Babington House is where stylish out-of-towners trade well-heeled for well-wellied. Open since 1998 and set in the prettiest corner of Somerset, just outside Bath, this members-only retreat – part of the Soho House group – is the last word in countryside cool.
Soon to be joined by the brand new Soho Farmhouse in Oxfordshire, Babington House may not be cheap, but it’s really bloody nice. After two restorative nights there on an unseasonably balmy autumn weekend, I left with the glow and rotund stomach that only a very good facial, fresh country air and lots of cake can give.
All higgledy-piggledy hallways and shuttered windows, the main house isn’t as big as you might expect, but it still manages to squeeze in a couple of snuggly lounges with roaring fires and plump armchairs. There’s a high-ceilinged room overlooking the garden with a horseshoe-shaped bar in the centre, forest green walls and velvet-covered stools. This will be your go-to spot for an excellent Soho Mule and banter with the dapper barmen.
The heart of the main house, though, is the Orangery, a huge glass conservatory that serves as the main restaurant. I have fond memories of the steak here, served with copious amounts of wine and soft lighting. Then the next morning, a delicious breakfast from the kitchen table (pastries and muffins, home-made granola, freshly squeezed juice – needless to say, we ate a lot) as the sunlight poured through the glass.
The vibe of the décor is proper English chintz in the most relaxed kind of way. You know the look, floral sofas dotted around log open fires, hefty wooden tables, plush upholstery, ornate armoires and rows of muddied Hunters by the back door. Our room in the Stables Block was much of the same. Set over two floors with the bed on a mezzanine, our rustic little den had exposed beams, a freestanding tub in the bathroom, super-king bed (this is offensively comfortable and cloud-like) and a cute sitting room, which in the winter, I can imagine would be hard to prise yourself away from.
If anyone says they don’t stay in Soho House hotels for the goodies, they’d be lying. In case you’re not familiar with the set up here, it’s good to know that your bathroom will be fully stocked with approximately one trillion bottles of heavenly smelling Cowshed lotions and potions. Then in the lounge area, there’s a silver tin of freshly baked cookies. (The bedroom pictured below is a Main House room, they’re a tad more ritzy in design).
Sure, you could stay at a tonne of similar country inns with cool interiors, fancy toiletries and great home-cooked food, you might even pay a bit less to stay in them too, but Babs (I’m trying this out, stick with me) is something special.
Where else will you find candy-striped loungers overlooking a lake, a child-minding service and dedicated kids club, a luxe cinema (screenings are free), gorgeous indoor and outdoor swimming pools, daily free afternoon tea that’s laid out on the farmhouse table (this really is quite a spread) and a sizeable kitchen garden to the rear of the spa. Yes…there’s also a large Cowshed spa on-site and it’s a great one. I can highly recommend the couples mud treatment and soak. Just remember that if you open the window blinds during said soak, the people in the garden outside will see you naked. Hindsight is a wonderful thing eh…
I can see the appeal of visiting in any season. Winter would be all about crunchy walks, hibernating and warming cold hands around the fire (with a sticky toffee pudding, for good measure). Whereas summer calls for croquet on the lawn, tennis, dining al fresco, sundowners by the pool and hopping on the House’s own fleet of bikes to explore the local area. We cycled a few miles to the pretty village of Mells and after an afternoon pottering around the Walled Garden and churchyard, we had a great dinner in The Talbot Inn (before cycling back, uphill, in torrential rain).
Babington House isn’t without flaws – it’s been open a while now, so some of the soft furnishings show their age and our room could have seen a bit more elbow grease where the dusting was concerned. But to tell you the truth, we had such a lovely weekend and I was so full on scones and high on life, that I don’t remember caring an awful lot.
Rates at Babington House start from around £150 per night for an Attic room, breakfast not included.
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