It turns out that The Newt is well named, because Somerset’s newest spa hotel has a wild side.
Limestone glows in the evening sun and gravel crunches underfoot. Peachy roses tumble over the golden buildings in the stable yard. The hotel, Hadspen House, is frankly next level picturesque. A page straight from Country Life magazine.
Inside it’s clear that The Newt is a rare creature. This isn’t a country house quietly crumbling under the weight of its own history. Instead, thanks to a former editor of Elle Decoration (South Africa) there’s a new kind of energy. A mix of history, serenity and playfulness that infuses both the hotel and the people.
Our attic room is both spacious and cosy, showcasing the wooden beamed bones of the house. An opulent en-suite and luxurious bed meet minimalist Scandinavian style.
The spa is one of the most inviting places I’ve ever seen. A converted stone cow barn, it’s stunning in its simplicity and warmth. I could have stayed cocooned in there for hours. Rather unbelievably, we had it to ourselves during our midweek break. (Thank you hotel gods).
Most of the food is grown in the surrounding gardens, or sourced from local producers. The philosophy is self-sufficiency and authenticity. The Newt’s latin motto translates as ‘From the egg to the apple’ or ‘From start to finish’.
After three days of incredible food, I can say they practice what they preach here. I’m still not over the homemade scones served up in the library every afternoon.
If all the relaxing and good food gets a bit much, head to the boot room and pull on a pair of wellies. The 300 acres of grounds are a gardener’s paradise. It’s easy to spend hours exploring the surprises designed into the landscape.
Even if you’re not staying at the hotel, you can visit The Newt’s grounds, threshing barn, cafes and shops. A glass of rosé surrounded by palms in the Winter Garden, or a platter in the Garden Café are worth a trip alone.
You can even take a garden tour via the Candide* gardening app with The Newt’s Director of Horticulture Iain Davies.
Back in the hotel grounds, we stumbled into a secret games lawn hidden behind tall clipped hedges. There’s a tiny chance it might not have been 100% ready. As it was opening week, we thought we’d better unwrap and test out some of the lawn games. Just to do our bit. I know what you’re thinking – wild.
This is Somerset, but an elevated, polished version of the county I grew up in. A billionaire’s version, quite literally. Created by South African media moguls, The Newt is a grand and impressive spectacle, flawlessly crafted and slickly commercialised.
The apple is the star of the show, with over 3,000 varieties of UK cider apple trees in the gardens. The fruit is everywhere, espaliered on walls, crafted in sculpture and etched in words. It’s undoubtedly a stunning re-imagination of our cider making traditions and customs.
At its heart, The Newt seems to celebrate the simple things, albeit spending a lot of money to do it. The note-perfect pizazz is apparently counterbalanced by more serious ideas. The experience draws your focus time and again back to the natural world. The story goes that the hotel was inspired by the rare great crested newts found in the grounds.
Yes the luxury and glamour are undeniably seductive. But The Newt has the means to be more than another cool destination for privileged weekending visitors. It’s the roots of the place, the journey back to the land, that offer The Newt soul and purpose.
*Disclosure note: I have previously worked with the lovely folk at Candide. Candide is linked to The Newt Hotel and its owners. The stay was not gifted and this review is not an ad.