The launch of the country cousin of media hangout Soho House (on Greek Street in London’s Soho) in the late Nineties kick-started the march of metropolitan cool into the countryside. At this impressive Georgian manor in rolling Somerset surroundings, hip staff greet you at the door, not a uniform in sight. The truly relaxing do-what-you-want atmosphere is Babington House's real feat; others can imitate, but it's the service that makes the difference.
Please note, if you are not a Soho House member, you have the option to add a 12-month Soho Friends membership to your booking for £100. Public rates are also available.
33 rooms, including 12 in the Coach House, 11 in the Main House, three in the Spa, five Family Rooms in the Stable Block, the two-bedroom Cabin and the Lodge, a three-bedroom cottage at the top of the drive.
12 noon. Earliest check-in, 4pm.
Double rooms from £295.00, including tax at 20 per cent.
Rates are room-only.
At the hotel
Gardens, gym, library, 45-seat cinema, croquet lawn, tennis and padel courts, cricket pitch, free WiFi throughout. In rooms: TV, radio, minibar, bathrobes, slippers, Cowshed bath products, hair straighteners, free water at turndown.
Our favourite rooms
We loved Babington House’s seductive Room 5, with a freestanding bath by the bed; Room 6, with its tub on a private terrace; and Room 12 for its big bathroom with views to the lake.
Babington’s two heated swimming pools are open between 7am and 10pm. The outdoor infinity pool, overlooking the lake, is lined with cushioned, wooden loungers.
The Soho Health Club has the brand’s signature Cowshed spa attached, with a sauna to enjoy before or after your treatment.
Don't forget your swimsuit (though there's a shop if you do), goggles, and suitable attire to walk from bedroom to spa.
There’s a minimum two-night stay on Friday and Saturday nights. Family rooms and the Lodge are normally booked up a year in advance. Weddings are held most Thursdays.
Very welcome in the Stable Block and Lodge rooms. There’s a free crèche for kids aged one and up, and there are designated children’s hours at the pool during the week. Babysitting can be arranged, and there’s a menu for wee ones.
Very welcome: the Teeny House is a crèche and babysitting can be arranged.
All ages are welcome, with babies aged 12 months and up able to enrol at Teeny House.
Split-level Stable Block rooms are family sized, with terraces, bunk rooms with two children's beds. The Lodge is a separate cottage, ideal for families with children.
The Teeny House crèche will look after children aged one and up (free for residents: 10am–5pm Mondays to Saturdays; till 4pm on Sundays), providing games, entertainment and activities. They must be signed in, and parents must remain on the hotel premises.
Outside, there are extensive grounds, tennis and padel courts, a cricket pitch and football nets. There are lots of lovely walks and bridle paths in the area; borrow a bicycle and go exploring. Inside, there's a private 45-seat cinema that screens all sorts of films, including children-friendly ones.
Children's swimming hours are 9.30–11.30am and 3.30–6pm.
Children's menus are available.
Babysitting can be arranged.
No need to pack
Stable Block rooms are provided with many child-friendly extras, including sterilisers, changing mats and baby baths.
The Lodge cottage has PS3s, with games available to borrow from reception.
It’s reassuring to know that Soho House are working to deliver an environmental impact strategy across their sites. With 2030 goals set to enhance and standardise recycling programmes and responsible food-waste management at every outpost of the member’s club globally. They also work with local suppliers selected for their like-minded responsibility. In the kitchen, there’s scrutiny around how Soho House sources coffee, cocoa and palm oil, as well as sustainable seafood and responsibly reared meat. Expect greater choice of meat-free dishes and seasonal ingredients whenever practical. Measures to assess Soho House’s carbon footprint and reduce emissions are ongoing.
By day, sit at the edge of the Orangery overlooking the lawn; at night, ask for a restaurant view.
Barefoot or ballgown.
There are various dining areas: the airy and elegant Orangery, the adjoining made-for-banquets Log Room, the casual Deli Bar and a terrace. All serve a self-assured menu of tasty brasserie fare: at the Orangery, indulge in mains such as organic salmon with samphire, lentils and sorrel sauce, or sate carnivorous urges with a selection of grills, including steak, pork chops and cuts of lamb. Sandwiches, pizzas, Babington burgers and house fish ’n’ chips typify the Deli Bar menu.
On the ground floor, the House Bar is a curvaceous, high-ceilinged, French-windowed picture of country elegance, where guests hunker down on turtle-green Chesterfields and velvety lilac armchairs.
The restaurant closes when the last guest leaves. The bar is open till late.
When only grazing on the sofa will do, order from a menu of sandwiches, salads, pizzas and comfort-food mains such as fish and chips any time between 7am and 11pm.
Babington House crowns the leafy roll of rural north-east Somerset, between Bath and Frome
Bristol International is the nearest airport, around 50 minutes by car from the hotel.
The nearest railway station is Bath Spa, a 30-minute drive from Babington House. Bath Spa is served by direct trains from London Paddington (80-minute journey; www.gwr.com); for services from the north, change at Bristol Temple Meads.
