Bath, the Jewel of the South East
Bath lies just over an hour north of Newton Surmaville and it is well worth spending a day exploring this beautiful Georgian Regency town perched on the southern edge of the Cotswolds. The stone is the colour of pale honey and the intricate wrought iron railings and balconies that adorn so many of the terraces are exceptional. You feel like you are in a Jane Austen novel as you wander along the Parades, skirt the Crescents and circumvent the Circuses. Huge plane trees rise out of the squares and round each corner another quintessentially English view reveals itself.
History, architecture, landscape, literary inspiration, film locations, thriving independent food and drink scene or luxury shopping, Bath has something for everyone but, obviously, one has to start at the beginning.
Ancient Romans came to Bath, or Aquae Sulis, as they called it, to worship the goddess Sulis Minerva and bathe in the warm thermal waters that still spring forth. Today at the Roman Baths, right in the centre of the city, you can explore the beautifully maintained buildings including a ruined temple and walk in the footsteps of these ancient peoples. The audio tours, with costumed guides, are excellent and a good way to really understand the context of this extraordinary place.
The Abbey close by is also worth a visit, being one of the last examples in Britain of an ecclesiastical building built in the perpendicular style. There has been a church on this site since Saxon times but this building dates from 1499.
Moving forwards, the vast part of Bath was built in the late 18th, early 19th century. Walking along the Royal Crescent (in fact a half-ellipse, not a crescent), you get a wonderful view of the town and admire this impressive creation by John Wood the Younger between 1767 and 1775. The Circus is another beautiful ‘square’, with a group of plane trees at its centre. The Assembly Rooms are not far away, they were the focal point of entertainment in Georgian times and most likely from where Jane Austen got here inspiration for the many dance scenes in her novels.
Both Jane Austen and Mary Shelley have strong associations with Bath, in fact Shelley wrote a large part of her most famous novel, Frankenstein, whilst living here in 1816-17. Despite Jane Austen only living here for 5 years at the beginning of the 19th century, Bath made a huge impression on the writer and whilst almost all her novels mention Bath, Northanger Abbey and Persuasion are mainly set in Bath. If this interests you, the Jane Austen Centre is well worth a visit.
Bath is a perfect city for wandering and as you amble along the River Avon, past the Parade Gardens with their unique, 3 dimensional planting displays in summer, you come across the pretty Poulteney Bridge which is an unusual sight with little shops lining both sides. This leads to more splendid wide roads, lined with handsome Georgian houses. Note the wrought iron pergolas that frame each entrance with a distinct light or feature to differentiate them, one from the other. At the end is the Holburne Museum, set in Sydney Gardens, an elaborate pleasure garden popular with Georgian society, and contains a nice collection of 18th and 19th century paintings and decorative art. There is a nice café here too if you need a bit of peace away from the bustle of the centre of town.
As an alternative to walking, and if high energy activity is what you seek, Original Wild can organise a mixture of watercraft; paddle boards, kayaks, dinghies, to provide you with the most adventurous way to explore the historic city of Bath!
Slightly out of the city, to the east of Bath, you will find The American Museum at Claverton Manor. Positioned in a gorgeous setting, the American Museum and Gardens was created by an Anglo-American couple, Dallas Pratt and John Judkyn, and opened to the public in 1961 with the ambition to showcase American decorative arts and dispel stereotypes of American culture.
Housed within Claverton Manor, a Grade I listed building, the Museum features exceptional collections of folk art, quilts and maps and includes set pieces that recreate periods from American history that are both poignant and informative. The surroundings are beautiful and the gardens and café have panoramic views from its elevated position.
Newton Surmaville is a dream home for a large house party
…or an intimate gathering of family & friends with lots of different spaces for guests to enjoy both in the house and throughout the property.
The icing on the cake comes in the form of the wonderful staff, Harriet and Stuart, who maintain the house and grounds in immaculate condition and who are unfailingly attentive; their cooked breakfasts, eaten beside the flaming log fire and surrounded by historic objects, will live long in our memory. Whatever the occasion, be it a family holiday or a gathering of friends or colleagues, you can be sure of a warm welcome and an unforgettable experience at Newton Surmaville.
I was fortunate enough to celebrate my friend’s 50th birthday with a girl’s trip to this amazing home. Newton Surmaville combines the magnificence of an established country estate home with all the modern-day creature comforts. There are fruit orchards throughout the property where you can have your pick from apples, pears and plums. We enjoyed walking the property in the morning with our coffee and had cocktails every evening in the bar or in the upstairs library.
The fabulous bucolic views, stunning décor and top of the line linens made for the ultimate, relaxing trip which this stressed-out mom needed! We did some great antique shopping, ate some of the most amazing meals I’ve ever had and took a few day trips to visit the Roman baths and some surrounding historic estates.
I am hoping to return for a couples’ trip soon.
Staying at the Newton Surmaville House in Somerset was a once in a lifetime experience (but we hope to do it again as soon as possible). We were transported back to a period in time almost inconceivable to Americans, with all the amenities and comforts of modern day living — as a royal, that is. (Thanks, Harriet and Stuart!) The house is both grand and cozy, classical and contemporary, rustic and luxurious — and we nearly cried when we left.
Exploring the grounds outside the house was equally thrilling, with a rose garden to get lost in, a footpath along the River Yeo, and a meadow filled with grazing sheep. The surrounding towns Bruton, Bath, Stourhead were picturesque and fascinating, with wonderful architecture, gardens, museums, historic homes, antique stores, and restaurants to experience. To future visitors: whatever you do, don’t let your travel companions talk you out of seeing Stonehenge (like I did).
Our week stay at Newton Surmaville in Somerset was an absolute delight. The house is not only stunningly designed, but each room is cozy, inviting and perfect for time with friends, family or to just relax and enjoy a cup of tea. We also enjoyed walking the property, eating fresh fruit right off the vine and exploring the area all around the home. There are wonderful restaurants locally and many adorable towns to visit but everything we needed was right on property making our week both relaxing and fun.
We could not recommend this beautiful and historic home more and hope to come back for a visit again in the near future!