The SL Guide To… Somerset

With rolling hills, quirky towns and exciting restaurant openings on the horizon – not to mention some of our favourite hotels in the south – Somerset has so much to offer. Romantic staycations are best spent in Bruton or Bath, while those after a buzzy music and food scene should head to some of the villages and towns to the north. Whether you’re planning a summer trip, or just getting ideas for later, here’s where to stay, eat and what to do…


VISIT

Frome 

Frome is one of the prettiest and largest towns in Somerset. Located just 13 miles from Bath, its medieval streets are lined with independent, boutique shops. A lovely weekend can be spent scouring the award-winning markets and eating your way around the many restaurants and cafés, most of which celebrate the best of West Country produce. St Catherine’s artisan quarter is where you’ll find some of the best shops, while antiques and vintage pieces can be found on Market Place and Cheap Street. For a fun night out, book a gig at The Cheese and Grain, one of Somerset’s best music venues.

Bruton

Whether you’re after a great day out or a romantic staycation for two, Bruton is one of the coolest towns in Somerset, full of great places to eat, quirky independent shops and stylish hotels. Tucked between Yeovil and Frome on the banks of the River Brue, it’s easily reached in a two-hour train journey from London. Often dubbed the Notting Hill of the west, there are several artistic venues to visit, including the Hauser & Wirth gallery and Bruton Art Factory. There are plenty of scenic walking routes to explore, too – the Brewham path has excellent views of Alfred’s Tower.

Bath

Easily reached from London via a 90-minute train journey, planning a trip to Bath is always a good idea. Over the course of a long weekend, spend some time visiting its historic sites, including the famous Roman Baths, stroll through the winding streets lined with sandstone buildings, and explore its boutique shops. Thanks to its beautiful and impressive architecture, the city is now a UNESCO World Heritage Site where visitors can see some of Britain's finest Georgian buildings. Bath Abbey is a must-see, as is The Holburne Museum which has an excellent art collection. For a relaxing afternoon, bathe in the thermal waters at Thermae Bath Spa.

Yeovil

A thriving market town since the 9th century, Yeovil means ‘town on the river’. One of Somerset’s best hubs for entertainment and shopping, here, you’ll find everything from theatres and retro bowling alleys to a cool outdoor heated lido. National Trust property Montacute House is a beautiful Elizabethan mansion where visitors can explore the vast gardens and estate, while kids will love the South West Deer Rescue centre. Yeovil’s 127-acre Country Park is also a must see.

Glastonbury

Best known for its legendary music festival, Glastonbury is another cool spot to bookmark. The quirky town is full of history, myths and legends that attract thousands of visitors each year. Glastonbury Tor, a mystical hill, dominates the skyline – be sure to walk from Glastonbury Abbey to the top for beautiful views across the rolling hills. The high street has lots of independent shops and several of the restaurants are renowned for their fish and chips, and baked goods. A great choice if you’ve got kids in tow, the Rural Life Museum has lots of activities for little ones, and the White Spring (a cool yet spooky Victorian pump house) is also worth a visit.

Taunton

Whether you want to explore the great outdoors or eat your way around small cafés dotted around the town, Taunton has something for everyone. An ideal location for exploring the wider area of Taunton Deane – including Somerset Level meadows, the Quantock Hills and the Blackdowns – visitors should hire a bike for the weekend to make the most of the views. Follow the Taunton Heritage Trail around the city centre to see the best historical sites and houses in town, then head to Taunton Castle to explore the Museum of Somerset and Hestercombe Gardens, home to 50 acres of terraces, lakes and cascades. 

Burnham-On-Sea

This traditional seaside town has one of the longest sandy beaches in Europe. With activities for the whole family, adults and children alike can swim in the sea, try water sports in the bay area, and discover the sand dunes and wildlife habitats. There’s a busy high street with several independent shops, as well as a theatre, arts centre and cool art-deco cinema. Here, you can walk part of the South West Coastal Path which passes one of the last remaining lighthouses in the area. Children will love the new outdoor play area, while adults will appreciate the views atop Brean Down headland. 

STAY

The Newt, Bruton

Having only opened two years ago, The Newt has already established itself as one of the best hotels in the UK. Easily reached from London via a 90-minute train journey, a luxury weekend can be spent relaxing at the spa and in the outdoor hydrotherapy pool, exploring the extensive grounds, and sampling delicious West Country produce from the estate. Hadspen House, has 23 beautiful rooms to choose from, while The Farmyard, a renovated former dairy farm, has a further 17. Early risers can spot wildlife at the deer park in the morning, while those wanting a leisurely lie-in can enjoy a delicious breakfast of freshly baked pastries and organic juices at the The Botanical Rooms or the Farmyard Kitchen. Book a cider tour to learn how the estate harvest their apples and be sure to buy a bottle (or two) of Babylonstoren rosé from the on-site farm shop. If you’ve got kids in tow, make sure to visit the integrative Story of Gardening experience to learn about gardens through the ages. 

