To describe The Newt as merely a hotel would be to miss the point of the place entirely. Hotels offer you a bed and somewhere to eat breakfast and The Newt does those things, of course, and does them very well, but really this place is something else entirely: it’s a playground for adults, a multi-sensory experience that’s like nothing else on offer in England at the moment. First up are the gardens, which range from the abundant order of the kitchen allotment to magnificently rewilded woodland. Karen Roos and her team took over the site in 2013 and they inherited an already great garden designed by Penelope Hobhouse, but they’ve taken it and run with it, enriching the orchards, importing hedges from Belgium to create something incredibly special that’s only going to get better and better.
When you visit, make sure to go on a tour with Arthur the gardener – a fascinating and educational experience. After that, grab one of the ice-creams made that morning and head to the Roman villa where the staff are in period costume and there are outdoor fires that heat the Roman baths. Stop at the spa and try the salt steam room, which clears the head and sets you up nicely for a visit to The Newt’s celebrated cider distillery for a sample of its wares: the ice cider is a gorgeous digestif and its perry is as good as champagne. Eat in the farmyard, where the chef takes great pride in doing incredible things with the hotel’s homegrown vegetables – I had a wood-roasted turbot with beetroot, which will live long in the memory.
For all this, though, the real draw of the place is its atmosphere – the handsome eclectic English interiors, all rich colours and gilt-framed oil paintings, the backdrop of Somerset’s beautiful rolling hills, the feeling of being at a brilliantly run place that’s really putting something back into the land.
The Newt, A359, Hadspen, Bruton BA7 7NG; thenewtinsomerset.com
By Oliver Spencer, founder, Secret Trips. Oli’s day job is fashion designer, where he presides over two brands – Oliver Spencer and Favourbrook