A Pocket Guide to Frome, Somerset

As perfect for a pit-stop on a village-hopping road trip as it is a rural weekend away from London or Bath, this progressive Somerset market town is a must-visit for creatives in need of a country-meets-culture fix. We’ve found Frome’s best independent shops, restaurants and places to stay, including an off-grid cabin and some of the UK’s most louche country piles.

It would be wrong to say "there's no place like Frome", because in fact "Frome" rhymes with room, not Rome - but the sentiment's there.

Set on the eastern cusp of the Mendips, a half-hour drive south from Bath or just over two from London, this Somerset market town has a long history of nonconformism and community, which today manifests in features such as communal fridges, share shops and co-working spaces. Frome is the kind of place that welcomes you with a smile and a good cuppa - or perhaps a craft coffee. Indeed, in 2018 the town slashed its emergency hospital admissions when its indie council supported an anti-loneliness scheme and, when Brexit got the go-ahead, locals threw a party for the town's immigrant population.

Sure, some have branded Frome as "wokeville", but the town's progressive persuasion is one that sits well on its cobbled streets lined with independent shops, vintage emporiums, small galleries and performance venues. It's a destination as good for a pit-stop on a village-hopping road trip across Somerset as it is a weekend break or simply a Sunday day trip to explore The Frome Independent market.

We've worn out our legs on Catherine Hill and beyond to find the quirky landmarks and creative enclaves that make Frome, Frome - stopping at the bakery where locals pick up their sustainable sourdough and the wine bar where a fizzing glass of Dorset crémant pairs well with a West Country cheeseboard. And when night falls? Choose between under-radar cabins, Georgian B&Bs and some of the UK's best country piles.

hotel

The Talbot Inn

Frome, United Kingdom

With floral displays to rival the Chelsea Flower Show and locals selling homemade jams and pickled chutneys on every corner, it doesn’t get more quintessential than Mells. The Talbot Inn – a renovated coach house – sits right at the centre of this pastoral setting. Bedrooms are refined and calming; think four-poster beds, tweed accents and a roll-top bath. Food is hearty and long communal tables in the Coach House Grill are a gateway to local chatter. Earwig over classic Brit gastropub fare; it’s a toss up between the fennel cured Brixham hake and the Cornish pollock for dinner.

Address

Selwood Street Mells Somerset BA11 3PN

hotel

42 Acres

Hailed as the UK’s first comprehensive emotional detox, the focus at 42 Acres is on emotional healing and creative flow. Put into practice, this means yoga, painting in nature or cooking with foraged ingredients. Addressing and assisting in ironing out your tensions and anxieties , we’re justifying this splurge as a life investment. Leave with an emotional toolkit to guide you through the rest of your year (and a lasting pep in your step).

Address

Witham Friary Frome BA11 5HL

hotel

Babington House

Set among 18 acres of pristine parkland, this Grade II-listed Georgian manor is the benchmark for country-house hotels and a celeb favourite – Pearl Lowe, Eddie Redmayne and James Corden are but a few of the big names that have tied the knot in its bijou chapel. No matter if you’re not in town for nuptials, however. On arrival, book a mud-soak at The Cowshed Spa before settling in a split-level Walled Garden Room (we were sold on the double-soaking bathtub). Avail of the main house’s library and cinema screenings, spot the Orangery’s chefs sourcing ingredients from the walled kitchen garden, work up a sweat in the gym if you really must or simply sprawl on the candy-striped lounger by the outdoor pool.

Address

Somerset BA11 3RW

hotel

Swallow Barn

With just two rooms, this boutique B&B envelops guests in that kind of cosy-country vibe that remedies city living without feeling chintzy or twee. Expect a hushed palette, invitingly deep armchairs and an en suite stocked with Cowshed products. Pro tip: when the breakfast hamper is delivered to your room, throw open the French doors and enjoy coffee and croissants on your private patio, backed by morning mists rolling across the wildflower-strewn meadows. Should you fancy a ramble, the Macmillan Way trail can be picked up from the back garden.

Address

The Cross BA11 2QS

hotel

The Lodge at The Old Mill

Those in need of a hit of off-grid R&R would be wise to make the 20-minute drive from Frome to the sleepy village of Norton Saint Philip and make base at The Lodge, a rustic-luxe take on the traditional woodland cabin. By day spot squirrels and woodpeckers from the balcony; come evening make dinner in the modern kitchen before congregating around the outdoor firepit. Later float into slumber – quite literally; the double bed is suspended from the ceiling – enveloped by the privacy of lantern-lit trees and shrubland. Travelling with a larger group? Rent out the nearby sister property Old Mill Treehouse too.

Address

Wellow Lane Norton Saint Philip BA2 7NB

hotel

Pearl’s Place

Travelling with friends and family? This 19th-century self-catering manor promises a bon-vivant getaway for up to 14 adults, four children and two well-mannered dogs. Drive to the end of a winding, tree-lined drive to enter an down-the-rabbit-hole wonderland where faded country-house style chimes to a rock ‘n’ roll beat. An artful riot of pattern, lace and vintage finds set the scene for antique chandeliers, canopied beds, claw-foot bathtubs and floor-to-ceiling windows that frame forest glades. Golden evenings are best spent in the garden, breathing in technicolour flower beds as you flit between the gypsy caravan and wood-fired hot tub.

hotel

The Georgian Retreat

Dotted with plants and olde-worlde ephemera, this boutique apartment strikes the balance between the feel of a Georgian country hotel and the freedom of your own private hotlhole. Less than 10 minutes’ walk from central Frome, its maroon claw-foot tub bathed in light from a bay window offers just the kind of respite our calves need after days stomping on the cobbles of Catherine Hill.

Address

Vallis Road BA11 3EF