On My Horizon English Countryside – The Newt in Somerset.

Most U.S. travelers lack a several hundred-year-old charming countryside manor for a weekend escape, the peripheries of London are teeming with choices, and we recommend staying at several for various reasons. The moment I met our rep for this palatial property, I knew I had to visit. Just the charming, oh so Very Very British name intrigued me. I’ve visited numerous U.K manor homes and adore all of them, oh to be two hours away from these glorious estates! One recent post, Meet the Shepherdess – who has a shepherdess to care for the lambs grown on property!?

My travel mantra – each of us has a unique fingerprint and thus the proper hotel or manor house may be suitable for one but not another. We solve the mystery.

Just a two-hour drive from London, and not far from the mythical Stonehenge, The Newt in Somerset is one of England’s most stunning luxury hotels. Named one of the World’s Best Hotels in 2023, it’s barely a 2.5-hour train ride from London. Full report coming soon after my Somerset Stopover!

The Newt in Somerset, is a magical 1,000-acre estate in a postcard perfect area of villages, nestled between the small market villages Bruton and Castle Cary in the English countryside. A working Georgian country farmland estate, perfectly manicured labyrinthine gardens, orchards, woodlands, and blooming grounds. The 42 spacious rooms are divided between Hadspen House, its outbuildings, and the Farmyard, a bike or buggy ride away. The heart is Hadspen House, a restored 17th-century honeyed limestone manor surrounded by luxurious lawns.

Inside the house, the ambience is elegant, yet homey and enormously comfortable, enjoy settling in graceful rooms and snug nooks with a cozy living room with a wood-burning fireplace. Stately portraits of the Hobhouse family who lived at Hadspen for over two centuries, gaze over the guests.  I’m looking forward to an evening tipple in the gilded cocktail bar.

The Newt offers enough activities to keep guests on property or off and amused for days. A heated pool is not the only buzz, sign up for honey tasting and explore the Beezantium, a building designed to portray the world from a bee’s perspective.

Be transported back to Roman Britannia; explore a reimagined Roman Villa with mosaics and pastel frescoes created next to unearthed Roman ruins, walk in the footsteps of our Roman ancestors in the reimagined Villa Ventorum.

The owners, South African billionaire, and tech magnate Koos Bekker and his wife Karen Roos are known for their sumptuous Babylonstoren in South Africa. Its gardens are sculpted on those of the Dutch East India Company with wine as the primary draw. Their UK goal was a country manor home with cider orchards. Babylonstoren is wine centric, The Newt is all about cider or as ‘cyder’ as it is locally described. Three hundred types of apple trees growing in the expansive orchards contribute to the cyder production.

The spa includes an inside outside heated pool, a hammam and a rasul mud chamber. A choice of Turkish and Moroccan hammam experiences promise Top to Toe Indulgences. My Hammam experience is reserved!

Nearby, if you must leave, consider these options: this pocket of Somerset possesses utterly praise worthy bona fides. The village of Bruton has an outpost of London based, well-known Hauser & Wirth art gallery surrounded by a Piet Oudolf-designed Garden, and a Farm Stop.  

Just down the lane, nestled in the countryside village of Batcombe, tuck in for lunch or supper at The Three Horseshoes, an AA Rosette Starred restaurant. A quaint 17th Century local Inn with country pub, excellent dining, and an Inn. Cookery from esteemed chef Margot Henderson, whose food celebrates craftsmanship & community. She and her husband Fergus are well known in the kitchens of British chefs.

Fine ales, and fresh, seasonal ingredients with modern British cuisines from their famous signature dishes to traditional favorites such as pies, steaks, gourmet burgers and roasts. Drawing from local ingredients and farms, using seasonal fruit and vegetables in support of their local farming community, most of their meat comes from Stafforshire farms. The Longhorn Beef comes from Will Pearson’s Dunwood Farm in Longsdon, just 5 miles away, and the lamb mainly from Tom Allen in Foxt, just under 10 miles away.

