Monday, 28 December 2015

Looking Back Over Our Year and Looking Forward To The Next

It’s been an incredible year for all of us here at Dukes this year. So many great events have been taking place in Bath. We’ve welcomed guests both new and old to the city, and have enjoyed seeing familiar faces coming back to stay us, as well as meeting new visitors who we hope we’ll be able to see again soon. We really do feel that everyone who comes to Dukes is much more than a visitor, and each time one of our guests comes back to stay with us it’s like seeing an old friend again.  We’re hoping for much more of that next year! But before we get into 2016 we wanted to take a quick look back at some of the highlights from 2015.

In February we had the Bath Literature Festival in Bath. The programme of events included talks from top names authors who wrote some of the biggest books of the past year. Kazuo Ishiguro, Kate Mosse and David Nicholls were just three of the big names who came to Bath. (This year has another brilliant line-up too. Brain Blessed, Tessa Hadley and Jonathon Dimbleby to name but three).   

The Bath Fringe Festival takes place at the end of May/beginning of June, and is often host to some of the acts that go on to wow at the Edinburgh Fringe. Bath’s theatre scene is one of the most thriving in the UK, and this is true the year round, not only during the two-week festival. The Bath Theatre Royal certainly lived up to its reputation this year. It’s hard to choose our favourite, but one of the shows that’s at the top of our list has to be the multi-media live stage adaptation of George Orwell’s Nineteen Eighty-Four.

Also in June there was the Festival of Nature, and in July there was the Bath Carnival, which saw the whole city get involved in Rio Carnival themed workshops and a grand carnival parade. 

September is the month in which the annual Jane Austen Festival takes place when, even if you’re not involved in the festival yourself, you can still find yourself drinking coffee next to a costumed Mr Darcy or a Miss Bennet. Regency meets modern is something that Bath is particularly good at.

In October Bath had it’s heritage week and we particularly appreciated the late night candle-lit opening hours at the Roman Baths and 

And then of course there’s the Bath Christmas Market that was back again this year for its fifteenth visit. Bigger and better than ever not even the rain could put a damper on people’s spirits and the market was humming with visitors every day. 

It’s been a great year and we can’t wait to see what 2016 will bring. 

From everyone here at Dukes, we wish you a happy new year!

Saturday, 19 December 2015

Places to Go and Things to Do In Bath This Christmas

Bath is full of places to go and things to do, and is a wonderful city to visit at any time of year, but especially now with all of the extra festive events going on, and given how mild the weather has been recently. Usually exploring nearby Sydney Gardens and Prior Park at this point in December wouldn’t be so tempting, but as the temperature hasn’t dropped we can well imagine taking a nice Boxing Day walk around one or other of them and needing only a light coat for warmth. Prior Park will open from 10 until 4 (last entry at 3) on Saturdays and Sundays (including Boxing Day) throughout the rest of December and January, and Sydney Gardens are open throughout the year from around 8 until 6 each day. 

These are a few other Christmas opening times that we thought might be useful to anyone visiting Bath this December:

Sally Lunn’s Historic Eating House

Open as usual
10 a.m. – 6 p.m. Monday – Saturday
11 a.m. – 6 p.m.  Sundays
(Evening refreshment by candlelight 5 pm-9:30 pm Monday-Thursday, Friday and Saturday 5 pm -10 pm, Sunday 5 pm-9 pm)

The Roman Baths  

Closed on Christmas Day and Boxing Day otherwise open as usual.
09:30 a.m. – 5 p.m. (exit 6 p.m.)

The Pump Rooms 

Closed on Christmas Day and Boxing Day otherwise open as usual.
09:30 a.m. – 9 p.m. serving coffee, lunch, afternoon tea and dinner

Southgate Shopping Centre

Varies store by store but usual open hours are 9 a.m. until 6 p.m. Some shops will open early on Boxing Day as the sales get underway.

The Jane Austen Centre

Open daily from 10 a.m. until 4 p.m. (last entry at 3 p.m.) except on Christmas Day, Boxing Day, and New Year’s Day

The Holburne Museum

Open daily from 10 a.m. to 5p.m. except for Christmas Day, Boxing Day, and New Year’s Day

The Victoria Art Gallery

Open Tuesday-Saturday from 10 a.m. to 5p.m. except for Christmas Day, Boxing Day, and New Year’s Day. Sunday opening is from 1:30 p.m. until 5 p.m. The Gallery is closed on Mondays.

