We very nearly didn’t make it down to Somerset for our long awaited and much needed night and day of relaxation. After a few wrong turns and a very angry sounding clutch we finally found ourselves clunking down the drive to Babington House, a private members club, hotel and spa set in 18 acres of rolling Somerset country parkland. On first glimpse of the main house I almost instantly felt the stresses and strains of London life vanish.
We were met by three smiling faces at the reception and the whole place was buzzing with a subtle mix of luxury and old English charm. As it was a Sunday the main areas were busier perhaps than any other day, it was also half term so excited, but well behaved (and well dressed) children played pool or croquet in and around the main house. Handily, if you fancy, there are ‘child free’ areas to which one can escape.
As we had arrived early we were guided to the bar area to read the papers and enjoy a snack lunch of pates and cheese ploughmans, which was ideal after the slightly tense journey we’d had, while our bags were whisked away by staff. We then had the pleasure of being shown round the hotel and grounds by the Front of House, Josh, who, like all the staff at Babington House, was cheerful, relaxed and made us feel almost as if we were staying with friends, rather than at a hotel.
We were shown the various rooms in the main house, including the games room, the child-free room, the library and the stunning orangery which transforms from casual, bright and airy restaurant in the day to intimate, romantic and sophisticated restaurant in the evening. Most of the rooms have the features of a country house: oak furniture or large fireplaces, but have been updated with trendy wallpapers or original chandeliers which gives the décor a quirky edge.
We were then taken round the grounds which feature a gym, cricket pitch, croquet lawn, walled garden and grass and hard tennis courts which we booked for an hour in the afternoon – a look at the menus earlier indicated some exercise before supper may be good idea!
Checking in to the Coach House, which Josh informed us is his favourite of the 32 rooms available at Babington, we found ourselves in a gorgeous and very large suite. A large velvet sofa and delicate tea cups clashed wonderfully with the enormous flat screen TV (of which there are three! ). The sitting room area leads through to a large bathroom with a beautiful stand-alone bath and an enormous walk in shower discretely hidden behind a tiled wall partition. The bed was on a mezzanine level – a pleasant surprise as it keeps it separate from the other areas, although perhaps having to climb stairs to use the bathroom is not ideal when it’s dark. I instantly open the windows in the room as it is stiflingly warm. This would be one of my only criticisms of Babington, that all the rooms were just marginally too hot. Perhaps some of the clientele are used to sunnier climates but I prefer to be able to put on another jumper and sit by the fire to warm up.
We then went off to explore, play tennis and use the pool area. The tennis was great: due to the recent wet weather the balls were travelling more slowly than usual, which always works in my favour! The courts were smart and well looked after and over-looked the lake. In the summer I imagine the setting is idyllic with the swimming pool just up the hill.
Then we sampled both indoor and outdoor pools, sauna, steam room and aroma room where I could have stayed all evening, but eventually dinner called and we padded back to our room in our enormous robes, shiny faced and very relaxed.
We ate in The Orangery, beautifully lit and transformed into a smart dining room. We had cheese tart and sardines to start and venison and steak for the main course, which left us with little room for pudding. Much of the ingredients are grown in the walled garden which looks stunning at this time of year. The food and wine is sublime and the service excellent. Feeling like we were sinking further into relaxation than we thought possible, we stumbled back in a gluttonous haze to watch one of the many DVDs available and of course fell asleep before the end of the opening credits.
After a substantial and delicious breakfast of eggs Florentine the following morning I set off in my oversized light brown robe, looking a little like a monk, down the pretty path which links the main buildings with Cowshed Spa. My full body massage was firm and thorough, lasting an hour. I came out so relaxed I had to be pushed back up the hill to our room to grab our bags and get ready to go. The spa really is top notch and after visiting spas in London I would say this wins hands down in the tranquillity stakes.
Before we left we made the most of the complimentary tea available from 3pm every day which is perfect for hungry children and adults, or if you just fancy sampling one of their delicious cakes, scones or buns.
‘We’ll be back’ we both said as we chugged back up the drive. Although I’d heard nothing but praise for Babington, my only concern that it would be full of flashy Londoners turned out to be misplaced.
If it’s relaxation and understated luxury you’re after then this is the place……it’s just a shame we broke down on the way home!
Babington House, Babington Nr Frome, Somerset, BA11 3RW; Tel +44 (0) 1373 812266; www.babingtonhouse.co.uk.