Did you know: Why pubs are called Three Horseshoes? The coat of arms of The Worshipful Company of Farriers, dating back to 1356, depicts three horseshoes illustrating their trade, and whenever a pub takes on the name of The Three Horseshoes it tells you that there used to be a blacksmith or farriers nearby; the name derives from the belief that when a horse lost its shoe, the horse’s rider would have no choice but to stop at the nearest coaching inn on their journey to re-shoe his horse and thus when they arrived, the horse wore only three shoes instead of four.

Full reviews and personal photos on my return.

Ol Jogi, Kenya. The Most Expensive Safari Lodge?

9.30 am Wheels up to Ol Jogi. Our Scenic Air pilot banks in a swooping turn to introduce a few hippos sloshing in a watering hole and herds of wandering Zebra on the plains, before our arrival at Ol Jogi, where many of our clients have happily stayed.

Set on 58,000 acres of unsullied wilderness and nestled into a lush, rocky outcrop, of the Laikipia Plateau. Ol Jogi is one of the most remarkable wildlife reserves in Kenya. Not a typical Safari Lodge by any fashion, it’s a stunning private home that has been in the care of the Wildenstein family for more than 50 years. Long time GM and property managers keep a watchful educated eye on preserving the property and managing local conservation. It is a design masterpiece with a unique style. The home and stone cottages have an extensive collection of museum quality artworks, antique furniture, taxidermy, and a collection of priceless china and silver. The setting creates an ambiance atypical of the more common safari lodge offerings. While the home is luxurious, it is also very comfortable and tranquil. Photos don’t do it justice!

Although our clients have stayed, this is my first visit, warmly embraced by GM Frederic Chanelet, you must be Gwendolyn! He leads us through a long carpeted underground tunnel from inside the house directly to a ‘hide’, pop out windows open to a popular animal watering hole, allowing guests to take a very close look at the giraffes and Zebra! Have you ever been so close to a wild animal? Imagine being a few feet away from a herd of buffalo, or an endangered black rhino, and being close enough to see the marks on its skin and hear its breath, all while being in complete safety and enjoying your favorite cocktail. Welcome to Ol Jogi! My mantra: the arrival sets the stage for any visit, Ol Jogi nails it!

Our evening game drive launches with a well camouflaged leopard mom posing atop a rock, her saggy belly full of milk for her cubs. We watch to see if she brings out a cub, her intent is a meal, not a cub reveal. Distracted by the leopard sighting on our Sunset outing, we make time roaring down the sandy road to dead end at a mammoth boulder. Rovers are not intimidated by a two-story rock, low gear engaged, our driver expertly scrambles up the face of the rock to the top, transporting us to a full sundowner bar! First night arrival and an impromptu leopard siting is rewarded with Dom Pérignon! To say we are impressed is an understatement!  We sit in canvas chairs around the cliff edged bonfire, in quiet reverence, gazing at the last brilliant hues of sunset, sipping bubbly on the edge of a boulder… extraordinary! The first bright star blinks, a toast to Ol Jogi!

We raced back to property for a delicious Tajine dinner; chef gathers the guests to describe the five-course meal. The young professional servers know every ingredient and offer matching wine.… Welcome to Ol Jogi, did I mention nothing compares! The more casual of the two dining rooms, faces a watering hole, where wildlife gather at all hours to sip and bathe. A wall length mirror above the table assures no guest will miss the wild visitors dropping in for a drink.

Morning coffee delivered to my comfy bed! Day Two begins. A Day of Stories about Nature, and Ol Jogi ‘s future development of conservation efforts. An educational safari amidst the magnificent old home and the exquisite guest cottages, privately hosting 14 guests, this is not a shared property. The experiences are tailored to each family or group of friends.

