The apples – all 267 varieties of them – never fall far from the tree at The Newt in Somerset, a reimagined retreat on the farmland surrounding Hadspen House. The South Africa meets Scandinavia via Somerset decor artfully mixes old with new, with statement pieces rubbing shoulders (or hooves) with upcycled horseboxes, eye-catching modern lighting and bespoke shades of Farrow & Ball paint. Take a turn in the gardens, which include a maze of 460 apple trees, wander into the woods, taste estate-grown food in the Botanical Rooms restaurant – or just drink the free-flowing just-pressed ‘cyder’ in your mini larder.
Get this when you book through us:
A private deer-park tour in the morning; GoldSmiths also get a handcrafted gift
Double rooms from £335.13, including tax at 5 per cent.
Rates usually include a Continental breakfast, high tea and spa access.
In case you’re wondering what or who the Newt is, yes, there is a resident colony of great crested newts wisely making the most of the grounds and their ponds.
The hotel closes for a fortnight around the end of January.
At the hotel
Wellies to borrow, badminton court, croquet lawn, gardens, gym, car park and free WiFi throughout. In rooms: free mini larder with apple juice and estate cider, Nespresso coffee machine, tea-making kit, free bottled water, TV and custom bath products.
Our favourite rooms
The co-owner Karen Roos was once the editor of South Africa’s Elle Decoration and the interior styling, naturally, fell to her: expect an artful mix of freestanding bath tubs, four-poster beds, bespoke shades of Farrow & Ball, and generally dreamy design that’s sensitive to the original foundations and framework of the Palladian house and its assorted outbuildings. For novelty value, horsey types will love a Stable Room, where you’ll be away in a manger – literally. These heritage horse boxes have hay mangers, a barrel sink, tie rings and a wood-burning stove.
There are three in total: a wild pool in the spa’s ‘wellness garden’ and a hydrotherapy pool that leads to the heated indoor-outdoor infinity pool. Children under 16 are welcome to swim daily between 9am and 10am, and 4pm and 5pm.
The spa has a hand-tiled hammam, rasul chamber, six treatment rooms and a salt room, with mani-pedi stations and a kitchen area serving fresh juices. The Hammam Soap Treatment will make you feel like a baby at bathtime: during this scrub, soapy massage and water ritual, warm water is repeatedly poured over your body. There’s an unusually attractive glass-fronted gym in a separate building across the stable yard, open 24 hours.
This is somewhere for the ‘No such thing as bad weather, only bad clothing’ crew: warm woollens, sensible shoes (wellies at the ready) and waxy jackets will come in handy for traversing the farm, woodlands and gardens.
The pathways in the garden and woods can be uneven and slippery, but much of Hadspen House is accessible for wheelchair users – there are ramps to the first floor and Room 7 in the main building has been adapted.
All ages are welcome, but the hotel (and terrain) are better suited to teenagers. Extra beds and cots can be added, but over-13s are classed as adults. Babysitting is available with a day’s notice for £35 an hour (minimum five hours).
It’s a tough call between the Glass Room conservatory, which covers the original kitchen courtyard, and a banquette amid the original features of the house’s former billiards room in the Oak Room.
This is some grand backdrop – it’d be rude to not make an effort.
The Botanical Rooms, on the ground floor of Hadspen House, takes on the challenge of ensuring that every single plate the kitchen sends out features at least one thing from the estate and its gardens, whether it’s been grown, foraged, distilled, or baked in the bakery. Even the wood the meat is grilled on comes from the grounds. Breakfast is a feast of bread and pastries (baked on the estate, naturally), cured meats and fruit, with a selection of cooked options if you’ve got room. High tea is served in the Drawing Room and Library every afternoon (3pm to 5pm), with a spread of cakes and scones, and tea and coffee served to order.
The teal, corniced bar serves a delicious-sounding list of botanical cocktails – but since the cider is probably still being pressed, go for that (provided you haven’t maxed out on the free stash in your room). The bar opens onto the stepped lawns and croquet terrace, where there are tables if it’s cider weather. Snacks (salted tomatoes, smoked salmon) are served in the bar until 10pm.
Breakfast hours are 7.30am to 10am (10.30am at weekends); lunch is from noon to 2.30pm; and dinner is 6.30pm to 10pm. The bar calls time at midnight.