Reach the hotel by car using the M3 and A303 from the east; head west through Frome, following the road to Mells; finally, take a T-junction turning towards Kilmersdon. From Bristol, take the A37 to Radstock, then the A362, before turning onto the B3139 signposted to Wells. The hotel is around two hours from Birmingham, three hours from London. There’s valet parking when you arrive.
Babington House has a helipad; to arrive by helicopter, inform reception ahead of arrival.
Worth getting out of bed for
Hop on a bike (the hotel has several stately cycles to borrow) and set off for the rolling Somerset countryside. Rural pursuits, such as horse riding and clay shooting can be arranged. Longleat stately home, butterfly house and safari park is a 20-minute drive.
A six-minute drive from the hotel lies The Talbot Inn – part of Smith's collection – which serves classic British fare such as day-boat landed fish with chips, well-aged steaks and comfort puddings. The Garden Café in Frome is a lovely spot for Sunday breakfast (especially alfresco, in summer), specialising in natural, organic food. Its cakes are rib-stickingly good. Plump for Cornish mussels, a Somerset ploughman’s, or pitch up on a Sunday afternoon for a classic roast. You'd be mad to miss the excellent hyper-local fare of Smith stay The Pig near Bath, where veggies are whisked from garden to kitchen, and – true to its name – the pork joints and crackling are the stuff foodie dreams are made of.
For Valentine’s Day, Mr Smith and I decided to escape to Somerset for a stay at the legendary Babington House. Only 30 minutes’ drive from Bath, Soho House’s longest-standing rural property is a historic, honey-coloured Georgian manor set within 18 acres of unspoilt English countryside. After winding down a long, tree-lined drive, and passing by the picturesque estate chapel and tennis courts, we headed straight into the lobby for check-in.
Upstairs to our bedroom: we were staying in one of the larger Main House suites, which was awash in pale pinks and pastel shades, offset by sleek, dark wooden furniture. The super-king-size bed was large enough to sleep a small family, and there was even a generous, freestanding bath tub plonked in front of the fireplace. Bedrooms across the estate range from smaller Attic rooms in the listed manor that are still spacious enough for couples to sprawl out, to two-storey pads in the adjoining Coach House, and even a two-bedroom cabin down by the lake. Expect elegant furnishings in all of the bedrooms regardless of size, including beds piled high with goose-down pillows and plush velvet sofas that invite you to kick back and curl up. You’ll find all of your usual Soho House luxuries: a generous selection of Cowshed bath products (almost too many to choose from), homemade cookies waiting in the minibar which are topped up every day, and ridiculously fluffy bathrobes.
We were feeling peckish, so headed downstairs and soon discovered what would turn out to be our favourite feature of the hotel: Babington’s daily afternoon tea ritual, served at 3pm, and free for all hotel guests. You’ll find a table in the deli piled high with a colourful array of scones, biscuits and daily changing cakes, which we indulged in with abandon. Naturally, this daily offering draws a flock of guests from around the hotel, so we queued up to pile our plates high and headed into the light-filled Orangery, where one of the waiters whizzed over with coffee and tea. The Orangery houses the hotel’s main restaurant: it’s a relaxed hub of activity where guests are encouraged to stay for hours, as lunch service turns into dinner and so on… It has doors opening onto the garden and there’s a laidback atmosphere here despite the slightly more formal menu. Beautifully plated salads and vegetable dishes sit alongside hearty steaks and my personal favourite: rotisserie chicken for two served with chips and gravy.
If you’re in search of lighter bites, you’ll find expert cocktails and a more casual menu next to the deli at the crescent-shaped bar – order a signature Soho House Picante and Dirty Burger and kick back on the plush pink sofas with a game of cards. In the summer months, tables spill onto the lawn, where there’s a barbecue buffet served all day and striped day-beds are placed out for guests to loll on. When the house is busy (you have day members popping in every day, after all), there are several other cosy rooms to hide away in: adjoining the lobby are the wood-panelled Library, where freelancers type away on computers, and the Games Room, where you can curl up on one of the squishy, patterned sofas in front of the fire. Another room called the Snug is tucked away at the back of the house; we spent an afternoon curled up here undisturbed with a good book.
Of course, Babington is best known for its impressive Cowshed Spa, so we factored in a pilgrimage there during our stay – inside the leafy walled gardens and far enough from the main house to feel supremely serene. Inside, there are chic manicure booths, private hot tubs to soak in, and treatment rooms for facials and massages – there were so many different treatments to choose from, but we opted for a couple’s massage, where we were buffed and pampered to perfection, and left feeling incredibly restored.
When we felt a little more active, we made use of the other facilities on-site, including the tennis courts and the impressive indoor and outdoor pools, which of course have an adjoining bar to ensure those Picantes keep flowing. There’s also a gym, which I personally avoided (cake was my priority instead). The cinema, which has daily screenings of new releases, is definitely worth visiting during your stay.
All in all, we had to wrench ourselves away from Babington at the end of our stay – we delayed our inevitable departure as long as possible with a lie-in and lazy brunch in the Orangery before the train ride home. This is the kind of place where you go to relax and do nothing – and by nothing, I mean indulge in good food (of which there is no shortage), enjoy the fresh countryside air and perhaps have a spa treatment while you’re at it. This is laidback luxury at its very best.