“An intimate and indulgent manor house in the Somerset Levels, with gourmet food, romantic rooms and a peaceful setting”
We found all of the above at Langford Fivehead, a 15th-century manor house tucked away in 7 acres of parkland. Records show a dwelling on the site since 1251, and former occupants, who include a Civil War Royalist, a famous harpsichord maker and a film director, have all left their mark. Wander through the flagstoned halls and you'll spy plasterwork ceilings, cracked beams, and 300-year-old graffiti scratched into stone lintels. But don’t be fooled by the building’s imposing past: this is a convivial, pampering retreat. The historic quirks have been cleverly paired with contemporary comforts such as heated floors and Kevin McCloud lighting, and hosts Olly and Rebecca (who took over from former owners Peter and Orlando in 2013) go out of their way to make guests feel at home. There’s an elegant drawing room for evening drinks, sweeping lawns for lazy games of croquet, and 6 cossetting bedrooms where you can wallow in total tranquility. Best of all, perhaps, are the delicious dinners prepared by Olly, brimming with seasonal produce and served by candlelight in the elm-panelled dining room. Hard to top indeed.
- Perfect for romance and relaxation - several rooms have four-poster beds, and the no-kids policy means peace is all but guaranteed
- Set in a beautiful corner of Somerset, with plenty to explore nearby: pretty villages, bird-filled wetlands, award-winning cider orchards
- Olly's fabulous cooking - a marriage of super-fresh ingredients (most grown on site or sourced locally) and 15 years' experience in the kitchen
- We loved the little details: L’Occitane room fragrances, Ruark digital radios and iPod docks, organic Sedburgh Soap Co toiletries (including big bottles of bubbles)
- Only 20 minutes from the M5 and A303, so ideal for quick rural getaways
- Dinner isn't served on Sundays and Mondays, but Olly and Rebecca can recommend local restaurants
- The bathroom for one room, 10 July 1645, is private but not ensuite; a curtained vestibule covers the entrance, so you can scurry from bed to shower without being seen
- There's a rumour of ghosts, but we're told any supernatural visitors are friendly
- Patchy mobile phone coverage and no in-room TVs, though there’s a big screen downstairs if you need a fix
- It's reached via a winding single-track lane and isn’t signposted - arrive after dark and you'll struggle to find it
Best time to go
Our top tips
- Boutique Hotel
- Breakfast (+ dinner Tuesday-Saturday)
- Over 12s only
- Open all year
- Spa Treatments
- Pet Friendly
- Disabled Access
- Beach Nearby
- Off-street Parking
- Restaurants Nearby
- Air Conditioning
- Guest Lounge
- Tennis Court
- Board games
Rooms are spread across 2 wings, each accessed via a separate staircase - one grand oak, the other ancient elm. All are elegant and restful, with heavy wooden furniture on plush carpets, inviting armchairs, and mullioned windows framing parkland views. Antiques are dotted around - a gilt mirror here, an engraved vase there - and the beds are covered with temptingly crisp linen. But the biggest luxury is the silence: despite tales of ghostly footsteps, we heard nothing but birdsong.
The most sumptuous room is Nathaniel Barnard, named after a 16th-century occupant whose moniker is carved into the hearth. It’s a huge, romantic affair spanning the entire length of one wing, with a four-poster bed, a roll-top tub by the window, a separate bathroom with a walk-in shower, and a sitting area dressed in delicate blues and yellows. Up above is a magnificent plasterwork ceiling with ornate mouldings that hang down like stalactites.
Smaller but just as comfortable are the 3 Unique Rooms. We’ve stayed in 2 of these - Richardson, a twin or super-kingsize double decorated in muted burgundy and sage, and Jessie de Mowbray Matterson, whose four-poster bed is topped with a snuggly peacock-blue throw. The third, Sybilla de Gundvill, also has a four-poster, this time trimmed in sunny yellows and backed by panelling.
