Stories of Romance and Mischief
You’ll know this neighbourhood before you visit it. These honey-coloured streets and squares, these Palladian villas with their porticoes and pediments are all seared into our consciousness thanks to a thousand dramas, from Dracula to The Duchess shot locally.
But it’s not just the style we know: it’s also the stories.
This district has provided the backdrop for some of the most enduring works in English literature. And it is here, too, that the modern day inhabitants keep the narrative tradition alive, instilling new generations with their tales of romance and mischief and celebrating their love of storytelling at the festivals that have turned the area into a literary Mecca.
Bath’s history goes back millennia – its thermal waters have been valued for their healing properties since pre-Roman times. While you can no longer take the aquae sulis at the 70AD spa that gave the city its name (it is, however, an excellent museum), soaks in our city’s medicinal mineral water are available at the rooftop Thermae Bath Spa nearby.
In 973 AD Edgar, the first King of England, was crowned in the Abbey, just a short stroll from the site of the Hotel Indigo – Bath. Regular tower tours are held at the Abbey where the fit and vertigo-free are led up 212 steps past the bell chamber, pausing for a rest behind the clock face before reaching the roof, where they are rewarded with breath-taking views over the city and surrounding countryside.
From here it is clear why it is the Regency era for which this place will always be best known. That was the period which saw a classically-inspired, picture perfect limestone city spring up among a blanket of green hills. It’s no surprise that the whole of Bath has been granted World Heritage status by Unesco, the only whole city in the UK to be accorded such an honour.
Georgian glories lie on all sides in this neighbourhood. Whether you’re strolling over the iconic Pulteney Bridge, based on an unused design for the Rialto in Venice, sauntering through the majestic Parade Gardens or craning your neck to take in the wonderful Royal Crescent, you’ll feel imbued with the beauty of the place. Over at No.1 Royal Crescent you can look beyond the famous façade at what life was really like in 18th-century Bath. Each room is a remarkable recreation of Georgian interior design, from the aristocratic stylings upstairs to the servants’ quarters below.
Bath’s boulevards – made especially wide so that a horse drawn coach could effect a U-turn in one elegant swoop – are lined with handsome residences built at a time of huge ambition and optimism, when Britain’s factories and merchants supplied the world, its navy commanded the seas and its politicians were gearing up to rule the biggest empire in history. Nothing as architecturally ambitious has been created in the country since.
While our architecture is timeless, life in Bath is anything but staid. Much to the delight of the tourists who flock to the area, a deep seam of whimsy, decadence and frivolity runs through this neighbourhood today – and through the local residents themselves. There’s a proud tradition of roguery, cheekiness and playful high jinks, an irrepressible mischievousness which you’ll sense at every turn.
“Georgian glories lie on all sides in this neighbourhood. Whether you’re strolling over the iconic Pulteney Bridge or craning your neck to take in the wonderful Royal Crescent.“
Tales of Horror and Romance
The neighbourhood was never busier than during the annual Debutante Season when fashionable society from as far afield as London descended on the area to frolic, socialise and arrange suitable matches between eligible young aristocrats. Hordes of frisky young dandies, inspired by their hero Beau Brummell, won and lost fortunes at the gaming tables and ingenues danced the cotillion as their mothers conducted marital machinations behind silk fans. Ornately-decorated sedan chairs ferried the great and the good between assignations and liveried pageboys delivered love notes and invitations to afternoon tea. It was the merry-go-round of intrigue, gossip, celebrity and scandal that made the Season so thoroughly invigorating – and such an inspiration for Romantic-era novelists.