The Newt is near the Somerset villages of Castle Cary and Bruton in the west of England.
Bristol International Airport is closest; the 30-mile drive should take around an hour. Hotel transfers cost £95 each way (available between 5am and 11pm). From London Heathrow, it’s 100 miles and a two-hour drive; hotel transfers cost £200 each way.
Castle Cary’s station is the nearest; the drive should take 15 minutes. Great Western services call in here from other cities across the UK, including London, Bristol, Reading, Exeter, Taunton and Plymouth. The hotel can fetch you for free with a little notice.
If you want to tour Somerset’s glorious, golden villages, a set of wheels will be useful. The estate will be signposted once you’re on the A359. There’s a car park in the hotel grounds, 200 metres from the main house. The nearest big town is Yeovil, half an hour away by car.
Helipad coordinates are available if you’ve got a chopper in the hanger.
Worth getting out of bed for
The hotel is part of a working farm, so there’s plenty to keep you busy if you want to stay within the estate walls, including turns around the gardens and tours to reveal how the cyder is made. This Roman-approved tipple was also appreciated by 17th-century Somerset locals, who drank it for breakfast and preferred it to champagne (and still also prefer the olde-English spelling). You can spend time (and money) in the farm shop, try out a falconry lesson and watch butchery demonstrations.
Art lovers should visit the local Hauser & Wirth gallery, the Somerset outpost of the renowned collectors, which has sister spaces in London, Zürich, Hong Kong, New York and Los Angeles. There’s a sculpture garden and regularly changing exhibitions. In Bruton, pick up some interiors inspiration at Caro, a seamlessly curated concept store, and stop for lunch or some baked goods from theAt the Chapel restaurant and bakery. If you didn’t think Somerset was somewhere you could scuba-dive, think again: Vobster Quay is an inland diving centre with 36 acres of fresh water, the deepest point of which is 36 metres.
Be king of the sort-of castle with a trip to what’s left of Castle Cary, founded just after the Norman Invasion but sadly not really in existence today – all that’s left are the earthworks, but they do make a lovely green backdrop for a walk.
If you’ve made it to Hauser & Wirth on Durslade Farm, you may as well treat yourself to something to eat: the Roth Bar & Grill is the perfect pitstop if you enjoy farm-fresh (literally) food, such as tomahawk steaks, house-made charcuterie and rainbow-coloured salads, all reared and/or made on-site. If you’re looking for somewhere for supper on Wednesday, Thursday and Friday, and you’re one of those people who still carries cash, head to Matt’s Kitchen, where credit cards may be out, but a single, sublime dish of the day is in. You’ll get a choice between a couple of starters and puddings, but only one main, which changes daily and is based on whatever Matt has foraged for his kitchen that day; past dishes have included lamb shoulder with mint, rosemary and garlic, with saffron potatoes and kale; and prawn and chorizo pappardelle with parmesan and chilli crumbs.
If you went to At the Chapel for the bread, it’d be rude to not stick around for the cocktails: expertly mixed muddles in a former congregational chapel, with a well-stocked wine bar attached. Take me to church, indeed.
Every hotel featured is visited personally by members of our team, given the Smith seal of approval, and then anonymously reviewed. As soon as our reviewers have returned from this luxury hotel in Somerset and unpacked their Barbour jackets and just-pressed cider, a full account of their bucolic break will be with you. In the meantime, to whet your wanderlust, here's a quick peek inside the Newt near Bruton…
The namesake amphibians of this country-house hotel in Somerset occupy the wild swimming ponds (if you’ve ever wanted to front-crawl with a colony of great crested newts, this is the place to do it), but there’s a whole lot more to explore on these endless acres. The working farm, which stands between Castle Cary and Bruton, has a bakery, cider press, walled garden, mushroom house and farm shop, along with an ice-cream parlour and an elaborate maze of 460 apple trees. The cider is bottled on-site and there’s a free supply of it in your room – with alcohol-free apple juice for anyone on the wagon. The rooms are spread across the stables, former barns and granaries where you can take hitting the hay literally, and the Palladian Hadpsen House, which dates back to the late 17th century. A former editor of Elle Decoration is behind the interior design, which is classic country house, but with a dose of whimsy and some serious Scandi cool. The Great British countryside just got greater.