Short stay: Homewood Hotel and Spa, Bath, UK


Homewood, in ten bucolic acres of lawns and soaring trees, brings relaxed but stylish Mediterranean living to the rural village of Freshford: palms, olive trees in deep terracotta planters, Goddess sculptures and modernist art. It’s a sensuous taste of the Côte d’Azur slotted between the rivers Avon and Frome. The Mediterranean theme is apt, given that Bath, with its rich Roman heritage, is just five miles north.

Portions of the Cotswold honey-coloured house possibly date back to a 13th century Carthusian monastery, with Georgian and Victorian extensions added through the ages. Homewood is a bold contemporary celebration of eclectic style, particularly in a dining room of a dozen different chandeliers, lighting 1978 moody black-and-white photographic portraits of Peter Gabriel, a local prog rock star.

Reception is a veritable museum of clocks, over 40 of them drifting seamlessly into a gallery of 1940s Picture Post covers featuring icons of style: Cary Grant, Elizabeth Taylor, Rock Hudson, Sophia Loren and a young Princess Elizabeth.

The welcome

Immediately a sculpture of a thoughtful ape, rocking a fedora and offering hand-sanitiser tells you that Homewood will be fun, quirky and welcoming.

Much of the leg-work is done online pre-arrival, such as confirmation of room and restaurant bookings, so it really is a welcome rather than the bureaucracy of form-filling.

A welcome pack includes a charming illustrated guide to a 90 minutes family-friendly walk from Homewood to Ilford. Clearly, this is a hotel that takes care of its guests.

The room

Manuka is a suite with an enclosed sun-trap garden featuring a hot-tub lit by a crystal chandelier, sheltered by a rustic pagoda. Bay-tree topiary, rocking chairs and padded patio furniture complete a restful garden.

Vibrant pop-art including a thought-provoking State of Religion collage adorns a laterally-timbered wall whilst a vast post-impressionistic sea / sky canvass is the centrepiece of an exposed Cotswold brick wall.

The traditional, gentleman’s club leather arm chairs, coalesces with the avant-garde – there is a flock of geese flying through a lovat sky on the thick lined curtains.

Throw in Art Deco bedside lamps, a regally-sized bed and SMEG coffee-maker and you have homely accommodation that is more like a cottage than suite.

The bathroom

With such proximity to Bath it’s only appropriate that the main bathroom, there is also a separate and spacious loo, has Roman themed wall-friezes of playing cherubim. There is a roll-top bath and huge walk in shower. Both are fit for a Roman Emperor.

There are ample full-size bottles of 100 Acres toiletries: bubble-bath, hand-wash, body-wash, shampoo, conditioner and body lotion featuring fragrances of the British countryside created from all-natural ingredients.

Facilities

Days begin with breakfast in your room, in the restaurant or best of all out on the terrace. Although guests order their Somerset full English, vegetarian full English, Shakshuka baked eggs, smashed avocado or smoked salmon with scrambled eggs the evening before, there is a breakfast board that comes as standard: yogurt, fruit, juice, muesli and delicate mini-pastries.

Spa treatments include a harmonising back massage, a Tibetan-inspired body treatment to relieve deep fatigue and aching muscles plus an energising and detoxifying scrub that uses the ionising properties of Himalayan salt crystals.

Location

Early morning there are romantic misty views over the soft Somerset landscape of the Avon Valley. Ancient woodlands, green pastures, quiet pastures and the banks of the River Frome are all within walking distance as are a medieval hall, Palladian homes and simple weavers’ cottages. There are great views of the landscape from the hot tub.

Five miles to the north there is Bath. Prior Park Landscape Garden gives the best view for photographs of the Palladian Bridge. Down in the city there are the Roman Baths, the Fashion Museum and a host of independent shops.

 

To the south, a 30 minutes drive away, lies Stourhead’s National Trust gardens: including a mile walk around a lake with classical follies and poetic quotations from Homer and Milton. This is Georgian landscaping on an epic scale.

Other nice touches

Flip-flops and warm Bown robes are supplied for the short walk to the outdoor pool, heated to 28 Centigrade throughout the year.

Soon an adventure playground will be ready to keep the kids occupied. You can’t miss it. It’s next to a full-size topiary giraffe.

Dogs are also welcomed with Woof boxes filled with Lily’s Kitchen food and treats. Of course, dogs are given their own beds.

Cost

Rooms begin at around £185 per night with suites reaching up to £650.

The best bit

The newly opened Olio terrace is a slice of Mediterranean living with sunflower coloured parasols, Coco and Wolf pastel-shade patio furniture with fireplace and patio-heaters if required. Dress can be shorts and flip-flop casual but usually they are designer shorts and designer flip-flops.

Throughout the day there is a tapas sharing theme to the menus: small plates such as chilli squid, griddled prawns, chorizo scotch egg. Salmon, chicken and steaks can either be cooked robata, plancha or skillet.

Complex Ottolenghi style salads – such as caponata, pine nuts, red wine vinegar and bulgur wheat – are also intended for sociable sharing.

Service is slick and cohesive with a number of the staff having worked together at Le Manoir aux Quat’ Saisons.

