A country retreat for creative Londoners

Welcome to T Wanderlust, a new travel newsletter from the editors of T Magazine. Twice a month, we’ll recommend global destinations and...


Welcome to T Wanderlust, a new travel newsletter from the editors of T Magazine. Twice a month, we’ll recommend global destinations and hotels for you to visit. register here to find us in your mailbox every other Fridayas well as our T List newsletter every Wednesday. And you can always reach us at tlist@nytimes.com.


DRIVE THREE HOURS southwest from London and you’ll find yourself among the Somerset hills, their smooth expanses interrupted by hedgerows and grazing sheep. Perhaps the former home of King Arthur’s court, the English county is a centuries-old agricultural center renowned for its cheddar cheese and cider apples. It’s also long been a destination for those looking for respite – or a party. In AD 76, the Romans flocked to the spa complex they had built around the natural hot springs of Bath. Georgian English aristocrats followed suit, staying in the curved row of 18th-century stone townhouses known as the Royal Crescent for the social season in Bath. More recently, Somerset’s Glastonbury Festival has drawn crowds – Billie Eilish, Kendrick Lamar and Paul McCartney were this year’s headliners – but the area has mostly remained a sleepy haven. John Steinbeck called the six months he spent writing “The Deeds of King Arthur and His Noble Knights”. (1976) in the medieval market town of Bruton, Somerset, among the happiest of his life.

It’s a sentiment that seems to be shared by the latest wave of visitors to the area, which includes artists, directors and fashion designers from London who come for weekends or long holidays, alongside an influx new full-time residents, who, able to work more flexibly since the start of the pandemic, have swapped the city for the countryside. “I can’t get enough of green – it’s chromotherapy,” says jewelry designer Solange Azagury-Partridge, 60, who has an 1860s stone house and a garden full of wildflowers, including daisies, poppies and buttercups just outside. Bruton. “It’s as if the landscape has been bathed in pixie dust.”

This lichen-speckled mansion, now a hotel, was the seat of the Hobhouse family for 200 years. Their oil portraits still hang on the sage green and steel blue walls of the library, lounge and bar, which the current owners – Koos Bekker and Karen Roos of Hotel Babylonstoren outside Cape Town, Africa from the South – have been updated with contemporary sofas by Moroso and Ames. The 40 rooms each honor several eras: No. 2, for example, has a mahogany four-poster bed, a freestanding Agape bathtub by Patricia Urquiola and a view of the croquet lawn, while the rooms of the year-old Farmyard complex, a short golf cart ride from the mansion, are more rustic (though it does have its own pool and bar). Meals are prepared with produce and meat sourced from the 1,000-acre estate, and breakfast can include Eggs Benedict with wafer-thin slices of ham, while dinner can be grilled game with Jerusalem artichoke and poached quince. Guests have after-hours access to public grounds, where they’ll find 267 varieties of apples and a glass-walled cafe serving cider, as well as sights like Villa Ventorum, unveiled last June, a reconstruction of a 1,600-year-old Roman villa whose remains have been found on the estate. thenewtinsomerset.com.

The hotel, which like the Newt opened in 2019, comprises a five-bedroom townhouse on the main street of Bruton, as well as outbuildings which date back to the 15th century and now house seven additional bedrooms. Cozy interiors by London design firm Frank & Faber feature eccentric chandeliers and mosaic mirrors made with porcelain fragments by local artist Candace Bahouth, floral wallpapers by Morris & Co. and striped curtains by Pierre Frey. The hotel lounge is decorated with 1960s fashion photographs by the likes of Terence Donovan which Claudia Waddams, owner of the hotel with her husband, Aled Rees, obtained from her fashion editor mother, Brigid Keenan, and the large 18th century iron balustrade A staircase from the last century was made in the old blacksmith’s forge at the back. numberonebruton.com.

