The weird thing about this post is, it was always going to be written through the lens of COVID-19. I was so blessed that I managed to have this perfect hen weekend away in Bath together with my friends right before the first lockdown landed. Remember how fast that happened? At the start of March we couldn’t even see lockdown on the horizon, but it was only a week away. The memories from these few days have been something so special over the last year, through the anxiety of the outbreak, then through the heartache of postponing our wedding (twice). So this post is a chance to relive that shining beacon of a trip.
Friday morning – how I wish I could go back to that Friday morning. I’d finally managed to shake off a cold, just in time for my hen weekend in Bath. I’m not much for surprises so my bridesmaid Emma had already told me a lot of what to expect. I knew what the house looked like, I had my swimming costume packed for the spa, and I had my outfit ready for a night of cocktail making and dancing. Bags loaded, nails done, hair blow dried, music ready, we set off.
The drive to Bath was just stunning – the countryside in that southern-most tip of the Cotswolds stretches on for miles. As we crested the peaks of rolling green hills, passing little English villages and drooling over the cottages, the sun broke its way through the clouds. What a perfect journey. We trundled into the city, with its identical stone buildings a blanket of sandy grey draped over the valley, punctured by spires. We pulled up, parked, and raced towards the blue door of our airbnb.
Our airbnb. Wow. This townhouse was a mammoth 4 floors of beautifully-decorated rooms, including 5 bedrooms. Our group would fit perfectly.
Our airbnb hostess had baked us a lemon almond cake (that she told us would certainly be no good because she’s an awful baker), bought extra loo roll for us and put anti-bac wipes in all the bathrooms (“Even though my daughter tells me it’s pointless since COVID-19 is viral not bacterial”). This was one of the only times we talked about COVID for the whole weekend. Bliss.
After unpacking the car, we headed out to some of the nearby pubs recommended by our airbnb hostess for lunch. Unfortunately it was almost 3pm by this point and all their kitchens were closed. Luckily, as we set off towards the centre of Bath in search of a shop, we stumbled upon Avellinos Italian Deli and Cafe, which was packed to the absolute brim with random Italian food. We ordered paninis and coffees, and sat down at a table which was overflowing with packets of crostini, jars of olives, boxes of espresso pods and who knows what else.
Buzzing with excitement and caffeine, we then popped to the closest supermarket for extra supplies, leaving with armfuls of tonic water and chocolate. My bridesmaid Kerry arrived with a bag full of hen do decorations that had travelled with her all the way to Spain and back (remember when people casually flew to Spain?). We headed back to the house and got ready for the arrival of the squad.
The rest of my hens arrived in little groups, the girls from London (Immi, Anna and bridesmaid Jess) who drove down together after lunch, my friend Pete from hometown Winchester along with Emma’s sister Charlotte, and bringing up the rear my sister Rosie who caught the train from London after work. This was one of my favourite parts of the weekend. As each group arrived I gave them a little tour of the house, and showed them their bedrooms where Kerry had set up goodie bags and I had popped in little personal letters to each of them.
After getting spruced up for an evening of fun, we all gathered in the kitchen/dining room for some dinner and games. Kerry, ever the quizmaster, lead an epic multi-round Sophie & Matt quiz, with inter-round games that challenged our craft abilities and our dance moves.
After putting away many many bottles of prosecco, we all headed to bed, determined to be up and out the next morning for a day packed with fun.
What an absolute treat. Tote bags in tow, we made our way through Henrietta Park and over Pulteney Bridge, coming up behind Bath Abbey, around the open air Roman baths, and there we were outside the famous Thermae Bath Spa. The queue was insane, but Emma’s organisational skills meant we could skip the entirety of it. We had something special booked.
Thermae Bath Spa – The Cross Bath
Across the street from the main reception is a little historic building. You’d never know from ground level, but this is the open air Cross Bath. We were lead inside the honey-coloured stone walls to find a simple, contemporary-style changing area, designed exactly to accommodate a group our size. Lockers and showers were hidden neatly to the side, with the space centring around a gently steaming turquoise pool.
Giggling madly, we all rushed to change, emerging in our white cotton robes holding glasses of prosecco. After taking the obligatory group selfie, we shed our robes and descended into the gloriously warm water.
We were left with just one staff member to serve us prosecco, which made the morning feel wonderfully private, like a proper escape from the main city. We were in our own secret hideaway, with pedestrians passing just on the other side of the stone walls with no idea we were here in our swimming costumes!
