Somerset’s Great Drive: Wells to Backwell House

Vicars Close, Wells (c) chris_mueller / Thinkstock

Vicars Close, Wells (c) chris_mueller / Thinkstock - Credit: Getty Images/iStockphoto

A Rolls-Royce takes Mark G. Whitchurch from England’s smallest city to a historical house in style

Pick up some goodies at Wells market

Pick up some goodies at Wells market - Credit: sub

There are few parts of our beautiful county that better encapsulate the spirit of Somerset than Wells on a Saturday morning. Arrive early to avoid the crowds and grab a coffee on the high street before a stroll around the market stalls selling everything from baskets and flowers to the most wonderful scotch eggs.

Walk the perimeter wall of the Bishop’s Palace and maybe pause at the play area if you have the kids in tow. Feed the ducks and swans before retracing your footsteps and finding your way out onto the west lawns where the majestic cathedral towers above you. One of my favourite spots is Vicars Close with its quaint cottages and lines of ornate chimneys.

Once you are able to drag yourself away from this charming part of Somerset, head north and onto the Mendip Hills via the Old Bristol Road that can be located by turning left and then immediately right at the base of Bristol Hill or A39. Wind your way up this steep lane travelling through the hamlet of Rookham. Continue straight over at the junction with Wells Road to follow the road over the Mendip Hills to the crossroads with the B3135 and B3134. Continue straight over to hook up with the B3134. After half a mile and with the Castle of Comfort pub on your left, take the first turning on the right.

Follow this undulating country lane as it descends from the peaks of the Mendips to the village of East Harptree and the B3114 where it’s left to West Harptree and then the A368, in the direction of Bath.

The car outside Backwell House - a Grade II listed property

The car outside Backwell House - a Grade II listed property - Credit: sub

Skirt Chew Valley Lake with some expansive views across the lake and valley beyond, in Bishop Sutton turn left on Bonhill Road with brown tourism signs for Chew Valley Lake. At the end of Bonhill Road join Walley Lane to cruise along the easterly side of the lake with an opportunity to pause for a fish and chip lunch at the Salt and Malt restaurant on the shores of the lake.

From Walley Lane turn right onto Denny Lane that hooks up with Tunbridge Road and leads into the affluent village of Chew Magna with its wonderfully grand architecture. Join the Winford Road to travel through Winford and then Barrow Lane that leads to the A38.

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Briefly head towards Bristol before turning left with signposts for Nailsea and Clevedon and the B3130. The road tightens as it squeezes through Barrow Gurney allowing you to pause and admire the well preserved historic architecture.

On reaching the A370 negotiate the intersection to turn left towards Flax Bourton. Backwell House is located on the left hand side after leaving the village.

The stunning red colours inside the car

The stunning red colours inside the car - Credit: sub

A splendid Grade II Georgian mansion with far reaching views across the valley towards Tyntesfield, Backwell House was built in 1815 for wealthy landowner Thomas Keedwell. Today the house is in the hands of the Hobbs family who have teamed up with Guy Williams to turn this wonderful house into a chic boutique country hotel.

Boasting nine beautifully appointed bedrooms the house has been delicately restored and filled with appropriate art and furniture to create a contemporary and relaxing ambiance. I loved the bar made from recycled materials as well as strolling around the ornamental walled garden.

We enjoyed a sumptuous huntsman’s banquet that served up organic and locally sourced produce. For 2017 Guy and his team will be opening the restaurant for regular bookings.

The car:

Saville Row suit. This seductively raked windscreen and delicately contoured flanks take their inspiration from the gracious lines of art deco motor launches of the 1930s.

Open the coach-styled door to be greeted by an interior that delivers on the promises of the stunning exterior. Contoured open grain Canadel door panelling and dashboard detailing set at 55 degrees provide a tactile signature statement. The finest Phantom-grade natural grain leather adorns the minimalist designated seats and dashboard whilst your shoes sink into soft wool carpets.

The attention to details can only be described as flawless. Clever yet discreet, BMW sourced technology ensures all the usual driver aids are at your fingertips. Art deco influences provide design continuity to the rest of the Rolls-Royce range.

With the substantial but swift and silent fabric top lowered, Rolls-Royce suggests “rear passengers do not merely ‘get out’ of a Dawn, but rather stand and disembark as if from a motor launch onto a glamorous private jetty.”

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