Rooms from £375 per night.

Visit TheNewtInSomerset.com

The Talbot Inn, Mells

This country pub is located in the historic village of Mells, just 20 minutes outside of Bath. The inn, which dates back to the 15th century, has eight bedrooms above the pub, all of which have the kind of lovely touches you’d expect to find, like crisp Egyptian cotton sheets and Bramley toiletries. Room 6 is one of the most stylish, overlooking the fields next to the inn, where guests can relax in a four-poster bed and unwind in a separate living room annexe. The pub itself serves a range of classic British fare made with meat and game from local farms and fish from the Cornish coast, while the bar has an extensive selection of craft beers, wines, and even their own Talbot Ale. There are lots of good walking routes nearby, and the inn can arrange outdoor activities, like clay pigeon shooting and fly fishing.

Rooms from £110 per night.

Visit TalbotInn.com

Broad Street Townhouse, Bath 

Visitors are spoilt for choice when it comes to stylish hotels in Bath, but Broad Street Townhouse is an SL favourite. Located in the centre of town, there are 11 individually styled rooms spread over three storeys in a Grade-II listed limestone building. Guests can choose to have a breakfast basket delivered to their room each morning – full of treats like pastries, blueberry muffins, mini quiches, granola and yogurt – or opt to eat it at the Pig & Fiddle pub next door which also serves tasty lunches and suppers made with local, seasonal produce. For a special stay, book a Signature Plus room which all have stylish en-suites stocked with Bramley toiletries.

Rooms from £130 per night.

Visit Butcombe.com

Marston Park, Frome

For a luxury glamping trip, Marston Park near Frome has excellent facilities. As well as a range of yurts and bell tents available for hire, this summer the estate has partnered with Pikes Ibiza hotel to bring the White Isle to Somerset. Set over the course of three weekends in July, August and September, guests can experience music from world-class DJs, delicious food and luxury glamping accommodation alongside a programme of creative workshops, wellbeing sessions and cultural talks. Chef Richard Turner (of Hawksmoor fame) is in charge of the food, while a late-night lakeside bar will be open every day. Guests can choose from 25 luxury bell tents which include double beds, woodburning stoves and fire pits, as well as luxury extras you’d expect at a hotel like fluffy towels and bathrobes, and Bramley toiletries. 

From £175 per night.

Visit MarstonPark.co.uk

Number One Bruton

Another great option in stylish Bruton, this hotel has everything you need for a luxury stay. The hotel is set across a beautiful Georgian townhouse, a cluster of cottages and ‘The Forge’ – a carefully restored 12th-century building. Book a room in the main house for a stunning double bedroom with a free-standing bath or opt for a two-storey cottage for a romantic break. Guests will be treated to a complimentary care package containing a selection of West Country treats (like Westcombe cheddar and Peter’s Yard crackers) and can enjoy a fresh farmhouse breakfast at the hotel’s partner restaurant, Osip – think freshly-baked brioche, soft boiled eggs, toast, homemade jams, granola and yoghurt. 

Rooms from £130 per night.

Visit NumberOneBruton.com

At The Chapel, Bruton

 

Another stylish option in Bruton, this 17th-century, Grade II-listed church now houses a hotel, restaurant, wine store and bakery. All eight bedrooms have king-size beds, Egyptian cotton linens, and en-suites with marble-wrapped baths or showers. The décor is simple yet stylish and some rooms feature the original church windows which have been carefully restored. Fresh croissants are brought straight from the bakery to your door each morning, while homemade jams can be found in the fridge. Here, the main dining area is the star of the show, where guests can enjoy lazy lunches and candlelit dinners. Head to the terrace for an al fresco meal, then relax with a cocktail in the Clubhouse.

Rooms from £125 per night.

Visit AtTheChapel.co.uk

Wool Merchant’s House, Frome

If you’re looking for a stunning property with an outdoor pool, Wool Merchant’s House sleeps up to ten. Ideal for a girls’ trip, this this luxury country house is in the idyllic village of Beckington, near Frome. Originally built in 1653, the property has been restored by the same team behind Babington House and No1. Royal Crescent. There are five bedrooms, three of which have free-standing baths that overlook the gardens, as well as a spacious kitchen, living room, dining room and snug with an indoor wood burner. Guests can spread out on blankets in the old orchard, light the barbecue on summer evenings and relax in the outdoor heated pool with a glass of champagne. 

From £2,995 per week.

