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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.