 Ol Jogi offers an extensive list of over-the-top excursions; we’ve brought in helicopters for off property elephant orphanage excursions. Guests can share in their fascinating projects such as their rhino orphanage, where you come face to face with these remarkable species. Tour the Veterinary Clinic and research center and understand how they take wildlife orphans from captivity and reintroduce them back into their natural environment.

The private compound assures you won’t see another land cruiser ever – hunt for the Big Five and never encounter another vehicle.  A private sanctuary teeming with an incredible diversity of game, including more than 40 of the 790 black rhinos that remain in East Africa, migrating elephants, and 15% of the remaining Grevy’s zebras.

Our educational visit at the animal hospital and rhino orphanage ends in an open field where we meet two elephants with keepers. Elly, 44 years old, is massive with enormous tusks, her 12-year-old daughter grazing nearby. Led individually to Elly with a bucket of carrots, she swung her trunk to retrieve a carrot and plop it into her mouth, if she could see her daughter, she was comfortable letting us feed her carrots one by one! The bucket was merely an appetizer! Elephants are constantly eating. They need to eat up to 150kg of food per day. Elephants eat so much that they can spend up to three-quarters of their day just eating!

Rovers continuing skyward to a broad plateau with soaring views, turn a corner arriving at several shaded tents for our lunch in the bush! Massive barbeque kettle drum grills and tables of fresh vegetables and meats – select your choices and deliver for grilling to chef! Saunter to the full bar at the edge of the cliff and sip while your lunch is prepared! Of course, there is a loo tent, with a view! Every meal, every outing tops the last – an extraordinary experience.

Each dining experience has tables exquisitely set with flowers and delicate silver or porcelain objects. The young male servers take turns embellishing each meal with an abundant assortment of objects from the main home. Ask Fred for the secret Butler Pantry tour, a private walk-in closet with floor to ceiling shelves of serving pieces, remarkable little butter dishes, knife rests… a treasure trove collection!

It’s safari heaven, we have spa and hammam appointments this afternoon, if you can imagine, more bliss!? The spa is adjacent to the pool and fitness center. Pool is an understatement, it’s a man-made lake with waterfalls, palm trees, boulder islands, private lounge nooks, and an upstairs deck with thatched umbrellas.

Ol Jogi Hammam… two hours of sheer bliss…I am a professional Hammam junkie and not easily impressed. The domed hammam with stained glass lighting, produces abundant steam with drops of heated water dripping from the ceiling… an ethereal experience! Triple body rub, massage, and two-handed scrub with Moroccan mud, finishing body and hair masque, followed by shea butter body polish! Alice is Kenyan, but she could teach a class in Hammam!

The main home consists of a trendy bar with chic monkey lamps, jungle prints, a game room, filed with heavy dark wood furniture, safari chic meets old world elegance. Cinema fans aren’t left out, comfy sofas line the room for proper viewing. Two dining rooms, one formal, and a grand living room with massive fireplace and sumptuous sofas. Another evening leads us to the secret wine vault and tasting room, the colossal steel vault door is large enough for Fort Knox…you won’t find it, a secret release button moves a wall revealing the door to the vault.

About the last night… Ol Jogi grand finale dinner on a wooden bridge over a river! A race to the river, where we walked over a creaky wooden suspension bridge to be greeted by our favorite barman for cocktails. An outdoor under the trees ‘living room’ of comfy sofas surround a roaring bonfire! Chef prepared Wagu and lobster, an assortment of yummy salads, fresh baked breads… and of course, dessert! Exceptional dinner, impeccable service… hard to top every meal and event, but Ol Jogi did every day!

It may be one of the most expensive African safari lodges, however, the balance between luxury and conservation is of equal importance.  Ol Jogi aims to be a leading model for private conservation, with relentless efforts to pioneer new methods and techniques enabling them to protect wildlife. Ol Jogi Wildlife Conservancy was created over 40 years ago, with the aim of preserving natural habitats and their wildlife in a responsible manner. 

Highly Recommend by our clients as well!