A couple of other attractions in Bath which you might like to look at include The Theatre Royal (which has Jack and the Beanstalk  playing until January 10th), and The Little Theatre Cinema which will be showing not only the big new releases such as the new Star Wars film, Carol, and Bridge of Spies, but also seasonal favourites. A few of these include Branagh Theatre’s production of Shakespeare’s The Winter’s Tale, It’s A Wonderful Life, and the Bolshoi Ballet dancing The Nutcracker. 

Sunday, 13 December 2015

Early Booking for the 2016 Independent Bath Literature Festival

Each year Bath holds it’s famous literature festival. Big name authors, playwrights, illustrators and other literary figures come together to fill the impressive programme of events. This year, to celebrate the 21st birthday of the festival, organisers have decided to release tickets for 12 special events ahead of the general ticket release date on the 18th of January (although festival friends and priority bookings go on sale a few days before this). As always tickets sell out fast, so planning ahead is important, especially if you want to see any of the twelve early release events. 

These are:
  • ·      Alice Roberts, presenter of The Incredible Human Journey and Coast, talking about her explorations into the forgotten Celts of Europe. (27th February, 1pm-2pm at The Guildhall) 

  • ·      Vince Cable discussing his new book After the Storm with Financial Times columnist Stefan Stern. The book looks at the global economy from the past five years from the perspective of a senior coalition member at the heart of it all. (27th February, 4:30pm-5:30pm at The Guildhall) 

  • ·      Joan Bakewell gets to the heart of this year’s festival theme “Forever Young” as she discusses her book Stop the Clocks: Thoughts on What I Leave Behind. It touches on politics, literature, love and everyday customs. Thought-provoking, enlightening and emotional, this is set to be a real highlight. (28th February, 11:15am-12:15pm at The Guildhall)     

  • ·      An expert panel, which includes Artistic Director Viv Groskop and culture writer Mark Lawson, debates the best coming-of-age novels of all time. The Bell Jar, Great Expectations and Little Women are all sure to be a few of the contenders, as well as some lesser known gems. (28th February, 1pm-2pm at The Guildhall) 

  • ·      Author of Girl with a Pearl Earring Tracey Chevalier presents her new historical fiction novel, this time her stage is in 19th century Ohio with the Goodenough family who struggle against themselves and against the nature around them. (4th March, 6:15pm-7:15pm at The Guildhall) 

  • ·      Ben Miller abandoned a physics PhD to pursue his career as a comedian, but now he has combined the two in his book The Aliens Are Coming! Here he talks about the serach for the real E.T.s. (4th March, 8pm-9pm at The Guildhall) 

  • ·      Classic FM’s morning programme presenter John Suchet explores the Strauss family in his latest book The Last Waltz. Suchet looks to show how the turbulence of 19th century Austria influenced the fate of the family. (5th March, 4:30pm-5:30pm at Nexus Methodist Church) 

  • ·      Comedian and writer Dom Joly introduces his audience in this hour to his life and his new autobiography Here Comes the Clown. (5th March, 8pm-9pm at the Guildhall) 

  • ·      91 year old RAF veteran Harry Leslie Smith shot to prominence when his Facebook post about Remembrance Day was shared 80,000 times. He’s now a Guardian columnist and author of Harry’s Last Stand. His message is that the NHS and the welfare state need protecting.  (6th March, 1pm-2pm at The Guildhall) 

  • ·      Anthony Seldon, former head of Wellington College, and journalist Peter Snowdon were given access to the inner circle in the coalition government. Together they analyse the dramas that came from that partnership and the turning points of their governance. (6th March, 2:45pm-3:45pm at The Guildhall) 

  • ·      Every year when Austentatious comes to Bath it sells out. This year it returns once more with their improvised take on Jane Austen’s work. The audience suggests and the performers oblige; in the past they’ve done Strictly Come Darcy and Mansfield Shark. Each performance is different and each a must-see. (6th March, 4:30pm-5:30pm at The Guildhall)   

Tickets for these twelve events are available now via the Bath Literature Festival website:

Friday, 4 December 2015

Bath Christmas Market – Only One Week Left

The Bath Christmas Market’s 170+ wooden chalets opened their doors up to shoppers at 10am on November 26th, and from that very first moment the city has been alive with shoppers and sight-seers alike. Bath’s market is always popular but this year it really has gone the extra mile to bring Scandinavian festivity to the city. We took a trip around the market and these are a few of the things we were delighted to find.

