One of the things I love is finding travel gems – the places to stay that are off the beaten track and just that little bit different. You usually hear about them from friends, or from friends of friends, or friends of friends of friends. You know what I mean. They aren’t easy to find and they can take loads of time to research. But once you find one, it’s like spotting a shiny pound coin in the kerb. You pick it up, can’t believe your luck, and then put it in your pocket.
My recent find was discovered with the help of i-escape, the UK-based travel site that prides itself in uncovering some of the world’s best travel secrets. Each of the 1,500 properties are individually visited and reviewed. Most are proprietor run, but have that cool factor. i-escape is so popular they are approached by hundreds of potential properties each week, but only a handful make it through and are listed on the site. When booking through i-escape you are guaranteed the same price as going direct, PLUS you usually get a special perk for going through the site (such as a glass of bubbly at arrival). So I went to check out one of their “finds”.
i-escape: At The Chapel in Bruton
At the Chapel is a meticulously restored medieval chapel with a popular artisan bakery, winestore, restaurant and 8 guest rooms. It’s in Bruton, a small ancient town in South Somerset famed for farming and public schools. Lots of creatives live in the areas, and the shelves at reception are filled with books written by locals, such as Venetia Dearden, Roland Vernon James Crowden, that have held launch events at the hotel.
I’m here sans kids and settled into Room 8. It’s a LARGE room, nearly the size of my first flat in San Francisco (no, actually I think it’s bigger). The cream-coloured walls contrast with the dark wooden floors. In the corner is a mint green velvet chaise lounge that sits atop a lush brown and white cowhide rug (a nod to Bruton’s agricultural roots?). I instantly imagine myself relaxing with one of the lovely local books kindly left in the room and opening the double French doors that lead onto the private garden terrace with a south-facing view of the 12th century church. It’s a nice thought, but it’s too cold this January afternoon to open the doors.
Instead I relax on the kingsized bed, which has crisp Egyptian linen and loads and loads of fluffy pillows (perfect for sitting up and reading, or typing out a hotel review using the free WiFi). There are minimalist drawings on the walls (I haven’t asked, but I assume they are done by local artists, it’s that kind of place). There’s a large HD Smart TV on the wall, which seems out-of-place (does anyone still watch television?)
The bathroom is a big as the bedroom (not really but it’s HUGE) and the marble floor is warm under my feet. (The best way to a woman’s heart is through her feet). The freestanding bath tub could fit a few people and to my delight there is a collection of REN toiletries on the countertop. Having just bought myself some of these gorgeous aromatic potions at Space NK, I know how pricey they are. There’s a dark grey designer glass bowl that I mistake for a sink and accidentally empty my contact lens solution into. Ooops. I eye the two plush robes hanging on the wall and fast forward to a long bath before bed, soaking in rosewood and camomile, and then using the Neroli and grapefruit lotion before retiring to said Egyptian cotton sheets and soft fluffy pillows… I digress…
It’s the height of winter and there’s a raging wind storm outside, but inside I still haven’t felt the need to put my socks back on because of those lovely warm floors. As I read through the hotel information booklet (am I the only one that does this?) I hear church bells chime on the half hour. The hotel only has 8 rooms and each are individually decorated. I read on. From midnight to 7 am they lock the front doors of the hotel, and the night baker takes care of us. I guess if I can’t sleep I might be able to walk upstairs and knead some dough or nibble on a biscuit.
I haven’t even told you the best part yet. The croissants. Each morning the baker, Tom, leaves a freshly baked croissant at your door. In the fridge you have local Somerset butter and homemade jam. You can then either choose to have it with a cafetière of coffee or tea (Tea Pigs of course!) And there fresh organic milk too.
I love this place.
- Atmosphere, meticulously restored medieval chapel, a real cool factor
- Personal service: I forgot my toothbrush, and they didn’t have one but they got one across the road when shop opened
- Freshly baked croissants delivered to your door each morning
- Tea pigs and cafetière coffee, organic milk in fridge
- REN cosmetics in bathroom
- Underfloor heating
- FREE wi-fi
- REAL hair dryer (not one of those low powered ones that are stuck on the wall)
- If you’re on a low carb diet, you’ll want to purchase something else for breakfast
- On windy nights you can hear everything outside (but cosy inside)
- Limited parking
IF YOU GO
i-escape Travel site that prides itself in discovering the world’s best travel secrets. All properties are personally visited. Also check out i-escapewithkids, which rates properties based on those godsends that make family travel easier.
At The Chapel 28 High Street, Bruton, Somerset BA10 0AE +44 01749 814070 www.i-escape.com/at-the-chapel
Ideally placed to visit: Wells (14 miles), Glastonbury (17 miles), Cheddar (25 miles), Bath (26 miles), Bristol (30 miles), Stonehenge.
Note: My accommodation was provided by i-escape for the purpose of this review. All opinions are my own.