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Bath Priory Hotel

by Sarah Shuckburgh

The Bath Priory is the only hotel in Bath with a Michelin-starred restaurant - an award it has held since 1999. The hotel is situated in a residential area within walking distance of Bath city centre, near Royal Victoria Park and Royal Crescent, but it feels more like a country house. There are log fires and fresh flowers, and the downstairs rooms are full of antiques, comfortable sofas, and owner Andrew Brownsword's personal collection of Edwardian and modern paintings. Everyone is friendly, including the chef, Robert Clayton, who welcomes visitors to his kitchen for cookery master classes, or "In With The Chef" all-day observation. I really enjoyed watching Rob Clayton and his chefs work - and then eating the results.

It's said that the Prior of Bath Abbey once owned the site where the hotel now stands, though almost the only hint of a priory today is a pulpit which is used as the reception desk. The hotel spreads across two Cotswold stone houses - one, built in Gothic style, dating from 1835, the other, Linden's Villa, from 1905. In 1997, links were made between the two houses, adding 10 rooms and a basement spa area, which offers a range of beauty treatments, with pool, sauna, steam room and gym.

The houses still retain distinctive atmospheres, and their south-facing gardens, separated by a listed wall, are different too - one more 'Capability Brown', with lawns, huge trees, and areas of wild flowers and long grass (and interesting sculptures of a conker and a peapod); the other side, more 'Gertrude Jekyll', with shrubs and borders of perennials creating outdoor 'rooms', one of which conceals a heated swimming pool. The enthusiastic Head Gardener, Jane Moore - who won a silver medal at the Chelsea Flower Show 2003, and who presents her own gardening programmes on HTV - runs one-day gardening workshops and longer residential gardening courses at the hotel.

First published by the Telegraph

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