1.      Tasters! 
A lot of the stalls in the market are foody stalls and, even better, most of them offer free samples. Wandering around we’ve tasted Cheddar cheese that’s been aged in the Cheddar Gorge itself, handmade chocolate orange chocolate brownies (we were also really impressed with their ginger chocolate brownies), tots of Bath Ale, cured sausages, clotted cream fudge (and sea salted caramel fudge, and coffee fudge, and even strawberry fudge (practically every flavour was covered), and, of course, Christmas puddings. We could have quite easily had an entire meal consisting only of free tasters, and been very happy with it too.

2.      The Lodge
Except that if we’d properly filled up on tasters then we wouldn’t have had room left to eat in the Lodge. New this year is the huge rustic snow lodge which has been built on the Stall Street side of the Pump Rooms. When you want to take the weight off your feet for a bit after all of your exploring then the Lodge is a great place to go. 10a.m.-10p.m. they’re serving heart-warming food, hot drinks, cakes and local ales in a setting that will make you feel as if you’ve just come in off the slopes.  

3.      The Apres Ski Bar 
Close to Bath Rugby’s Recreation Ground, the Apres Ski Bar is another Alpine escape to visit. It has snow on the roof, wooly blankets to snuggle up in (not that it’s been very cold recently!) and ski boot drinks that we’re yet to sample. At night the Ski Bar has it’s own resident DJ so you can go and dance the night away in style.

4.      Last but not least - no more loo-queues
Ever practical this year the organisers have arranged for extra free and pleasant facilities to be around the market. Not a portaloo or a queue in sight.

Bath is in its element at the moment. Our city is thriving with energy and atmosphere, and so if you’re thinking of visiting a Christmas market this year we really do recommend that you choose Bath. Come and stay with us at Dukes Hotel (we’re only five minutes level walk from the city centre and Bath’s Christmas Market) and let us get you in the Christmas spirit. Bring on the mince pies and mulled wine! 

Thursday, 3 December 2015

Stay in Bath for the Bath Christmas Market 

It’s that time of year again - one of the most popular times to visit Bath. Because as we get nearer to the end of November, we get ever nearer to the start of Bath’s Christmas market. From the 26th of November until December 13th  the village of traditional chalets will once again set up shop in the middle of our beautiful Georgian city. With the combination of wooden huts, steaming mulled wine and the Abbey soaring high lighting up the Bath night, you’re hard pressed to find another market in the country than can rival it when it comes to an amazing atmosphere.

Each year for the past 15 years, Bath has played host to a vast market emcompassing a huge variety of stalls including food, crafts, and gifts. Stallholders will be coming from all around the world, but there’s also a heavy emphasis on local artisans. This year 82% of the exhibitors will be from Bath or the South West, 76% of these will be products that are handmade, and the number of stalls is set to be over 170! A few of the more unusual things we’re expecting to see include: marmite fudge and strawberry fudge, contemporary ironwork homewares, gluten-free Christmas puddings, Morrocan lanterns, and German nutcrackers.

The market will be open each day from 10am and stays open until 7pm Monday-Wednesdays, 6pm on Sundays, and has late night shopping until 8:30pm on Thursdays, Fridays and Saturdays. And though visiting in the evening means wrapping up warm it is definitely worth it. Each stall is individually lit up, and the Abbey at night is a real sight to behold. Wandering around the stalls in a warm winter coat and a wooly scarf, nursing a cup of hot cider in one hand and a mince pie in the other is a brilliant way to get into the Christmas spirit.  

If you’ve got time after you’ve been around the market (or before you go) then Bath’s Victoria Park also has some seasonal attractions to try. As in previous years there will be a huge outdoor ice rink to have a spin on, and wood-fired pizzas and a fully-licensed bar to partake of afterwards. One thing we haven’t seen before though is going to be the glow-in-the-dark mini golf. If it was hard during the day then it’s going to be a lot harder (but certainly highly amusing) once the sun goes down!

Another reason we love the Bath Christmas market is that is is so easy for us to get to. It’s right in the centre of Bath, and only a five minute level walk from us at Dukes Hotel and from Bath Spa train station. It’s easy to come and go from as we please – to experience it during the day when it’s quieter, as well as at night. If you’re looking for a nice weekend of shopping that will get you into the festive mood (and get you out of the same old high street shops that everyone will be going to) then there really is no place better than Bath.

Our top tip: try and come during the week if you can – that way you can beat the crowds and take your time exploring, not only the market, but the city itself as well. You definitely won’t be stuck for things to do!