A deep, hot bath has long been regarded as one of life's genuine luxuries and some people simply can't function without them. The designer Tom Ford takes a "power bath" three times a day, kicking off at six in the morning. Lifestyle guru Arianna Huffington prefers a bath "with Epsom salts and a candle, to relax" last thing at night. Prue Leith likes to bathe "with a glass of champagne and someone sitting on the loo seat gossiping", while Cara Delevigne recently titillated her Instagram followers with a photograph of herself submerged in a bath of pink rose petals.
It brings to mind the glory days of Liberace, who loved welcoming photographers to his bathroom at his Las Vegas mansion; it wasn't so much the sight of the naked, bejewelled showman dripping with soapy bubbles which caught their eye as his magnificent marble-columned tub, complete with gold-plated swan faucets.
The tide of bathtub extravagance is on the rise again. This autumn an astonishing range of bathrooms are being installed at the new XXII Carat villas on the Palm Jumeirah in Dubai. Created by Florence-based Baldi Home Jewels, each of these million-dollar tubs is carved out of a piece of 10,430kg rock crystal from the Amazon rainforest.
The concept of a long hot soak can be traced all the way back to the Romans, who would unwind after a working day at the thermae, or public baths, which could often accommodate up to 3,000 bathers at a time. These days the bathtub tends to be our holy grail of privacy, unless you are billionaire socialite Tamara Ecclestone, who has a custom-made tub for three people to enjoy at once, comprising of rock crystal sculpted with diamond cuts.
If your thoughts are more in tune with a two-person tub, try the Toulouse from Victoria + Albert; this double-ended free-standing tub is made of volcanic limestone. "It makes a luxurious centrepiece for both traditional and contemporary bathrooms," says Alex McKeon of Waterloo Bathrooms, Dublin, which supplied the baths to Adare Manor earlier this year as part of the award-winning hotel's renovations.
Soothing our bodies in water allows us to relax our muscles and clear our minds. Hot water can also lead to a better night’s sleep and has been known to unlock ideas if you are stuck in a dilemma.
Whatever about bathing rituals, a tub must be both pleasing to the eye and to the body. "Sit in the bath and try it out for size," recommends Catherine Treacy, director of Versatile Bathrooms & Tiles, Co Meath.
A cast-iron Wandle bath, designed by Martin Brudnizki, is a hot favourite, with a skirt that echoes the bow of a ship. Another present-day hit is the Tyne all-copper bath by Drummonds, with its classic roll-top, based on an 18th-century bateau bath. For those seeking an uber-massage while bathing, the Milano 761 could be the answer; it boasts more than 40 adjustable jets around the back, legs and sides. According to Greg Witkowski of Crystal Bathrooms, Co Galway, "there is an upsurge of interest for hydrotherapy baths, for those who want to create a sense of well-being at home without having to go to a spa".
If the idea of a bath on your lonesome seems a little dull, you can always order a miniature basketball hoop and three balls from Amazon (€9.99) to add excitement to it. Simply stick the hoop, with its suctions, to the opposing end of your tub, or against your bathroom wall, lie back and practise your aim.
And, before you pull the plug, those in need of an additional excuse to spend more time lounging in the bath might enjoy the findings of a research team from Loughborough University, which prove that by raising your core body temperature, an hour-long dip burns as many calories as a 30-minute walk.
Best places to soak it up
Hilton Park, Co Monaghan Relax in a bath that originated from the Iveagh Buildings, Dublin. Says hotel operator Johnny Madden: "This bath is a masterpiece of design. Narrow at the ankles, wider at the hips, deep with a generously sloped back to allow the head to rest comfortably."
To gaze from the bath over the topiary gardens of Hilton Park visit www.hiltonpark.ie
Famous bathers: Lily Allen and Robin Wright
The Morgan Hotel, Dublin, where the eye-catching feature of a free-standing, old-fashioned deep bath is located within select bedrooms. themorgan.ie
Famous bathers: Julia Roberts, Jeremy Irons
Lisnavagh House, Co Carlow, features a copper bath adorned with ceramic knobs, dating back to 1847, when the house was first built. "The structure is more like a piece of furniture," says heir to the house Ben Rathdonnell. "Beautifully boxed in mahogany, while the top has a large, flat board: holding an abundance of brushes, cloths, soaps, oils and, if you are lucky, a large glass of whiskey." For yoga and sleep retreats see lisnavagh.com
Famous bathers: Sasha Sykes, Donal Skehan