In England, a country that is approximately the size of Mississippi, space may be the ultimate luxury, and when a new hotel opens that sweeps nearly 1,000 acres, people take note. This was the case with the Newt in Somerset, a 330-year-old property that opened as a hotel last year.
Back in 2013, an ad in Country Life captured the attention of South African billionaire, tech entrepreneur, and publisher Koos Bekker and his wife, Karen Roos, a former editor of Elle Decoration South Africa. Bekker and Roos, who also own Babylonstoren, a luxury hideaway, farm, and winery in the Cape Winelands with a staff of around 250, soon went about refurbishing the Newt in Somerset with just as much ambition. After an extensive renovation, the stylish getaway includes a hotel, spa, cider press, and garden museum. Throughout planning and construction, Bekker and Roos were bound to the strict rules associated with renovating a historically listed building, which was originally known as Hadspen House. They also had to figure out a way to protect the estate’s 2,000-odd rare newts. This resulted not only in delays but also in a name change—one that would have warmed the heart of Gussie Fink-Nottle, Wodehouse’s noted newt-fancier.
The Newt’s grand limestone manor, first built around 1690, now holds 13 elegant suites, designed with a nod to both old and new; an additional 10 rooms are located in the stable yard. There are also two delightful restaurants: the glass-enclosed Garden Café, with views of the walled egg-shaped Parabola garden, and the more formal, open-kitchen Botanical Rooms, housed inside the hotel. Both rely heavily on the Newt’s kitchen gardens, which are found among the property’s magnificent grounds, where flowers and rugged cliffs tumble into greenery.
But the centerpiece of the Newt is its walled garden, a place of magic, as if the pages of Frances Hodgson Burnett’s children’s classic had come to life. Beyond the Baroque-style maze, there are more than 400 apple trees in 267 varieties, all native to Britain, as well as a cider press and bottling plant, an idyllic thatched ice-cream parlor, and a restored Victorian bathing pond. Each square inch of those thousand acres has been put to excellent use. —Bridget Arsenault
Rooms at the Newt in Somerset are available at rates starting at $360 per night;
more information is available at thenewtinsomerset.com