The final verdict

Homewood’s collection of bold art is fascinating, always a conversation starter. Soon, the hotel will open another ten rooms in The Lodge, four of them with hot-tub gardens. Two of those with idyllic views over the Avon Valley.

Currently, owner Ian Taylor is collecting grandfather-clock faces and he hopes that they will feature as a piece of art in one of the new rooms. Then again, he has also acquired 60 hot-water bottles and they may appear soon. Taylor believes in moving pieces around, creating new collections, drawing guests back to view the latest creative changes.

Disclosure: Our stay was sponsored by Homewood Hotel and Spa.


Comments (14)

  1. Jack says:

    As I’ve just heard that there’s going to be two weeks of quarantine if you return from a holiday in Spain, I’ll think it will be a staycation for my family. At Homewood you can get a taste of Mediterranean living without all the problems of travelling abroad and wearing a mask on a plane for a couple of hours.

    • Karin Jones says:

      Really good point, Jack. I think the fear factor with the pandemic along with the inconvenience of quarantine are likely going to make more people want to ‘staycation’ in the UK rather than taking trips abroad just yet.

    • Carolyn says:

      And now the Balearic Islands and Canary Islands are off the holiday menu too, unless you want to go into quarantine for two weeks. Which for those of us who can’t work from home is impractical. It looks as if staycations are here to stay.

      If we are not going to be spending money on flights and don’t forget the costs of airport parking, meals at airports and transfers, then we’ve got the chance to spend our money on some luxurious hotels in the U.K. Hopefully, helping our own hospitality industry to survive.

    • Peter Ryan says:

      Can’t see too much wrong with a staycation if you’re kicking back in a place as stylish as this.

    • Jen says:

      Yeah, no kidding. I mean even the pictures seemed to have a calming effect on me during a social distancing period. It helps to see people out like that and enjoying themselves. That’s the whole point of staying at a place like this. Everybody deserves time to relax once in a while.

  2. Karin Jones says:

    Bath is a lovely city year round to visit, I’d highly recommend it. I had hoped to go back for a couple of days this year but alas, the pandemic had other ideas. When things are back to ‘normal’, whenever that may be, I’ll definitely return. I can understand people still wanting or needing to travel now though, and the need for businesses to earn and stay afloat, so while I might not be travelling yet it’s still important that hotels are ‘covid secure’ as they call it. I like the quirky Fedora wearing ape offering guests hand sanitizer, that’s pretty cool!

    It looks very peaceful and relaxing with quite a chilled out vibe. I’m a sucker for hot tubs too so I’d definitely go for that, and the outdoor pool would be lovely in the warmer months. I think I prefer the idea of staying out of the centre somewhere a little quieter, so this fits the bill quite nicely. Sounds like an excellent location for relaxing without too much busyness like you’d get in the middle of Bath while having plenty of places to explore in easily accessible distance. I hadn’t even heard of the Stourhead’s National Trust gardens so that’s something I’d add to the list if I could tear myself away from the food & hot tub.

    • Amy says:

      Yeah I agree with you, I’m playing it safe with traveling myself. I don’t see the need to rush into anythng. It’s a shame to think about all the businesses that are struggling right now and the long road to recovery ahead. But hopefully people can appreciate travel more, and in the future we can realize how much we depend on others to earn a living.

  3. Jeff G says:

    At long last hotels seem to have accepted that the dog is a part of a family. It takes some of the fun out of a holiday if you worry that your dog is unhappy locked up in kennels. I’ve stayed at some hotels recently which have been really welcoming to dogs.

    • Michael Edwards says:

      If you are interested in the hotel’s decor and art then it’s worth visiting the “Virtual” page on their website and watching a programme on the hotel that owner Ian Taylor, Ed the Manager and a local art expert made during lockdown. It’s interesting to hear Ian’s views on art and his possible plans for decorating The Lodge when it opens later in the year. It takes about 40 minutes to watch but in many ways it’s quite inspirational and very entertaining.

  4. Andy says:

    I have to stay in a lot of characterless boxes in hotels when I’m travelling for businesses. When I go on holiday or take a long weekend I look for a hotel with a bit of character. I think the Homewood would be a very entertaining place to stay. From the pictures it seems ideal for a relaxed family holiday.

    • Sam says:

      It sure does, that was my frame of thought here. I enjoyed the family pictures. Everybody looks so happy and relaxed. And I like that they included the baby! It leaves me thinking about how important it is to spend time with family when you’re on vacation.

  5. Danielle H. says:

    I love the old world feel of this hotel and the history behind it. That ape is kind of creepy though especially if you see it at night and not paying attention. It’s good to know for locals, but woe for international travelers like me. We just have to salivate a little bit longer to get to places like these. Traveling by plane is not in the cards for now.

  6. Margaret Carding says:

    The idea of a Mediterranean styled terrace with a tapas menu is very clever. We all want to close our eyes and imagine that we are sipping sangria or a chilled glass of rose or San Miguel somewhere along a Mediterranean shoreline. Still if it ain’t gonna happen this summer than at least we can go to Bath and pretend.

    • Jim says:

      I was surprised to discover that the style of this place was in the nature of the Mediterranean. Which in my opinion is one of the most beautiful spots in the entire world. I like how they used an Eastern influence for their massages as well.

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