There are weekends away which soothe your soul and reset your buttons — and then there are weekends away which have you scouring The Modern House for barn conversions in the local area. A weekend in Bruton in rural Somerset fits into the latter category. A diminutive medieval high street, acres of rolling hills and countryside and a food, design and art scene that punches well above its weight all make this fashionable town somewhere you can imagine upping sticks to.
From the most stylish places to stay right in town to the intimate dinner spot from a Michelin-starred chef, here is your guide to spending a weekend in Bruton.
Set in an old 12th century forge in the centre of Bruton, a row of townhouses and cottages have been transformed into No.1 Bruton, a bijou little hotel with twelve bedrooms. A haven of character, comfort and colour, there is a roaring fire, an honesty bar for pre-dinner cocktails (downstairs at Osip, naturally) and a garden designed by Penelope Hobhouse.
The Newt in Somerset is a country estate with splendid gardens, woodland and farmland. The core is Georgian, with limestone buildings the colour of burnt orange, the seat of the Hobhouse family for more than two centuries. Innovative design is paired with country walks, garden produce and superb service – wrapping you in a sense of wellbeing.
The artistically-inclined will love this farmhouse stay, found within the grounds of Hauser & Wirth on the outskirts of Bruton. The Grade II-listed building was renovated by Argentinian architect Luis Laplace and is wonderfully idiosyncratic thanks to its blend of the property’s natural antiquity and original features alongside contemporary art installations. As well as six double bedrooms, there is a Guillermo Kuitca mural in the dining room and video installation by Pipilotti Rist, which projects the Somerset landscape onto the sitting room walls through a chandelier to mesmerising effect.
First things first: breakfast. In Bruton, it has to be At The Chapel, a restaurant with rooms in a former chapel which is also part bakery, pizzeria and wine shop. Book a spot in the double-height dining room for a brunch of fresh smoothies, pastries, granola with yoghurt and divine egg dishes such as guacamole, harissa and poached eggs on flaxseed toast.
Hauser & Wirth outposts always take their food seriously, and the Roth Bar & Grill is no exception. On warmer spring days and in summer, nab one of its alfresco tables for a languorous, wine-fuelled lunch. Focused on produce from Durslade Farm and its kitchen garden, the menu changes daily with an emphasis on top quality meat. Alongside its in house-cured meats, you will want to watch out for their impressive steak cuts, with the Tomahawks a firm favourite among locals.
Iwan and Manuela Wirth seem to have the Midas touch, and their 17th century pub The Bull, an easy meander from Bruton, is just another example. In winter, take over one of the many nooks by the fire with a roast, or make the most of the garden in the summer months. Sitting on the edge of the Stourhead National Trust estate, it’s ideal to combine a pint or two here with a good walk.
Part of No.1 Bruton, Osip is the latest newcomer to Bruton’s blossoming food scene. Helmed by Merlin Labron-Johnson, the rising star chef who won a Michelin star at 24-years-old at London’s Portland restaurant, the menu here is a beautiful love letter to its native Somerset. For dinner there is no menu, but you can expect multiple courses with delicate dishes such as grilled cucumber with smoked eel and Russet apple, black truffle macaron and roe buck with parsnip and purple mustard.
One of the originals on Bruton’s craft scene, Caro is like a pocket of Scandinavia in Somerset, curated by former trend forecaster Natalie Jones. Pick up Aesop goodies, tarot bracelets, coloured glass straws and candle holders — as well as a cup of coffee and slice of cake. Caro is also a one-bedroom B&B, events space and interiors styling service.
A floral studio rooted in Somerset, which you can arrange to visit to pick up founder Deborah Bain’s whimsical creations that often feature beautiful dried grasses such as pampas.
An organic farm that has been at the heart of Bruton for centuries, the current owner Richard started to make cheese back in 1999 as a thank you to friends and neighbours who helped it achieve organic certification. Now Godminster’s vintage organic cheddar has a devoted following and is well worth a taste while you are in town.
Back in 2014 when uber gallerists Hauser & Wirth opened their fourth outpost in rural Somerset, sleepy Bruton was catapulted into the limelight. Taking over Durslade Farm on the edge of town, the duo created a contemporary gallery with beautiful gardens designed by Piet Oudolf and a restaurant (fed by the farm) drawing in the local creative crowd. A one-stop shop for design, art, architecture and food lovers. In 2018, the pair opened Make on Bruton High Street, where they celebrate contemporary making and the crafted object.
Next to Bean Shot Coffee back in town you will find Bruton Art Factory, where curator Suzanne Bisset supports local and visiting artists. Her past installations have included those from Banksy’s Dismaland and there is even a secret speakeasy-style bar which references Soho’s Colony Room Club in its 1990s heyday.
A ten-minute drive out of Bruton, the Newt is a must-visit for all weekenders. Brought to you by the owners of South Africa’s much-loved Babylonstoren, Karen Roos and Koos Bekker, the Newt took over the stunning grounds of Hapsden House, once the home of Penelope Hobhouse. Naturally, the gardens are well worth a visit, as is the shop, where you can stock up on Babylonstoren rose and cyder made on the estate. Its restaurant, The Botanical Rooms, focuses on its own produce as well as that of its neighbours with delights such as apple waste sourdough and pork chop on the lunch menu.
It can be easy to forget simple country pursuits when there is so much to do, but a long, hearty walk around Somerset’s rolling hills is essential. Our favourite is the circular walk which takes you through woodland to reveal King Alfred’s Tower, a nearly 50m high folly designed by Henry Flitcroft in 1772 and marks the site where King Alfred the Great is thought to have rallied his troops in 878.