Merlin Labron-Johnson was 24 and was running the kitchen at Portland restaurant in London when he won his Michelin star in 2015. He returned to his West Country roots three years ago to open Osip, which is on the ground floor ground floor of Number One Bruton but worth a reservation even if you are not staying the night. The dining room has white wall tiles, green leather banquettes and dried flowers hanging from hooks, and the menu emphasizes all things local, including wild garlic and elderflower , which is foraged nearby. Offers change frequently. You could start with a Kingston Black aperitif made with Burrow Hill Cider and gardenherb broth with wild garlic oil, before choosing between intriguing combinations such as gnudi with nettle sauce and smoked whey or oca root with raw trout, bone jelly and smoked cream. For a less formal meal, try the dishes – including trout carpaccio and zucchini with preserved lemon and nasturtium – at the Old Pharmacy, Osip’s sister wine bar, bistro and grocery store, located next door . osiprestaurant.com.

The Platonic ideal of an English country pub, this Georgian-style inn in Corton Denham was given a facelift last year and is within striking distance of Cadbury Castle – the hilltop Bronze Age fortress and iron which, as far as some Somersetians were concerned, was the site of King Arthur’s Camelot. (Cornish and Welsh dispute this.) Either way, the grassy ramparts around the fort, which offer views across the Somerset Levels to Glastonbury Tor, make for a great hike. Afterwards, enjoy a West Country beer or cider on tap — perhaps Corton Denham’s own Lawrence’s Cider or Oak Barrel Wild Beer — on the sun terrace. The hostel’s 10 rooms for rent have patterned curtains and headboards from British textile designers, including Jane Churchill and Christopher Farr, and toiletries from British botanical brand 100 Acres. For a summertime meal of seasonal dishes, seek out local market fish and Somerset strawberries with elderflower ice cream and meringue. thequeensarms.com.


The Somerset outpost of the world gallery raised eyebrows when it arrived tracked by collectors and tourists in 2014. But locals have warmed to this art venue set in a series of restored farm buildings , whose exhibitions have featured the work of Bharti Kher, Louise Bourgeois, Martin Creed and others. Right now, until early September, there’s an exhibition of abstract sculptures made over six decades by early 20th-century English artist Henry Moore. As well as the main galleries, you can visit two bookshops selling art tomes, sheepskins and seed packets – the latter inspired by the gardens designed by Piet Oudolf, an enchantment of color and texture whatever the season. . A 10-minute walk from the converted farmhouse is Make, Hauser & Wirth’s new Bruton showroom dedicated to the art of local artisans. hauserwirth.com.

An Elizabethan Revival riot of Dutch gables, mullioned windows and obelisks sitting in 260 acres of parkland, Montacute House was built in gilded Hamstone by lawyer-turned-politician Sir Edward Phelips, who was involved in the lawsuit of Guy Fawkes and his fellow gunpowder plotters. It is now run by the National Trust, which allows visitors to tour the wood-panelled library, with its heraldic stained glass windows and geometric strip ceiling, as well as the longest gallery in England, a space over 170 feet long where the Elizabethans would exercise and play games and whose side rooms are adorned with portraits from the courts of Henry VIII, Elizabeth I and James I. nationaltrust.org.uk/montacute-house.


BUY THIS

What to bring home as suggested by locals we love

“Rag of Colts creates beautiful handbags and accessories from repurposed saddle leather that get better with age and will last a lifetime,” says Co-Owner of the Year Rosanna Wilson Stephens. Wilson Gallery Stephens & Jones on Bruton High Street. “You can choose a ready-made item or have something ordered. Each piece is sewn by hand, and I love the depth of color and the patina of the materials. The designer’s new Bruton store is open most days of the week, from morning to mid-afternoon, as well as by appointment. Of about $470, ragofcolts.com.

“We love local artist Richard Pomeroy’s range of handmade porcelain so much that we have found many uses for them in our restaurant, club room and on our patio,” says Catherine Butler, restaurant owner and house and breakfast Bruton. At the Chapel. “Our favorites are the coffee and tea mugs in tangerine, the tealight tumblers in cobalt blue and primrose yellow and the planters in moss green. Surprisingly, although they are porcelain, they are dishwasher safe. Starting around $50, richardpomeroyporcelain.com.

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