Visit UniqueHomestays.com

The Castle At Taunton

If you want to stay in grand house steeped in history, The Castle at Taunton is a beautiful property, and it’s over 1,000 years old. Now run by the Chapman family, the castle has 44 bedrooms which have been recently renovated. Book a spacious Castle Room which have a separate dressing area and can accommodate a child’s bed if needed. The hotel’s informal on-site restaurant Brazz is popular with locals and serves dishes like burrata with blood orange, crab salad and asparagus, and herb crusted lamb with Jersey Royals. For a special treat, book a champagne afternoon tea to enjoy in the castle.

Rooms from £138 per night.

Visit The-Castle-Hotel.com

The Gainsborough Bath Spa

When in Bath, staying at The Gainsborough is always a treat. Just a short walk from Thermae Bath Spa, the hotel is in an excellent location, surrounded by lovely cafés and beautiful limestone buildings. Book the Bath Spa room for in-room access to the hotel’s healing thermal waters, or choose one of the suites which have great views overlooking the city. Chef Dan Moon is at the helm of the hotel’s restaurants, where guests can enjoy relaxed dining in the Brasserie and take afternoon tea in The Canvas Room. The Spa Village is an idyllic haven for guests, where you can swim in the thermal waters, take a nap on the relaxation terrace, and enjoy an aromatherapy massage. Ideal for a special staycation, bookmark this for a mother-daughter trip or romantic getaway.

Rooms from £202 per night.

Visit TheGainsboroughBathSpa.co.uk

Halsdown Farm, Taunton

This new property has just been added to Sand & Stone Escape’s portfolio. Surrounded by beautiful Taunton countryside, the house sleeps up to 14 across two buildings – the main house, which has four bedrooms, and the cottage, which has three bedrooms. Expect chic country interiors with exposed beams, neutral tones and plush furnishings. Ideal for a large group trip or party weekend, there’s an open plan kitchen-diner with views of the garden, plus a cosy living room. Guests can fire up the barbecue on long summer evenings, then relax in the cool indoor swimming pool which has been built into the rocks.

From £535 per night.

Visit SandandstoneEscapes.com

EAT

The Pig Near Bath

It’s no secret we’re big fans of The Pig hotels, so if you don’t stay overnight, be sure to make a reservation at 25-Mile. With a farm-to-kitchen ethos, diners can choose from yummy starters like hake and salmon bites, mushroom puffs, and asparagus with lemon aioli, while mains include roasted lemon sole, roast chicken with basil salad, and dressed Devon crab. There’s also a special kids’ menu for little ones, as well as an al fresco menu offering wood-fired pizzas.

Visit ThePigHotel.com

Osip, Bruton

Headed up by chef Merlin Labron-Johnson, this small farm-to-table restaurant is the partner property of Number One Burton. The interiors are rustic and chic – think exposed brickwork, pale linens and tiled walls, while the menu showcases ingredients Merlin has grown. Dinners starts with snacks and freshly baked bread, followed by several savoury courses, dessert and petit fours – expect dishes like egg yolk ravioli with wild garlic, salt marsh lamb with charred asparagus, and chocolate canelé. 

Visit OsipRestaurant.com

28 Market Place, Somerton

28 Market Place is a lovely spot for a special dinner. Located in a Grade-II listed building in Somerton, the restaurant champions the very best of Somerset produce. Served in the beautiful dining room, the menu includes marinated mackerel with sugar snap peas and broad beans; roasted seabass with beurre blanc; herb linguini; and strawberry, ice cider and elderflower trifle. There’s also an on-site bakery and wine shop – ideal for stocking up on local treats.

Visit 28MarketPlace.co.uk

Little Barwick House, Yeovil

Set to reopen in September, Little Barwick House has a lovely restaurant with an emphasis on seasonality. Run by owners Tim & Emma Ford, menu favourites include roasted breast of quail with asparagus, lobster cannelloni, wild deer salad, and red mullet with crushed new potatoes. Their desserts are particularly good, with crowd-pleasing favourites like crème bruleé, rhubarb trifle, and dark chocolate brownies. There’s also an extensive award-winning wine list to choose from, too.

Visit LittleBarwick.co.uk

Holm, South Petherton 

Set to open in the autumn, Holm will be the first rural restaurant from the team behind Salon in Brixton and Levan and Larry’s in Peckham. Located in the small town of South Petherton, chef Nicholas Balfe will head up the kitchen with a seasonal and sustainable menu, using ingredients from the kitchen garden. The restaurant will have a 30-cover dining room, a private room, and an open kitchen where six guests can watch chefs cook their meal. Breakfast dishes include caramelised apple and miso buns and cheese croquettes, while diners can choose from mussels with lovage, pork with burnt pear sauce, and coal-roasted celeriac for lunch or dinner.

