The Newt in England’s Somerset Countryside Is in a League of Its Own

The Newt is a rarity in England. It’s funky, fresh, and thanks to its prime spot slap bang in the middle of the rural Somerset countryside, is truly in a world of its own. Six years in the making it opened to simple cries of “meh.” Why? Another rarity. South African owners Koos Bekker and Karen Roos are not the kind of folk who like to scream, shout and boast about their farm baby, and instead, chose to let it do the talking rather than brag about it to all the neighbors. The gamble, though it took time, paid off. Since the hotel opened back in the summer of 2019, its achieved cult status for those really in the know. Regulars from the across UK, devotees of Babylonstoren (the hotel’s sister South-African property) and that beauteous little thing called word-of-mouth have ensured rooms are near always impossible to snag. There’s good reason, too. 

Hadspen House, the main Palladian-fronted limestone mansion that dates back from 1687 is straight out of a Jane Austen period melodrama. It was once home to the Hobhouse family, a storied lot of English politicians, conservationists, and wild farmers. All that remains of their legacy are walls draped with their portraits and the epically large working farm estate that now plays host to a series of stunning ornamental gardens, apple orchards (no less than 267 varieties in fact), sculptures and pergolas. 

The interiors are just as striking. Co-owner, Roos is responsible, and as the former editor of Elle Decoration South Africa she knows a thing or two about style factor. Her take on an English country house hotel is total colour pop meets simplicity. It’s all a bit paradoxical: loud print next to muted walls, slick curves against no curtains and natural rough-hewn shades given life by slouchy furniture and lights, many the work of South African designers. The same goes for the nearby Farmyard, the more contemporary outpost complete with swish pools, Scandi-style suites and Insta-genic restaurants. The fundamental point? Roos makes it clear that this is the English country house hotel 2.0, without all the boring granny doilies and pointless clutter. 

Rooms and suites are the ethos of the three c’s: chic, cosy and chill. The 23 rooms at Hadspen House are split between the main house (where period features like four-poster beds reign supreme) and the Stable Yard. Think neutral pallets with rustic touches, snug sofas, roomy beds, and huge tin tubs. The Farmyard, a short buggy ride away from the main house, is neither new or old, and instead gets it designer cues from the surrounding farmland and the hygge lifestyle of the Nordic nations: lots of slate and lofty windows designed to make the most of natural light.  

There’s way more to The Newt than swish interiors, however. The staggering number of staff, a small army of over 500 in fact, makes the experience of staying here even more memorable. Thick Somerset accents and yodels of hellos might seem alien at first, but everyone is so passionate and enthused about the place that the “happy energy” soon rubs off on your mood. With so much to do on the estate, it’s worth noting that you will never get bored here. There’s the Romano-British Villa Ventorum, complete with original foundations, visitor centre and reconstructed villa with working bathhouse’ the deer park; sexy spa with all natural products; lessons in beekeeping at the Beezantium; the Story of Gardening Museum; and of course, the estate’s famed cyder press where you can learn all about the art of cyder making. 

As for the food, it’s exceptional. The Newt was doing sustainable before it became a well over-used buzzword in the hotel industry. It’s engrained into practically everything they do, especially in the food and beverage departments. There are three top-notch restaurants: the Botanical Rooms in the main hotel; the glass-walled Garden Café set atop the Perabola; and the guests-only open-plan kitchen in The Farmyard. The standout of the bunch is the Botanical Rooms, the headlining joint that preaches farm-to-table produce that’s chemical and GM-nasty free. All the herbs and veggies are grown on the estate in the kitchen gardens and greenhouses, along with fine-cut meats cured and aged at The Newt’s impeccably stylish new Butchery kitted out with Himalayan salt stones. Think mouth-watering cuts of beef, loins and a medley of British seasonal classics given a new lease of life under the sceptre of Head Chef Matt Heeley. Breakfast? Go all out traditional with a fry up, and do not miss the croissants. They are exceptional, and probably the best you will have outside of France. 

Summed up, The Newt is everything and more. It gives the concept of the English Country House hotel a run for its money. With a fine community spirit, sustainable working ethos, and smiles that enthuse all day long, a stay here is not only good for the planet, it’s equally good for the soul. 

Top Takeaways

Location: Bruton, Somerset

Rating: Five-star

The vibe: A jazzy and eclectic fresh take on the traditional English country house hotel that marries South African design with period eccentricity. 

Food + Drink: Classic British with a contemporary farm fresh and eco spin. 

Amenities: indoor and outdoor pools. Gym, spa, coffee house, gelato house, bakery, farm shop, restaurant and bar. 

Our favourite thing about the hotel: The staff. They are exceptional, and no matter who you are, will do everything in their power to make sure you get what you pay for. 

Nearby attractions: The charming village of Bruton, and Glastonbury, home of the world-famous music festival. 

Rooms: 42 (and growing)

Closest Airport: London Heathrow. Daily trains depart from London Paddington to Castle Cary Station where you will be picked up via private transfer.

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