In LuxuryLocals

Peter Rollins from Thermae Bath Spa

Hello Great West Way Ambassador! Please introduce yourself: 
My name is Peter Rollins and I’m fortunate to live and work in Bath.

Tell us a little more about what you do on the Great West Way:
I work at Thermae Bath Spa which is a day spa in the heart of the city fed by Bath’s natural thermal waters. We are proud to be an Ambassador for the Great West Way. 

What do you love most about your job? 
I never fail to love the open-air rooftop pool at Thermae with its spectacular views over the city and surrounding countryside. In particular, I love it on a cold winter’s morning when the steam is billowing off the waters and the guests are enjoying the contrasting temperatures. From the rooftop, I can just picture the Great West Way meandering into Bath before it heads west to Bristol!

How did you get started? Has it been a long journey, getting to where you are today? 
I have always worked in travel & tourism both in this country and overseas. I started as a tour guide in Europe and then progressed to escorting tours through the former Soviet Union, Mongolia and China, which was very different in the 1980s than it is now. In the 1990s, I changed direction and took up a post as Tourism & Marketing Manager at Bath Tourism. As part of this position, I supported the project team who were successful in gaining the Lottery funding to revive the Spa in Bath, which had been closed since 1978. After being approached by the operator of the new Spa, I joined their fledgling organisation and was a key member of the team who opened the Spa in 2006. 

What achievements are you most proud of?
I am most proud of the major contribution that Thermae Bath Spa makes to Bath and the local economy. During the 30 years of closure, something was intrinsically missing from the heart & soul of Bath – its Spa! The success of the Spa has surpassed all expectations and it attracts both day & staying visitors from all over the world who enjoy the experience of bathing in the UK’s only naturally hot, spring water.

What’s a typical day like for you?
Thermae is open every day from 9am – 9.30pm. I have quite a few early starts whereby I give show rounds to visiting groups, photographers and travel writers prior to the Spa opening at 9am. I would also attend the daily operational meeting at 9.30am where we discuss any issues from the day before and look forward to the next 24 hours. Every day is genuinely different and it involves a mixture of hands-on operations, office work and networking with business partners. We are always open to new ideas and have a constant calendar of activities based around events such as National Spa Week and World Water Day.

Thermae Bath Spa in Winter

Do you work with a wider team? If so, tell us a bit about them: 
There are over 200 members of staff at Thermae Bath Spa ranging from spa therapists to lifeguards and housekeeping. I work in a team of 4 people and we are responsible for marketing the Spa, maintaining the website, producing the various publications, looking after the PR and sharing information & stories on social media.

What do you find inspiring day-to-day? What keeps the enthusiasm going?
We know that people, including the Celts & Romans, having been bathing on this site for thousands of years. It is inspiring to think that we are continuing this long and colourful history. On a day-to-day basis, I love seeing guests from all over the world enjoying the experience of bathing in the natural thermal waters.

Any interesting or funny anecdotes related to your role or your experiences with visitors that you can share?
My favourite memory was when The Three Tenors, José Carreras, Placido Domingo and the late Luciano Pavarotti, played an outdoor concert at the Royal Crescent  to celebrate the revival of spa culture in Bath. On the afternoon of the concert, they came into Thermae and I gave them a showround of the Spa. They were great fun and totally loved the architecture which successfully combines old & new.

What does slow travel mean to you? 
To me, slow travel means that I can be spontaneous in what I do and it allows me to deviate from the best laid plans.

What do you think makes the Great West Way special?
For me, the Great West Way is special because there are so many ways of exploring it whether by car, train, bicycle, canal boat or on foot. There is also such an incredible variety of sights and experiences, whether it is the iconic attractions such as Stonehenge or the Roman Baths or a welcoming pub in an archetypal English village. It is also a great name!

Do you have any insider tips or advice for travellers who want to experience the touring route ‘like a local’? 
In these days of Google, mobile phones and Sat Navs, we can be very self-sufficient but my biggest tip is simply  to talk to ‘locals’ and seek their advice on what to see and what to do. You’ll be amazed about the pride they take in imparting information and sharing their stories

Describe your perfect adventure on the Great West Way: 
My perfect adventure would involve a journey along the Kennet & Avon canal by narrow boat, stopping off at waterside pubs en route, exploring the surrounding countryside on foot and enjoying a Twilight Package at Thermae Bath Spa.

Thermae Bath Spa Open-Air Rooftop Pool in the Sun

What’s your favourite thing to eat or drink along the touring route (can be a meal, a local delicacy or a favourite tipple)? Any cafes, restaurants or pubs you can recommend?
There are so many wonderful hostelries along the Great West Way serving great food & drinks. I like sampling the local beers and enjoy a good pint of Wadworths 6X or a Gem from Bath Ales. My favourite cafés, restaurant and pubs would definitely include a breakfast at the Lock Inn in Bradford-on-Avon, a cappuccino at Café on the Barge at Bathampton, a pint in the Quarryman’s Arms near Box and fish & chips in the Scallop Shell in Bath.

Are you a city, town or country person? 
I’m a little bit of everything! I love the buzz & diversity of a city like Bristol, the wonderful history of Bath and Salisbury and the rolling countryside of Wiltshire and the south Cotswolds.

Pick a place along the Great West Way that best represents you and what you do, with a short explanation: 
If I had to choose one location, it would be the Limpley Stoke Valley. From it many viewpoints, you can see beautiful countryside, picturesque villages and historic sights such as the Dundas Aqueduct where the River Avon, Kennet & Avon Canal and the railway line all converge. One of my favourite circular walks in the Valley starts at Freshford and takes in Farleigh Hungerford Castle and Iford Manor with its magnificent Italianate gardens. 

Are there any English stereotypes or traditions you’d like to set straight? 
Being Irish, I am probably not the best one to ask!

If you could choose one must-visit attraction along the Great West Way, what would it be and why?
Admittedly I am biased but it would either be the Roman Baths or Thermae Bath Spa. To resolve this dilemma, I would choose a package called Spas Ancient & Modern which includes a visit to the Roman Baths, lunch in the grand Pump Room and a visit to Thermae Bath Spa.

What do you think will surprise first-time visitors about the Great West Way? Any secret, lesser-visited spots you’d like to recommend?
Visitors will be pleasantly surprised by the sheer diversity of The Great West Way – in many ways, it encapsulates the best of England in a concentrated area.  I also think that visitors will be spoilt for choice in terms of the range of cultural activities whether it be the year-round programme of festivals, excellent museums, art galleries, live music venues and superb theatres.

What’s your preferred mode of transport: train, car, bus or boat? Why?
In addition to these modes of travel, I could easily add bicycles and hot air balloons. However, if I had to choose one, it would probably be the train and, in particular, travelling on the smaller branch lines with more stops along the way. 

Any exciting plans for the future you’d like to share?
I am planning to do one of the long distance footpaths in the UK – the big decision is which one?

Thermae Bath Spa Open-Air Rooftop Pool

To find out more about Bath and what there is to do take a look at our See & Do page. 

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