of the domed dining room. And there’s another one of those inspired design touches. Collections of butterflies crafted from antiquarian style maps: Victoriana updated with Art School ironic.
If Bath is quintessentially English with international notes then so is the menu. Too often chefs sacrifice flair for a slavish, almost Puritanical adherence to the local and seasonal. East meets West sublimely for the Cauliflower Tempura with an oriental bite from the salsa verde. Similarly, lemongrass butter and mixed herb gnocchi bring cosmopolitan sophistication to a sea trout fillet on a bed of asparagus. But if hearty carnivorous traditional is more your style then there’s a hunk of prime 28-day matured sirloin steak, with a stack of triple cooked chips, on offer.
No, there isn’t a gym, pool or spa, that’s not the Country Living style. Remember that the hotels’ mantra is “An escape from everyday life.” For now, you can relax with a rhubarb and ginger gin in the bar, slump back into a sofa with a magazine or find an intriguing leather-bound volume in the library. Gym and swim can wait until you get home.
Tell Me More About Country Living Lansdown Grove Hotel, Bath
Country Living Lansdown Grove Hotel Lansdown Road Bath BA1 5EH
T: 01225 483888
Double rooms, including breakfast, from around £100 per night