With the winter months slowly brightening and hinting at the coming spring, I was looking forward to getting out of town in search of a little rest and relaxation. Just a few hours’ drive from London, The Mount Somerset Hotel and Spa seemed to tick all the boxes. And so we set out on the first sunny day of the year, full of anticipation.
Cradled by both the Quantock and the Blackdown hills, this recently refurbished hotel enjoys beautiful views over Somerset. A member of von Essen hotels’ ‘Country Set’ (which also includes the stately Cliveden, in Berkshire), The Mount Somerset occupies a Georgian building built between 1805 and 1815 for Robert Proctor Anderson and his nephew and heir, John Proctor Anderson, an army officer who served with the Duke of Wellington and commanded the London Militia at Waterloo. During the Second World War, Henlade House, as it was then known, was used by the Brampton Down School for Girls, which had been evacuated from Eastbourne. It was sold out of the Anderson family in 1985, and in the 1990s transformed into a country house hotel.
This year saw the completion of an extensive refurbishment programme accentuating the original Italian style of this elegant Regency building. Today, The Mount Somerset retains the warm feel of a delightful private country house, with large windows, high ceilings and a sweeping staircase. Guests can read the papers while sitting on comfy sofas next to burning log fires, surrounded by elegant furniture and stylish wallpaper.
The wide open spaces of Exmoor and the Somerset Levels, abundant with wildlife, are only a short drive away, as are the South West coastal paths overlooking the fossil-rich beaches of Charmouth and Lyme Regis. Glastonbury and Wells Cathedral are also nearby, along with an abundance of interesting attractions including Hestercombe Gardens, Barrington Court, the West Somerset Steam Railway and Dunster Castle. We were given excellent advice by the enthusiastic staff about where to walk and good local pubs to visit.
There are 19 guest rooms in the hotel, and ours was a very comfortable Deluxe Double. It featured a large separate sitting room and similarly ample marble bathroom complete with a lovely roll top bath and enormous shower. Our view looked over the spa, which has been created, in consultation with English Heritage, within the shell of the estate’s former coach house. This elegant new bath house promises the perfect combination of relaxation, heat experiences, fitness essentials and bespoke treatments.
Alas, the spa treatments were not the best (‘ineffective’ was our conclusion), so I won’t dwell on those. Fortunately, the spa itself is great, and proved an ideal place to while away the afternoon after a long country walk. Spanning two floors, it includes a state-of-the-art hydrotherapy pool, sauna, steam room and small gym, as well as foot spas, experience showers and treatment rooms. It is a member of BookaSpa.com, the brainchild of Andrew Stanley, founder of
Golfbreaks.com. BookaSpa.com offers exclusive spa packages throughout the UK for all budgets and spa personalities, from the spa ‘virgin’ to the discerning aficionado. Perfect for all types of break, whether wholly virtuous or more indulgent, BookaSpa.com even offers a loyalty scheme as well as gift vouchers, perfect for spoiling someone on a special occasion. To help make choosing easy, online you’ll find convenient package comparisons, foolproof postcode finders, photos and descriptions – crucially, the service offers advice over the telephone too. The BookaSpa.com team has exceptional knowledge of the 140-plus members on its books, including such prestigious spas as those at Barnsley House, Chewton Glen, Cowley Manor, the Dorchester London and new hotels Coworth Park (Dorchester Collection) and Hotel Verta at the London Heliport in Battersea.
But back to our stay at The Mount Somerset. Following an afternoon of pampering, we felt a good meal was in order. The hotel’s fine-dining restaurant was surprisingly good: an excellent spot for a family celebration, business lunch or romantic dinner for two. The menu combines classic favourites with more imaginative dishes using the finest ingredients, sourced locally wherever possible –Quantock chicken, Exmoor lamb, Brixham lobster and crab and Somerset cheeses all featured on the menu. And endearingly, our waitress at dinner appeared the next morning to serve us breakfast!
This cozy, ‘local’ feel didn’t always work to the hotel’s advantage, however. On our final morning, the lights went dark at breakfast: a power cut. As it turned out, one of the temporary receptionists had received a call that the mains power was due to be out at the hotel for 24 hours on that date. She’d forgotten to pass the information on to anyone else, so no alternative arrangements had been made. It didn’t bother us, because without access to the computer, we couldn’t pay our bill(!), but it probably affected the 75-or-so business delegates who had arrived to use the function rooms that day. Aside from these issues, life at The Mount Somerset is calm and unhurried – it’s definitely a good spot to relax and unwind.