Set amid more than 300 hectares of particularly pretty Somerset countryside, The Newt is a working estate with productive gardens, farmland and orchards.
Opened in 2019, it's the second property from the married duo behind South Africa's sprawling Babylonstoren estate. Karen Roos and Koos Bekker have transplanted their African success to England, creating a magical, immersive Somerset countryside experience (with a money-no-object ethos) in one of the UK's most picturesque counties. This is less a hotel, more a fantasy playground of honey-hued farm buildings and pastoral landscapes. Picture a Jane Austen protagonist's country pile, if Mr Darcy had a penchant for fine cyder, and enjoyed treatments in a rasul mud chamber.
The beautiful estate is centred around Hadspen House, a 17th-century, Palladian-fronted beauty that has undergone several renovations and extensions over the years, with various owners adding their own touches to the house and grounds. The gardens - complete with an orchard maze that's home to 300 apple varieties, and a kitchen garden supplying veg and herbs to the estate's restaurants - are a standout feature.
Laid-back, exclusive and charming. Interiors are the perfect juxtaposition of old and new, with traditional period features and an English country house-style ambience offset by contemporary furnishings such as velvet, mid-century-inspired love seats and, in some rooms, personal steam pods.
The impressive main building, Hadspen House, hides 13 individually designed suites behind honey-hued walls. In the Stable Yard, a converted Georgian stable block, you'll find 10 bedrooms. Just beyond the apple orchards, a hop, skip and buggy-ride away from the main house, lies the Farmyard, where we stayed. A repurposed dairy farm, it houses a further 17 rooms. We loved our made-for-sharing bathtub, which offered far-ranging views over the Somerset hills, while the huge, wet-room-style waterfall shower in the middle of the room felt utterly indulgent.
The waterproof ponchos and wellies lined up just outside our room were a welcome (and necessary) addition to a Somerset stay, as was the selection of classic children's books - including The Very Hungry Caterpillar and Goodnight Moon - which were left in our room for our 18-month-old son.
What's for breakfast?
There's an à la carte offering of fresh pastries and fruit, artisan breads and homemade preserves at both The Botanical Rooms and the Farmyard Kitchen. For a heartier option, the cooked breakfast menu includes all the usual classics - including the best bacon we've ever tasted - with an emphasis on fresh, local and seasonal ingredients.
Lunch and dinner
The thing about being surrounded by farmland is that it makes keeping food miles to a minimum extremely easy. At the estate's three restaurants, the focus is firmly on estate-to-plate eating. Head to The Botanical Rooms for a fine-dining experience in a sophisticated setting. Located in the main house, in a slick, wood-panelled dining room with an open kitchen, its menu uses the finest fresh ingredients, sourced from the estate and local suppliers.
The glass-panelled Garden Café overlooking the kitchen gardens has a more relaxed vibe, with a menu that celebrates the changing seasons. The Farmyard Kitchen - located in the old threshing barn - continues the farm-to-table theme, with wood-fired delights and sharing platters cooked up in an open kitchen.
Is there a bar?
The estate's tipple of choice? Home-brewed cyder, made with 100 per cent apple juice, and slow, cold fermented to release all residual sweetness from the apples. Take a seat on a sheepskin-strewn sofa in front of the wood-burning stove at the Garner Bar, in the Farmyard, for complimentary cyders, spirits and wines, whatever the hour. There are also cakes at teatime.
Almost too many to get your head around - or at least, to do so in one weekend. Take a garden tour with one of the estate's green-thumbed experts; enjoy a cyder press experience under the knowledgeable eye of the cellar master; explore the Beezantium - a playful yet purposeful home for wild bee colonies - with bee whisperer Paula; take your time in the farm shop, picking out delicious produce from the estate itself, local suppliers, and from the far-flung shores of South Africa and the estate's sister property, Babylonstoren; learn about the history of gardening via the interactive Story of Gardening exhibition; soak up the history at the Roman Villa experience, an informative museum and reimagined Roman house in the grounds; leave a few hours for the spa, home to a glass-panelled indoor pool, a party-sized hot tub, gym, hammam and rasul mud chamber; and cut down on the time spent getting from A to B by jumping in a golf buggy to pootle here, there and everywhere, spotting geese and grazing livestock en route.
What are the hotel's eco-credentials like?
The estate's gardeners employ a range of organic techniques to promote sustainable agriculture, such as companion planting and natural pest control methods. The estate also has its own water treatment plant, which recycles water from its lakes and streams to irrigate the gardens. Furthermore, the estate's energy needs are met by a combination of solar power, biomass boilers and heat pumps.
Photo credit: Jake Eastham
What about accessibility?
It's not massively accessible. While there are two rooms that are fully adapted for guests with disabilities, and the gardens are accessible to wheelchairs, we found it quite tricky to manoeuvre our son's pram along the uneven pathways around the hotel and gardens.
What's the crowd like?
An eclectic mix: multigenerational families exploring the gardens by day and well-heeled Londoners sipping on fine cyder in the evenings.
Within a short walk I can find…
Some of Somerset's most beautiful towns. Nearby Bruton is home to the internationally renowned Hauser & Wirth gallery, and At The Chapel - a loved-by-locals restaurant with its own artisan bakery. Artsy Frome is also a short drive away.
Things I should know…
Note that, when booking, you may find the website deliberately coy - leaving the individual character of each room as a surprise for guests.