Relaxing in rural Somerset
Roger Saul is a man who prides himself on dealing with the exquisite. The founder of the luxurious leather-goods brand Mulberry, Saul has extended his company’s ethos beyond the classic style of their products towards a total ‘Roger Saul lifestyle’ – with his own country house hotel, Charlton House, set among the rolling hills of Somerset.
Based around a building that dates from the fifteenth century, the hotel’s grand and impressive façade belies the welcoming warm colours and furnishings behind the front door. Saul has added an orangery and spa since he acquired the property in 1996. The spa sits at the heart of the hotel. Its waiting room has an Arabian feel to its interior: rich fabrics, glassware, candles and furniture transport you to some exotic locale instantaneously. I half expected to spot a shisha pipe in the corner.
The spa staff offer over 30 different treatments, from Indian head massage to minty-fresh facials, all of which are based on natural oils and potions, tailor-made by a local apothecary. After a massage, guests can take a dip in the pool and swim through an archway in its glass side to an enclosed suntrap of a courtyard. The pool area also houses a sauna and steam rooms. The bedrooms have French doors that lead out onto private terraces beside the pool area – perfect for summer breakfasts.
All the rooms are individually named and have a unique character, but all are superbly decorated. In mine, taupe, chocolate and khaki tones blend with leather items such as a large traveller’s trunk acting as a coffee table. A plank of distressed wood laid across two more trunks, which at first appears to be just a desk, disguises a mini-bar. The bathroom is all marble surfaces and reclaimed wooden mirrors, while a free-standing oversized cast iron bath acts as the main focus – until temptation gets the better of you, and you flick on the projector to watch any one of many DVDs available to you on the bathroom wall. Oh yes, these rooms have all the latest electric gee-whizzardry subtly built into them.
It is the Michelin-starred restaurant, however, that really sets this place apart. The tables are set with white linen and silver cutlery, but their hooded kaftan chairs rekindle the hotel’s exotic yet comfortable theme. Local West Country produce is used to create a rich and enticing menu, which is lovingly prepared and presented – some ingredients come from Sharpham Park, the Sauls’ own traditionally-run organic estate. A large wine cellar, inspired by Saul’s self-proclaimed ‘love of the grape’, and a knowledgeable staff, complete the dining experience.
At present Saul has no plans to expand his hotel business. But when he does, he’ll find there are plenty of us wanting to live his lifestyle.