Jane Austen lived at number 4 Sydney Place, just five minutes’ walk from the site of the Hotel Indigo – Bath, and documented the dastardly deeds and high romance of the Season in her books. Mary Shelley lived just around the corner at 5 Abbey Church Yard, and it was this neighbourhood that inspired her to complete her novel Frankenstein during 1816, the infamous ‘year without a summer’. We have museums dedicated to both Austen and Shelley in our neighbourhood. The Jane Austen Centre offers a snapshot of what it would be like to live in Regency times, while Mary Shelley’s House of Frankenstein allows you to meet literature’s most famous monster (an eight-foot-tall animatronic version awaits) and explore the gore-filled basement.
Other literary heroes associated with the area include William Wordsworth, Charles Dickens – who stayed at the Saracens Head, a pub that still does a roaring trade today – and Sir Walter Scott, author of Ivanhoe and Rob Roy, who lived in the selfsame building which now houses the Hotel Indigo – Bath. Claire Clairmont, the spurned lover of Lord Byron and the step-sister of Mary Shelley, caused the eyebrows of the entire neighbourhood to rise when she arrived in the area to give birth to the great poet’s illegitimate child. Wherever you go you’ll see plaques proclaiming the presence of exalted characters from history: if the walls could talk they’d tell such tales of the mischief and mysteries that took place in this district.
“It was the merry-go-round of intrigue, gossip, celebrity and scandal that made the Season so thoroughly invigorating – and such an inspiration for Romantic-era novelists.“
An Independent Spirit
Scroll forward to the current day, and the area has become a magnet for writers and readers from across the globe. The annual Independent Bath Literature Festival brings thousands of visitors to the quarter and has hosted an extraordinary roster of big names, from Nobel and Booker Prize winners like Doris Lessing and Hilary Mantel to intellectual heavyweights like Eric Hobsbawm and Tony Benn and poets including Carol Ann Duffy and Ted Hughes. Meanwhile the Bath Festival of Children’s Literature, the largest of its kind in the country, is helping a new generation to get the storytelling bug by introducing them to their favourite authors and to characters brought to life from the pages of their favourite books.
But the written word isn’t the only way to get our neighbourhood’s stories across. Within minutes of the Hotel Indigo – Bath you’ll find theatres, music venues and sporting grounds all showing a different side of our city. Theatre Royal Bath is one of the oldest and most historic theatres in the country, but it’s far from stuck in the past. The Main House has the big-hitting dramas, operas and musicals, but the adjoining Ustinov Studio specialises in pushing the theatrical boundaries, while the Egg is a vibrant space dedicated to shows for the young.
Bath’s college and two universities keep the city young, and for generations students have flocked to Moles, an impossibly atmospheric underground club that has been hosting bands and throwing club nights since New Year’s Day 1978. Acts that have graced its stage include The Smiths, Radiohead, Oasis, Eurythmics and Ed Sheeran. The Rec, meanwhile, might be the most atmospheric rugby ground in the world. Rather than being shunted out to the suburbs, the home of Bath Rugby Club is in the heart of the city, with the Abbey watching over the action.
Of course the cultural calendar wouldn’t be complete without the local Jane Austen Festival, at which fans dress up in bodices and bonnets, waistcoats and top hats and attend costumed balls and promenades, celebrating the life and times of their heroine. They, like many visitors to the area, come to this exquisite, enigmatic, unique neighbourhood to let their hair down, revel in the atmosphere and create new stories of romance and mischief of their own.
Hotel Indigo. We welcome the curious.
The Hotel Indigo brand is a collection of high-end boutique hotels in fine locations. Every Hotel Indigo is unique to its surroundings, with no two hotels being the same. They have their own quirks and character, no matter where in the world. The one thing they do have in common is that they’re all different and waiting for you to explore.
Every city is an open-top museum, an endless gallery, a visual treasure trove. It is about more than providing just a comfy bed – it’s an experience as unique as the neighbourhoods.
Hotel Indigo Bath is no exception. The design of the hotel has been considered to reflect Bath and all it has to offer. As you move through the hotel – from the public areas through to the stunning bedrooms.
Extending your experience of this beautiful city from the streets you explore to the bedroom you sleep in.