Location: Rural Somerset
Perfect for: Quiet countryside, private bathing, and Georgian spelndour
A combination of rural charm, urban style and plain good taste, packed with quirky features and a 15m indoor swimming pool, The Garden House is a fantastic gay friendly luxury self catering near Bath, Somerset…
It’s a straight run down the M4 to the Garden House at Lilycombe Farm in the village of Chewton Mendip, near Bath, but the fun begins once you get onto the pretty (and hilly) run down towards Chewton Mendip itself. “Well, winding water on that, mate!” I say wittily (Chewton Mendip is named after the River Chew, which is Celtic for ‘winding water’) while Monsieur 2 stares in confused wonder.
Lilycombe Farm isn’t easy to find. Signposts in the back lanes don’t seem to have the foggiest idea what they’re pointing to, and Monsieur 2 has been getting testy.“Well, we did want a secluded weekend away,” I offer, as we bump along a graveled drive. “Oh look!” shrieks Monsieur 2, brightening, “that must be the owner!” Looking across I see a smiling lady waving enthusiastically. Thank goodness. It looks like we’ve arrived.
Jane (the owner) bubbles with life, and ushers us into the converted dairy – now called the Garden House – a rambling old building with four bedrooms and three bathrooms. It’s totally self-contained, with a fully equipped kitchen (stocked with the basics), private patio and an open fire, happily laid out for us.
Plus, Jane’s an interior designer. And she’s put her skills to good use; the Garden House is a combination of rural charm, urban style and plain good taste. And we love the quirky features, like the wicker hamper, perched high above on a beam, housing the projector, and the door to nowhere, mounted onto the wall of the master bedroom. There’s also swimming pool in the adjacent barn, which Jane insists we must use. She’s checked on her online booking system (her friends use it, too) and tonight it’s all ours!
Although the Garden House has ample facilities for us to cook our own dinner (we could have arranged a private-dining chef too, if we’d asked), we’ve heard great things about a fish restaurant called Goodfellows, in Wells, Britain’s smallest city, which is just 10-minutes drive away, so have booked in for dinner at 8pm.
Wells is England’s smallest city – where the swans ring the cathedral bell, a dragon (albeit a large wicker one) lies in wait inside the Bishops garden and people flock to buy goodies at its market. It’s also where Simon Pegg filmed Hot Fuzz, a comic whodunnit of mass murder amongst the cucumber frames.
There’s no sign of the fuzz, though, when we arrive at Goodfellows. We enter at the front, and walk through the smart canteen-like restaurant where we immediately see the chefs at work. It’s busy, and we’re glad to be taken upstairs to a quieter, more intimate dining area comprising around seven tables.
We’re greeted warmly at Goodfellows and pleased to be shown upstairs, past the canteen style restaurant and open kitchen, to a more intimate dining space with about 7 tables. Adam Fellows, a 2 AA Rosette awarded chef (formerly of Charlton House) and his French wife, Martine, have a small but interesting selection of seasonal dishes available, including a three-course market menu (£48) and six-course tasting menu (£58), and whilst we’re mooting over what to have, we munch on some delicious home-baked bread.
Monsieur 2 settles on salmon with fig relish to start, and I, an accomplished fillet of mackerel with pickled carrots, potato salad and horseradish. We are impressed by our mains – venison steak with confit potato and Armagnac-soaked prunes, for Monsieur 2, who even gives the thumbs up to the accompanying roasted root vegetables; and silkily-fresh sea bass with saffron-braised fennel, capers, and grilled aubergine for me – but too stuffed for individual puds, so share a fantastic chestnut and mandarin mousse with a joconde sponge and pain d’epices ice cream. The petit fours finish us off, and when we’ve paid our bill (which isn’t cheap), we head out for a romantic meander round Wells’s floodlit cathedral and Vicar’s Close, Europe’s oldest residential street. Jesus may have had a tough life but he inspired some super architecture.
Remembering Jane’s insistence that we try out the pool, we crunch over the gravel when we get back, to the next barn along. Within is 15 metres of pure bliss and because we’ve forgotten our swimsuits, we strip down to our vitals and hop in, popping MTV (projected onto the far wall) on before making the inaugural splash. No one can see you here, and you can book the place out for your exclusive use. Apparently, Jane sometimes pops the Jaws DVD on just to keep swimmers on their toes.
We showered in the neat little changing rooms, but I’m a sucker for a roll-top tub, so I get wet again in the house. The travertine-lined bathrooms with underfloor heating are treasure caves of L’Occitane toiletries, which I flash around generously while Monsieur 2settles under the goose down duvet between the Egyptian cotton sheets.
The perfect start to the perfect Somerset day. Monsieur 2 woke me gently, whispering, “Fresh coffee from a fresh man,” and led me to a fully laid breakfast table in our private walled garden. He’d stocked up on crumpets, croissants, fresh coffee and my favourite gooseberry jam because Jane advised on booking that guest provisions would only include the very basics: tea, instant coffee and long life milk. This jars a little, given the attention to detail and luxury feel in the rest of the house. But it’s the only thing that does.
“The Mendips call,” I croon, “and I need to see big trees and small animals.” Dressed in tweedy caps and clumpy walking boots, we close the door behind us and make for the fields to take in the dribble-inducing stone cottages, hedgerows and Pantone-referenced greenery as far as the eyes can see.
I take lots of shots of photogenic little calves and lambs. “Sorry, Moo, would you move slightly to the left for the photo please?” It ignores me.
Check-out is 10am, so we shave it finely and set out to gorge on the delights of Somerset – quite literally in our case, because it’s the Cheddar Gorge we have our sights on. A 20-minute drive and we’re there.
The gorge is billed as the UK’s Grand Canyon. It seems like a slight overstatement as the thing only runs for around a mile, but it does have 300ft cliffs and some awesome terrain to get your hiking legs out. Monsieur 2 says, “I think the whiteness of your legs is hurting my retinas,” and laughs for about ten minutes. The cheek.
We spend hours walking along trails and through heathland before we settle on a rocky outcrop and sup on a mini-picnic (with a demi bottle of fizz), and stare into the distance together.
Back on the road with the roof down, we’ve had the perfect stay away, and are left blissed out and Mendippy.
Remember to mention les Deux Messieurs when you book!
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luxury self catering in bath somerset barn conversion – gay friendly design-led place to stay reviewed by les deux messieurs
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