Visit HolmSomerset.co.uk

Castle Farm, Midford

Eating at Castle Farm Midford, just three miles outside of Bath, is always worth it. Using ingredients from their garden, the menu changes regularly based on the season so there’s always something tasty on offer. Diners can enjoy dishes like wild garlic arancini, roasted hake with celeriac puree, lamb with grilled greens, and a selection of tasty sourdough pizzas. On Friday nights, the restaurant hosts a curry night, while on Sunday afternoons you can tuck into a sharing roast and hearty puddings with custard or ice-cream.

Visit CastleFarmMidford.co.uk

Augustus, Taunton

Augustus is a small informal bistro tucked away in a quaint courtyard in Taunton. Using local produce, the team create tasty, rustic dishes the whole family can enjoy. The menu includes scallops with pea puree, cheese soufflé with tomato and basil salad, mushroom and parmesan tart, and a classic shepherd’s pie. Be sure to ask for a bowl of homemade sorbet or a small cheeseboard for dessert.

Visit AugustusTaunton.co.uk

Hundreds Monkey’s Café, Glastonbury

This café is a favourite with Glastonbury locals. Ideal if you’re passing through the town and want a quick bite to eat – or bring delicious West Country treats home with you – the menu includes sausage rolls, lamb koftas, mezze platters, and a selection of sourdough toasties packed full of veggies. The food is made from free-range meat and eggs from local farms, while all the goods at the on-site bakery are made fresh on the day.

Visit HundredMonkeysCafe.com

THINGS TO DO

ANDY BANDI/UNSPLASH

Catherine Hill, Frome 

One of the prettiest streets in Frome, Catherine Hill has a great selection on shops, from gift shops and womenswear boutiques to independent bakeries and art galleries. Solsken sells lovely Scandinavian homeware, while SEED has a great selection of crafts and gifts. Be sure to visit Boho, a small boutique with an eclectic collection of clothes, bags and jewellery.

Glastonbury Tor

Now a National Trust site, Glastonbury Tor is one of the most recognisable spots in the area. The source of several ancient myths and legends, visitors can climb to the top of the hill (it’s a steep walk so wear proper boots), and visit Glastonbury Abbey, a beautiful Grade-I listed building. Make sure to look out for local wildlife along the way – badgers and rabbits are often spotted during the summer months.

Visit NationalTrust.org.uk

Cider & Wine Tasting Tours

The West County is the land of cider, so be sure to book a tasting tour during your trip. The Newt runs 45-minute tours of its cider house, while visitors can try four different brews at Sheppy’s Cider Farm in Taunton – they also have a lovely café if you want to make an afternoon of it. If you’d rather have a glass (or three) of wine, Wraxhall Vineyard in Shepton Mallet and Fenny Castle Vineyard in Wells both offer tasting tours where you can sample delicious English sparkling wines.

Cheddar Gorge

Located near the village of Cheddar, this natural wonder is a must see. Thousands of visitors flock to the gorge every year to see the spectacular landscape with its weathered crags and pinnacles. At almost 400ft deep and three miles long, its England largest gorge, where visitors can spot its famous herd of feral goats.

Visit CheddarGorge.co.uk

NIKLAS WEISS/UNSPLASH

Dunster Castle & Watermill

Dramatically situated on a wooded hill in Dunster, this castle has existed since Norman times. With an impressive medieval gatehouse and ruined tower, it became a lavish country home during the 19th century for the Luttrell family, who lived there for 600 years. Today, the terrace garden is home to an array of Mediterranean and subtropical plants, while the tranquil riverside wooded garden below, with its natural play area, leads to the historic working watermill. A great activity for the whole family, be sure to bring a picnic to enjoy in the gardens. 

Visit NationalTrust.org.uk

Kayaking On The River Yeo

Water sports enthusiasts should take to waters on the River Yeo. Head to Blind Yeo, a long stretch of water which is calm and quiet and hire a kayak from Langport Boat Hire Company. You can also hire canoes, pedalos, and paddleboards.

Wells Cathedral

With over 850 years of history to discover, Wells Cathedral is one of the most beautiful in the south. The first gothic cathedral to be built in England, it’s famed for its unique architecture with over 300 carvings and beautiful stained-glass windows. The cathedral hosts regular events, so be sure to check what’s on ahead of your trip.

Visit WellsCathedral.org.uk

Wookey Hole Caves

Head to Wookey Hole village, just a ten-minute drive from Wells, to see the Wookey Hole limestone caverns. Visitors can take a tour around the caves and explore the waters by boat – a great activity if you have kids in tow.

 

Visit Wookey.co.uk

 

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