At the Chapel, Bruton, Somerset
Will Ross, July 24, 2020
Every now and again, restoration projects transform a place enough to convert it into a destination and draw a crowd. The Pig hotels have done that with their renovations of heritage residences. So too have arty New Yorkers in the Hudson Valley with the likes of Hotel Tivoli and the retrofitting of a former printing plant for the Dia Art Foundation’s outpost in Beacon, NY. John Steinbeck once connected the East Coast and English countryside, switching Sag Harbor, NY for Bruton, Somerset in 1958, now the focal point of a series of conversation projects that have turned the tiny village into a sought after waypoint for culture and nature.
The Great Recession saw the restoration of pair of buildings in Bruton. Swiss contemporary art gallery Hauser & Wirth dedicated their focus for a set of farm buildings, matching their New York, London and Zurich outposts with something rural. Half a mile away and a few months before Hauser & Wirth swung open its barn doors, At the Chapel launched, providing food, shelter and graceful furnishings for those visiting the tiny village 105 miles west of London.
The hotel opened in 2008 with eight bedrooms, hewn into the upper reaches of the Grade 2 listed chapel. Accommodations left plenty of space for a large dining area and balcony in the main hall, with pews replaced by mid-century upholstery and a new altar installed – a welcoming bar. Here you’ll find meals offered throughout the day, freshly baked bread and a healthy inventory of wine including South African Babylonstoren’s blends, shunted down the hill from the nearby The Newt.
Room types vary in size and aspect, with a slight change in facilities according to their custom fittings from the MacKenzie & Wheeler conversion. During my stay, I spent a night in the attic in the cosy Bedroom Four (£125 per night) with eves, a broad timber beam and a shower large enough to sit and lie down in what would have been a forgotten recess of original structure. Opposite was Bedroom 5, a south-facing double room with a sofa bed suited to families (£250 per night). The remaining six rows span these two types in terms of size, all enjoyable until the liberal 12 noon checkout time.
Though At the Chapel is our recommended gateway for accommodation in Bruton, also note farm-to-table restaurant Osip and the associated hotel, Number One. The aforementioned The Newt also have a Garden Restaurant and a smarter fine dining setup, and admit guests to their gardens for the entry fee of £15. See this cost as an investment in one of the most comprehensive conservation projects to hit British shores, steered by one of South Africa’s most industrious couples.
Bruton’s location in the heart of Somerset connects it to a web of country lanes and curving climbs that suit both runners and cyclists. Swimmers don’t get the best treatment with zero public pools and no lakes in the immediate area.
Cyclists can point their front wheel to Bath to take on a sequence of hills north including – Maggot Farm Climb (1.1km / 8%) and Lamyatt above Milton Clevedon (2.6km / 4%). Those inclined to stay nearer Bruton can connect a 80km anti-clockswise circular loop that can be made through the village’s neighbouring settlements.
Start by rolling south-west from At the Chapel, taking Dropping Lane past Hauser & Wirth as a 2km climb at 4% to warm up the legs. Then pass through Redlynch before taking a left on Kingsettle Hill and onto Charcroft Hill. From here the loop continues around the dial through North Brewham, Batcombe and Milton Clevedon. See the full GPS read-out here.
Another cycle route would be to extend the loop east into Cranborne Chase AONB along The Hardway, hooking north through Kilmington before cutting back west on Druley Hill then Hammer Street through North Brewham.
Runners should make a note of a 2.35km loop West up Sunny Hill and also around a trail around King’s Playing Fields, located in centre of the village. Otherwise, a 10km route west to Castle Cary takes you on some public footpaths, while a run south to Bruton’s 16th century Dovecot makes for an easy 3km loop to spin the legs over in the morning.
Bruton’s local secondary school called Sexey’s has a 19.5m pool. We’re contacting them to find out about public access hours and will update this paragraph if there is option.
For more information, visit atthechapel.com. And for a wider range of things to do from Bruton, go to Number One’s Visit web page, numberonebruton.com/visit.