Enjoy fine food and fabulous art in this bucolic town, deep in the West Country
This tiny town, nestled in cider country, might at first glance seem an unlikely destination for a chic weekend. But this is no sleepy corner of Somerset. Bruton offers contemporary art, quirky cuisine and carefully crafted cocktails.
Bruton is only home to some 3,000 permanent residents but it draws an eclectic crowd thanks to its tantalising mix of rural idyll and urban cool. After all, there aren’t many small towns where you can meander through verdant countryside, then stop for a decadent brunch and admire world-class art.
Here’s how to spend the perfect weekend in this unlikely Somerset enclave.
Check-in: When it comes to deciding where you want to lay your head, Bruton has a surprising wealth of options. If small boutique hotels are your bag, head to Number One, a recently renovated former forge that’s now an eight-bedroom hotel.
Behind the sunshine yellow front door lies an elegant Georgian townhouse. Here the quirky yet tasteful decor includes a mix of carefully curated antiques and work from locally-connected artists, including British photographer Don McCullin and leather designer Bill Amberg.
In keeping with the Somerset vibe, a dainty truckle of Cheddar awaits in your room, along with a nugget of quince cheese. There are rosy-red apples too, of course, and locally-made Harry’s cider in the fridge. Toiletries are from Great Elm Physick Garden, an organic skincare company based in nearby Frome.
If you’re feeling flush, consider opting for The Newt. This 17th-century country house hotel, two miles outside Bruton, opened last year to much fanfare. Bedrooms range from cosy lofts with exposed beams to larger garden-view rooms, complete with four posters and luxe velvety sofas.
Explore: Take a blustery walk up to The Dovecote, a 15th-century limestone tower. Originally a watch tower, it was later converted to house hundreds of doves. While none of the birds remain today, it’s well worth the short uphill climb to have a peek what remains of the nesting boxes inside.
From there, take a few minutes to admire the view over Bruton’s impressive church and the narrow, winding streets below.
Shop: Head to the Godminster Cheese Shop where you can buy a truckle of vintage organic Cheddar to take home. Farmer Richard Hollingbery and his team have been creating the famous Godminster Cheddar here for 20 years, encasing it in a distinctive burgundy wax.
From there, pop into design store Caro, on Bruton’s narrow high street. You’ll find yourself tempted by the carefully curated selection of homewares, body products and even artisan chocolate bars. They’re created in collaboration with The Chocolate Society, a Somerset-based firm, with deliciously moreish flavours including juniper and raspberry.
Dine at: Osip. It may be petite but this stylish, white-tiled restaurant has rapidly built an impressive reputation for its farm-to-table cuisine. Merlin Labron-Johnson, the UK’s youngest Michelin-starred chef, focuses his menu around organic home-grown produce, which is sourced from local suppliers.
The fixed, six-course evening menu changes daily but includes simple yet surprising dishes, such as goats’ cheese macarons, roast chicken with baked apple, and rice pudding with rhubarb and sugared almonds.
Visit: Hauser & Wirth. This highly acclaimed gallery set the tone for Bruton when it opened at Durslade Farm in 2014. It’s a serious power player in the contemporary art scene, with recent exhibitions including sculpture by American artist David Smith and landscape photography by Sir Don McCullin.
Emerge through the gallery’s rear doors and you’ll find an impressive garden, designed by famous landscape architect Piet Oudolf, stretching up the hillside.
Eat lunch at: Roth Bar & Grill. Art and food collide at this restaurant, adjacent to the Hauser & Wirth gallery. Walking in, you’ll pass a glass-fronted salt room, where vast hunks of meat hang. It’s reminiscent of an art installation but they are in fact being dry-aged in preparation for the kitchen.
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Near the bar, baskets brim with fresh veg while chefs cook at an extended galley kitchen, behind an abundant display of cakes. The vaulted dining room is also decorated with an eclectic mix of art, focusing around food and rural life.
Here, carnivores will love the rump steak with lashings of green sauce and chips. But there’s plenty on offer for veggies too, such as sweet potato and spinach filo pie, or Jerusalem artichoke risotto. Pair with a Somerset cider brandy or one of the art-themed cocktails. Try Pigment Sticts, a heady mix of Pomona cider, prosecco, grenadine and lime juice.
Have an adventure at: Stourhead. Work off your lunch exploring the magical gardens at this National Trust estate, a five-minute drive from Bruton.
The centrepiece here is the magnificent lake, surrounded by meandering paths and lush lawns. You’ll find romantic classical temples nestled among leafy trees and a fabulously mossy grotto, complete with glassy pools. Make sure you walk up to the Temple of Apollo which is poised on a hillside high above the lake. With its domed roof and dramatic columns, this circular building offers a dramatic vista.
Enjoy dinner at: Matt’s Kitchen. A few years ago, decorator Matt Watson decided to set up a small restaurant in his front room. He had no professional chef training but it’s been such a roaring success, tables now book up weeks in advance.
There’s a choice of starters and desserts but the main course is fixed – think pork belly with soy, sesame and orange, or chicken with pancetta and lemon thyme. In keeping with the informal vibe, booze is bring your own and payment is cash-only.
Take a cyder tour at: The Newt. Six years in the making, this sprawling Somerset estate includes lush orchards, ancient woodland and carefully cultivated gardens. More than 3,000 apple trees grow here and their fruit is pressed to make the famous honey-coloured drink. Legend even has it that it was once preferred to Champagne by the local gentry and that everyone, including children, drank it for breakfast.
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Watch an apple pressing demonstration then join a 30-minute tour of the cyder press and cellar, with its vast stainless steel vats. Learn how the apples are crushed and pumped into the cellar where the subtle-flavoured drink is produced. Afterwards, enjoy a taste and perhaps head to the farm shop where you can buy a bottle (or few) to take home.
Getting there: To get the most from the area we’d recommend driving – you’ll find Bruton down a winding country road, 15 minutes off the A303. There’s also a train station in the town itself, which has four direct trains from London Waterloo a day (they take around 2 hours 40 minutes). Alternatively, nearby Castle Cary station has several direct trains from London Paddington, which take 1 hour 40 minutes. From there it’s a short 10-minute taxi ride over to Bruton.
Lead image: Martin Fowler/Shutterstock
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