We floated around for what felt like hours, chatting and drinking. It was so lovely to see all my favourite people from different parts of my life getting to know each other better.
Our booked slot was exactly the right amount of time. We left feeling amazingly relaxed, strolling through the centre of Bath at a leisurely pace, pausing to buy coffees, take photos and listen to busking musicians.
Back at the house we enjoyed cups of tea together while Emma got lunch on a role. She produced platters of food like a magician from the fridge, and we all gathered around the huge dining room table to tuck in, under the beady watchful eyes of Señor Stag.
The afternoon was filled with games, before getting ready for our night out. We had a cocktail class at 4pm, so we were making our way through town in our going out clothes at 3.30pm! I had fulfilled a personal dream by acquiring a Rosa Bloom jumpsuit especially for this occasion. With my sparkly legs, platform trainers and veil, there was no mistaking the purpose of our trip.
The Botanist Cocktail Masterclass
We arrived at the Botanist, a very cool cocktail bar with 1920s vibes. The inside feels like it’s been reclaimed by nature. The main atrium of the building with its multi-story greenhouse-style ceilings was already buzzing when we arrived. Our cocktail class wasn’t yet ready to receive us, so we ordered some cocktails from the bar to get the evening started. The timing was perfect, as right when we finished them the waitress reappeared to take us to our class…. Beneath the Botanist.
I’ve taken part in a few cocktail masterclasses before, and this one has them all beat. Located in the wine cellars under the bar, we had total privacy from the noise upstairs – and were soon making plenty of noise to make up for it. The key to a good class is a great teacher, you need someone who’s going to have fun with you and doesn’t take it too seriously. And of course, their goal is not so much teaching you as it is getting you drunk.
Over the course of the masterclass we made progressively more challenging cocktails, as we got progressively more tipsy. The mixologist leading the class split us into teams and had us racing against the clock and each other to win prizes – with the losers doomed to down the dreaded chilli vodka shot. We learned to shake, to pour multiple bottles at once, and how to make a complete mess of a bar.
The Cosy Club
At exactly the right level of tipsy, and ready for some food, we made our way to the next stop – resident Hen Do HQ, The Cosy Club. You can see why hen parties like it so much (there were at least 5 other brides-to-be dining in the restaurant with us). It’s the perfect level of boujiee, with high ceilings, glittering chandeliers and quirky bathrooms. The cocktails kept coming, and the burgers hit the spot I can tell you. By the end we were raring to go again.
The Potting Shed and Moles
Our next stop was the Potting Shed, a cavernous, rustically-stylish bar that feels at once like a flea market, a restaurant and a living room. Despite it bursting at the seams, we managed to use our feminine wiles to blag a seated area. After many more drinks and a few games, it was time to dance. Moles greeted us with prosecco all round, which we polished off to the sounds of Madonna and a backdrop of Greece.
Descending into the bowels of Moles, we were swallowed by the crowd who were already well into a night of dancing. We threw ourselves into it, totally unaware that this was our last hurrah before months of lockdown. Like all good nights out, I remember this one in flashes. Doing tequila shots with Pete and Immi. Being told my a stranger that I look like a mermaid. The same stranger asking if I’m sure I’m not too young to get married? (People are always surprised when they learn I’m 30.) Singing A Thousand Miles at the top of my lungs. Being escorted to the toilet by Rosie and Charlotte. And of course, dancing in a circle.
When we emerged from Moles at the end of the night, we were dismayed to find that the heavens had opened. Reader, if there was ever a time to be wearing platform trainers and an anorak, it was this night. And as an added bonus, the massive sequins on my legs functioned as actual real-life fish scales, and the water rolled off them without even reaching the fabric underneath. We clung together in pairs and legged it.
Cut to the next morning, sat in Bill’s around 5 tables pushed together. Kerry has just given a heart-felt toast and I am still misty-eyed. We’re all feeling suitably worn out but not totally incapacitated, and 10 variations on a full English breakfast appear in front of us. This is certainly the best way to end the best weekend – and a good thing too, because it’s going to sustain us well into 2021.
If you’re planning a hen do to blow lockdown away, you can’t go wrong with Bath. At the risk of losing any and all subtlety, you should book exactly this airbnb and plan the exact activities that I was lucky enough to enjoy this time last year.