Hill House is a six-bed independent guest house based in a residential area just off of the city centre. You’ll find it between Bath’s three crescents, the Royal Crescent, Lansdown Crescent and Camden Crescent, where you’ll find some beautiful buildings and places of historic interest. Hill House is in the oldest part of Bath, it was originally built in 1762 and for the first twenty years of its life, was the last house to the north of the city centre.
Hill House is home to Harry, who is the Chair of the Bath Independent Guesthouse Association and as such, really prides himself on the extra special service that independent businesses can provide. Also at the house are Douglas and Jasper, the pairs’ dog. It is the history that makes the house, and of course, the city so fascinating to Harry and Douglas. The pair of been in the city for eight years and are still discovering new things, such as the elephant heads carved into the doors above Camden Crescent, which, it turns out is because the original buildings were commissioned by the Marques of Camden, who had an elephant on his coat of arms.
“My advice to guests is to look up not down at your feet, otherwise you will miss these little gems!” Harry advises.
Another thing to look out for when exploring the area around Hill House is the blue plaques on the walls. Close to Hill House is one for Charles Dickens, who once resided nearby, as well as one for the creator of Shorthand typing, Pitman, and also for Captain Philips, the first governor-general of Australia.
When asked what Hill House can offer that a corporate hotel can’t, he said: “It is that personal service. We live on the premises and it is our home, so every guest is treated as a first-time friend. To add to the experience, we have one large communal breakfast table for up to twelve guests. One of the things that we like to do before a guest arrives is to start to get to know them. We send out a lot of literature about what to eat and where to go and are happy when people ask us to assist in making their stay as enjoyable as possible.”
The warmth of their welcome and the extent to which they get to know their guests mean that Harry often gets set challenges by his guests prior to their arrival. “Some of the more interesting requests have included where to purchase ladies shoe in a size 8 ½ and above, where would be the best place to propose to my girlfriend, who can do hair and make-up in the historical style for a Byron themed experience and how can I trace my relatives who used to live in Bath 250 years ago. All requests are dealt with with great success!”
A stay at Hill House is a welcoming and comfortable one. All the guests are invited to have breakfast together with Harry and the rest of the Hill House team at their large communal table. Harry said: “With 50% of our trade being international, there can be some great conversations to be had – politics and religion are banned! In essence, we judge our success on the quality of the conversation around the table more than anything else!”
As you can expect with this kind of atmosphere in the guesthouse, Hill House is very much a part of their local community and really like their guests to experience the city as though they were residents themselves. For Harry, the best bit about living and working in Bath is that the city still retains its quintessential unique and distinctive qualities from the past. “There is nowhere else quite like it in the world,” Harry said, and he’d be right! One of the things that makes Bath a great place to be is that it retains a fiercely independent streak in its thinking and in its shops and businesses. Another jewel in Bath’s crown is that it is a great hub from which to explore the wider area, there are many great cities and countryside around Bath that make for great day trips, from the Cotswolds to the north and Bristol to the west. The county of Somerset is also open to you with the tiny city of Wells and of course, there is access to Wiltshire and the beautiful areas of Salisbury and Stonehenge
With all that to think about, Harry certainly has a lot of options for his perfect day out in the city. Harry’s perfect day is packed full of visiting some of Bath’s stand out areas. Luckily, Hill House is only a four-minute walk from the famous Royal Crescent, three minutes from the Circus and the Assembly Rooms and a ten-minute walk to the Roman Baths. So, you’re well placed for enjoying all the attractions that Harry and Douglas recommend.
Harry said: “My perfect day would start with an early morning walk with Jasper. By early I mean about 5.30am! I like to go either around Bath, especially up through Lansdown Crescent through St James and into Victoria Park. If we time it right, in the summer we can see the hot air balloons setting off at around 7am!”
After the walk, Harry would return to Hill House to serve breakfast to his guests with Douglas and enjoy the banter around the table and making sure his guests are all sorted for their day exploring the city.
“Then, if I have time,” he said, “I like to potter into town via Margaret Buildings and catch up with the local shopkeepers and restaurant owners. We all know each other and it’s great to see what is new. I really like Beau Nash on Brock Street, Duncan is the silver expert on the Antiques Roadshow and is always welcoming and happy to show off any new piece he has in, even if it may be out of my price range!”
For lunch, Harry recommends the Beckford Bottle Shop, particularly if you are into a liquid lunch. For snacks, then head to Café Lucca at the Loft situated in the Bartlett Street Quarter which is his favourite part of Bath. “You start at the bottom with V V Rouleaux, further up you pass Yen Sushi and Same Sam – both great independents. Have a quick browse around the antique market and then pop in to see the latest exhibition at David Simon Contemporary Art. Finally, I’d have to pop into Article Bath to by a posy of flowers to say sorry to Douglas for being late back!”
If they have any time in the afternoon, a trip to the Victoria Art’s Gallery is a must. However, in the winter months, the pair prefer a trip to the Little Cinema or in the summer, sitting on a deck chair in Parade Gardens listening to the brass band with a spot of afternoon tea is a great way to recharge the batteries.
These recommendations and local knowledge are just some of the many things that an independent like Hill House can offer. Unlike some of the larger corporate hotels, Hill House has a distinctive and individual style.
“We run our business like you would a Victorian house party! Everyone is an individual, but it is how we put our guests together that makes it work.” Harry said. “I recall a particular table breakfast eighteen months ago, for the first and only time since we have been open, all our guests were women. They included guests from Pakistan, Quebec, Norway, America, South Africa and France, the conversation was amazing, everyone wanting to know not only where to go and what to see, but also learning about how they did things in each culture and country. There is not a day that goes by where Douglas and I don’t learn something from our guests. It is one of the great benefits of treating your guests as friends, not from when they walk in the door, but from the very first time they contact you.”