More contemporary in style, with a gleaming nickel bedstead and dove-grey walls, is The Diamond Smugglers. The name is the title of an Ian Fleming novel to which 1960s resident George Willoughby bought the film rights, although the project never got off the ground. There's also another kingsize double, 10 July 1645 (the date of a local Civil War battle), which is decked out in calming creams; its bathroom has a separate entrance to the bedroom, with a heavy curtain across both for privacy.
Bathrooms are pampering, with rainfall showers (most also have tubs), fluffy bathrobes and organic Sedburgh Soap Co goodies. You also get tea- and coffee-making kit, slippers, and snazzy Ruark radios/iPod docks.
- Central heating
- Coffee / tea making
- Ipod dock
- Safe box
Olly is an experienced chef with a background in AA-rosetted restaurants, and Somerset’s strong tradition of artisan food means he has plenty of inspiration to work with. His creations are delicious, packed with fresh ingredients from nearby farms and Langford Fivehead’s own kitchen garden.
Dinner (available Tuesday-Saturday) starts with aperitifs and amuse-bouches on the terrace or around the fire in the drawing room - perhaps parmesan crisps or light-as-air bacon tartlets. Guests then move to individual tables in the dining room (or to a private table in the library) for the main event. The prix-fixe menu offers a choice of 3 starters, 3 mains and 3 desserts and is based around whatever’s in season - we munched our way through smooth courgette and rosemary soup topped with edible flowers, crispy sea bass with sweet scallops and zingy tomatoes, and a perfectly cooked pan-seared fillet of beef served with braised shin, a velvety mushroom purée and confit shallots. We rounded things off with tangy West Country cheeses and an iced chocolate parfait, before rolling ourselves over to the snug for coffee and petits fours.
After so much indulgence we didn’t think we’d fancy breakfast the next morning, but the enticing smells wafting through the house soon changed our minds. You can eat wherever you want, so just pick a spot in the library, the garden or even the kitchen and tuck into homemade granola with yoghurt and fresh fruit, local apple juice, steaming cafetières of coffee, croissants and jams, and irresistible cooked options (the Full English, smoked salmon with scrambled eggs).
If you can still face lunch, there are some fine restaurants within driving distance - try The Castle Hotel in Taunton for modern British food with a gourmet twist, or ask Olly and Rebecca to recommend somewhere for good gastro-pub grub.
- Coffee / tea making
- Dinner (Tuesday-Saturday)
- Vegetarian menu
- Stroll around Langford Fivehead's 7 acres of parkland. Among the cedar trees you’ll find a small lake, an Edwardian pet graveyard, an Elizabethan knot garden, a herb-filled kitchen garden and a Victorian greenhouse. There's also a walk around the picturesque local area which begins and ends at the house
- Play croquet and tennis, or snuggle up by the fire with a book or board game
- Visit local food producers. Stock up on organic meat and seasonal veg at Pitney Farm Shop (10 minutes’ drive), then head to Brown & Forrest Smokery in Hambridge for a delicious lunch. Finish by tasting award-winning cider brandies at the Somerset Distillery, owned by Julian Temperley (father of fashion designer Alice)
- Explore the ancient wetlands of the Somerset Levels - bird-watchers should keep an eye out for grey herons, little egrets and cranes. The area is also famed for its magnificent winter starling murmurations, when vast flocks swoop in and out of the trees
- Walk around the 43m-high Burton Pynsent Monument, 10 minutes away. Local legend has it that a cow once managed to wander in and climb to the top before the interior was closed off in the 1970s
- Head to the pretty village of Muchelney (15 minutes away) and visit its ruined abbey. The drive there takes you under Langport's famous ‘hanging chapel’
- It’s a pretty 40-minute drive to Wells, Britain’s second smallest city, where you can visit the cathedral and the 13th-century Bishop’s Palace
- Also within 40 minutes’ drive are the historic houses of Barrington Court, Forde Abbey, Montacute and Lytes Cary
- Petrolheads should visit the Haynes Motor Museum at Sparkford (35 minutes away). If you prefer magnificent flying machines to cars, the Fleet Air Arm Museum is a few minutes further on
Activities on site or nearby include:
- Historical sites
- Museums / galleries
- Plantlife / flora
- Shopping / markets
- Well being