If Bath is, as many assert, a Regency theme park, the Royal Crescent Hotel is its best ride. And one you don't have to queue for if you are staying inside this magnificent row of five Grade I listed houses designed by John Wood the Younger. He is said to have dreamed up the lawn-fronted crescent, which so spectacularly overlooks the city, because its shape had symbolism relevant to his masonic lodge.
A Relais and Chateaux property, the hotel is a period jewel, as might be expected, though it is the suites which enjoy the finest city views. However, the back rooms overlook the delightful, secluded garden which is one of the hotel's biggest assets - a simply lovely place to enjoy lunch or tea overlooking the backs of the famous houses, which are delightfully higgledy-piggledy.
Unlike today's house-buyers, what Bath purchasers were buying from Wood, father and son, was a grand façade. Only later did they customise what went behind to fit their own needs.
Another well-kept secret is the spa housed in the converted stables, which exudes a really special, other-worldly air, particularly its 12-metre heated indoor pool. If there's a quibble, it could be that the Dower House Restaurant, also in the back block across from the garden, feels a tad moderne for its period surroundings, and also a tad claustrophobic.
Choose the garden for supper if weather permits, and work it off with a game of evening croquet. If travelling with friends or family, consider a trip on the hotel's own restored 1920s river launch.
RATES: from £195 including full breakfast.
TEL: 01225 823333