Ancient abbeys, pagan sites and contemporary galleries all within easy reach
This area has a wonderful mix of the old and the new. The ancient Forde Abbey and Wells Cathedral are exquisite examples of beautifully preserved old buildings. Travel south into Dorset and you will find Simon Gudgeon’s stunning Sculpture by the Lakes which combines contemporary sculpture with the natural landscape or visit the Hauser & Wirth gallery in Bruton which hosts some very avantgarde artists in an old English setting.
Many artists have been inspired by this area, from Coleridge to Hardy and they have left behind a legacy in buildings and spirit.
Built at the end of the 16th century, Montacute House is considered one of the most beautiful Elizabethan houses in England. Sir Edward Phelips was the visionary force and money behind the creation of this masterpiece of Elizabethan Renaissance architecture and design. Built by skilled craftsman using local ham stone under the instruction of William Arnold, master mason, the house was a statement of wealth, ambition and showmanship.
Set in the medieval heart of England’s smallest city, Wells Cathedral was built between 1175 and 1490 and has been described as “the most poetic of the English Cathedrals”.
Wells Cathedral has unique features that separate it from other English cathedrals including its iconic West Front and the beautiful ‘scissor arches’ supporting the central tower. Wells also boasts one of the largest collections of historic stained glass in the country. Other highlights include the famous Wells Clock (which is considered to be the second oldest clock mechanism in Great Britain), the fascinating octagonal Chapter House and one of only four chained libraries in the UK.
Stonehenge is a prehistoric monument on Salisbury Plane in Wiltshire. It is considered the most architecturally sophisticated pre-historic stone circle in the world. Each stone is 13 feet high, 7 feet wide and weighs around 25 tons, topped by connecting horizontal lintel stones. The monument which has long been a ruin is aligned towards the sunrise of the summer solstice. Archaeologists believe Stonehenge was constructed from around 3000 BC to 2000 BC. There is an excellent visitor centre and this world-famous site is well worth a visit.
Originally a fortified 12th Century bishop’s palace, Sherborne Old Castle became the home of Sir Walter Raleigh in 1594. Raleigh tried to modernise the old castle but instead built a new house in the deer park on the site of the hunting lodge. Later on the old castle became a powerful Royalist base and saw fierce fighting during the civil war. It was described by Sir Oliver Cromwell as ‘Malicious and Mischievous’ and it finally fell in 1645.
In 1617, Sir John Digby acquired the new house that Sir Walter Raleigh had built and it has been the home of the Wingfield Digby family since 1617. Once Sherborne Old Castle had fallen in 1645, the new house was able to be known as Sherborne Castle. This historic house reflects a glorious variety of decorative styles from over 400 years of English History. When you visit you can see important collections of furniture, paintings and porcelain. Walk in Capability Brown’s English Landscape Garden and enjoy a look back in history. The castle today with its pretty views across the surrounding countryside is a haven for wildlife and flowers. Look out for ‘Lady Betty’s Pinks’ flowering in the grounds during the summer months, locally named after Sir Walter Raleigh’s wife, Elizabeth,
The Hauser & Wirth Somerset gallery and arts centre occupies a former farmstead in Bruton. It is home to a vibrant program of art exhibitions, events, learning activities and artists’ residencies, which connect with the local community and landscape.
Nearby, on Bruton High Street, Make Hauser & Wirth Somerset occupies two rooms of a Georgian townhouse. The gallery is a destination for contemporary making and the crafted object, showcasing work from the best emerging and established makers.
Oudolf Field, a garden designed by the Dutch landscape architect Piet Oudolf, set in a perennial meadow, is also here. The garden has both classical and informal aspects, bordered by hedges, cut through by paths and framed by trees, it is a relaxing and scenic work of art in itself.
Nestled in 26 acres of glorious countryside, Sculpture by the Lakes is a perfectly curated oasis, that breaks down barriers between you and your surroundings.
Renowned contemporary sculptor Simon Gudgeon and his team of makers, invite you to explore the seamless symmetry between art, nature and relaxation.
Lose time and unwind in The Sculpture Park and discover something special in The Makers Yard – enjoy delicious homemade food in The Kitchen, fresh local produce in The Pantry, find unique gifts and goodies in The Store and curated exhibition pieces in The Gallery.
25 miles from NS
The 17th-century Coleridge Cottage was home to Coleridge for three years, from 1797. It was during his time here in Somerset that Coleridge wrote his finest works, including The Rime of the Ancient Mariner and Kubla Khan amongst others. The cottage is full of historical artefacts and evocatively tells the story of Coleridge and his family during the years they lived here and the events that followed.
Glastonbury Tor is an iconic and evocative landmark that offers magnificent views of the Somerset Levels, Dorset, Wiltshire and Wales. Steeped in history and legend, excavations at the top of the Tor have revealed the plans of two superimposed churches of St Michael, of which only a 15th-century tower remains. Glastonbury Tor also has a grisly past. Abbot Richard Whiting was executed here in 1549 on the orders of Thomas Cromwell, the first Earl of Essex.
This special place is known as being one of the most spiritual sites in the country. Its pagan beliefs are still very much celebrated. It’s a beautiful place to walk, unwind and relax.
Founded in the twelfth century, Forde Abbey flourished as a monastery for four hundred years, during which time it became one of the richest and most learned institutions of its kind in England. The last Abbot, Thomas Chard, thought of as possibly the greatest, took charge in 1521, and used his substantial energies and knowledge to complete a comprehensive overhaul and reconstruction of the fabric of the Abbey.
The Abbey was converted into a family home during the 17th century. The house has fine and ornate plaster ceilings in all the state rooms, together with collections of tapestries woven from cartoons drawn by Raphael for the Sistine Chapel.
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!