I'm weightless, floating lazily on my back. Clouds drift overhead, sending an ever-changing pattern of light and shade across my face. I'm vaguely aware that surrounding me is the city of Bath - described by London Walks as 'a scoop of pure honey set in a green bowl' and 'the world's most perfect Georgian city'. But, right now, my companions and I are about 10 minutes into our 1.5 hour spa session at the Cross Bath, an open-air thermal pool, and I'm completely and utterly blissed out.
So, given it feels a little like heaven, I'm not surprised to learn later that The Cross Spring, which feeds the mineral-rich waters in which we're floating, is recognised as a sacred site. In fact, on the site where the Cross Bath now stands, the Celts worshipped their goddess Sul, after whom the Roman spa town of Aquae Sulis was named.
Relaxing though it is, the Cross Bath nevertheless offers just one small taste of a much larger menu of options at Thermae Bath Spa . When this extensive complex opened in 2006, it revived the city's long but recently-overlooked tradition of 'taking the waters'. The centrepiece is the New Royal Bath which offers multiple bathing options including an open-air rooftop pool, the Minerva Bath (boasting an invigorating massage jet, whirlpool and lazy river), aromatic steam rooms and the Springs Café & Restaurant at which the wearing of fluffy white robes (provided as part of the ticket price) is de rigueur.
You'll be in for a treat, no matter which option you choose, for the temperature of the water in all baths is a balmy 33.5 degrees Centigrade. And if you really want to take the day's indulgence at Thermae Bath Spa to the limit, an extensive range of spa, health and beauty treatments is also offered. Massages (including aromatherapy, Oriental, reflexology and more), hot stones spa therapy, facials, Vichy showers, body wraps and head massages can be booked separately - the good news is that the time allocated for a treatment is added onto your standard 2 hour spa session.
Body wraps at Thermae Bath Spa. Photography by Marko Dutka.
Though Thermae Bath Spa is undoubtedly the city's standout attraction, others worth exploring include the popular open top bus tour, museum at No. 1 Royal Crescent and off-the-beaten-track walking tours. Given that all of this can leave you feeling a bit footsore, a visit to Thermae Bath Spa can be the perfect soother after a hectic day of sightseeing.
Thermae Bath Spa's steam rooms. Image by Dave Saunders.