Bristol (www.bristolairport.co.uk) and Exeter airports (www.exeter-airport.co.uk) are both an hour’s drive away, with arrivals from a wide range of destinations in Europe and North Africa, but only Bristol services a limited number of transatlantic destinations (Orlando and Cancun). Cardiff Airport (www.cardiff-airport.com) is just under a two-hour drive away, but caters to a wide range of destinations across the Atlantic and Pacific.
Castle Cary train station is the closest to the hotel (a half-hour drive away). From London Paddington, Bristol Temple Meads and Plymouth the station is a direct two-hour trip on First Great Western (www.firstgreatwestern.co.uk) or if travelling from Cardiff, change at Westbury station. Taunton station is a 40-minute drive from the hotel for trains to Reading and Exeter St Davids.
Farm-flanked roads make Somerset a stunning county to drive through and with train stations far flung from the hotel, you’ll be thankful for a set of wheels. The hotel is three miles from the A303 at Podimore, 20 miles from Junction 23 of the M5 (via the A39) and Junction 25 (via the A358). Bristol and Exeter airports both have a range of car-hire services. The drive from London takes around three hours.
If you’re the energetic type, the country lanes and fairly quiet roads make this an eminently cycle-friendly county.
Worth getting out of bed for
Somerton village may look like a Lilliput Lane ceramic come to life, but in the vast open-air playing field that is Somerset county, there’s a lot going on, especially for sporting types. Miles of mind-bogglingly beautiful scenery offers top-notch rambling opportunites and flatlands, forests and shallow canals (or rhynes) provide various levels of natural assault course for mountain bikers – visit 1 South West for cycling maps, lists of essentials and top tips (www.1sw.org.uk/experience). Viaduct fishery (+44 (0)1458 274022) is just a 20-minute walk from the hotel. Even if you’re a rod and tackle novice, the tree-flanked Cary Viaduct makes a stunning spot to get acquainted with the sport. For keen anglers, there are six ponds stocked with your future dinner – expect to see bream, perch, tench, rudd, roach and perhaps an eel on the end of your hook. If you prefer something a bit more active, head to Burcott Riding Centre (+44 (0)1749 673145), a horsey haven – just a half-hour drive from the hotel where beginners and amateurs can learn to access their inner equestrian. Being a county with ample wide-open green space, golf is big in Somerset. Long Sutton Golf Club (+44 (0)1458 241017) is a pretty and professional set of courses, just a 10-minute drive from the hotel, where golfers can have caddies cart their clubs around 118 acres of lush golfing greens; or take a few swings from the 12-bay driving range. Tutors are on hand to help the uninitiated and after all that exercise you can kick back in the warm and welcoming clubhouse. If you’ve ever fancied yourself as a member of the landed gentry, don some Hunter wellies, pull on a Barbour jacket (and flat cap of course) and aim your rifle at some clay pigeons, at Kingweston Sporting Estates (+44 (0)7706 441520). It’s less brutal than participating in the live-game season and a good way to get the adrenaline pumping, and novices are welcome. Somerset is a historic region, with plenty of Saxon and Roman remains; Glastonbury Abbey (+44 (0)1458 831631) came a little later, being built in the 14th century, but it was once the richest and most powerful religious centre in the UK. It’s also rumoured to be the resting place of the legendary King Arthur and his queen Guinevere – so it’s worth a visit for a unique look into Britain’s ancient and myth-riddled past (a half-hour drive from the hotel). Crumbling ruins not exciting enough for you? Well, you can also get high in a hot-air balloon with Aerosaurus (+44 (0)1458 831631). Somerset has notable bucolic beauty at ground level but up in the air – with the fields laid out like a patchwork quilt and the picturesque villages reduced to dollhouse size – it’s equally, if not more, spectacular.
The White Hart’s sister pub, the Swan Wedmore (+44 (0)20 7553 9210), is a half-hour drive away in Wedmore and although its menu is similar to the White Hart’s, it’s varied enough to be worth the journey. With home-made cakes and breads, home-cured meats and freshly delivered fish, you wouldn’t want to miss its gastronomic delights anyway. At the Chapel (+44 (0)1749 814070), which is unsurprisingly housed in a chapel, is truly divine. You could quite easily spend all day here, eating their baked goodies for breakfast (there are even adorable lobster-shaped rolls), sup a locally sourced fish soup for lunch, indulge in something creamy and calorific for afternoon tea then tackle a pizza from their brick oven for dinner – a day well spent. For more fanciful feasting, pay a visit to Babington House (+44 (0)1373 812266), a grand Grade II listed Georgian House offering very fine dining in a light-filled hall overlooking flowering gardens. Under chandeliers at impeccably dressed tables you can feast on generous local fare with slight haute leanings.
The Potting Shed café (+44 (0)1458 252885) feels like a micro village fete with rows of gingham-topped jam jars, slabs of home-made cake and local art scattered in a slapdash fashion on the walls. Their menu has fry-ups, soups, paninis, Welsh (and fried-egg-topped buck) rarebit and flavourful local ice cream from Pitney and Minehead. Oh, and don’t miss the afternoon tea, the cream flows thickly in these parts.
The Market Bar & Bistro (+44 (0)1458 272468) may not be dissimilar from the White Hart, in fact it’s just across the road, but if it ain’t broke don’t fix it and this pub is as cosy, warm and welcoming as they come, with squishy sofas, outdoor tables for warm days and a tasty small plates menu with coconut prawns and prosciutto melts to accompany your pint.