Swain House

Watchet, Bristol, Bath & Somerset, United Kingdom Book from

Petite, contemporary B&B in small-town Somerset, close to harbours, beaches and the wilds of Exmoor National Park
The rugged little harbour in time-forgotten Watchet inspired Samuel Taylor Coleridge to write his lyrical epic, The Rime of the Ancient Mariner. In the same spot - a place that hasn’t changed much in 200 years - Jason and Annie Robinson were inspired, too. They fell in love with the Somerset town while looking for a wedding venue in the area. By the time they were married, they’d already bought a weekend bolthole on the high street (they both worked for Disney, and were living in London at the time), but they found it hard to stay away. Buying the shop next door was their ‘escape route’ to the country. And now they offer an escape to anyone who cares to join them.

On the 2 upper floors of a Georgian townhouse, they have created 4 swish rooms with a chilled urban vibe and a touch of National Gallery class (you’ll see what we mean when you check in). Downstairs, the former junk shop - now a cosy lounge-diner - is done up in slate, pewter and silvery velvet, with a few interesting knick-knacks (a Mickey Mouse in a glass case, a wall of framed butterflies). Jason loves to cook (just have a peek at his shiny pro kitchen) and does a mean blueberry muffin as well as a locally sourced Full English, his own veggie sausages and light suppers on request. Just around the corner, the seafront gives you a taste of what the region has to offer: fossil beaches, rocky cliffs and inspiring Bristol Channel views.


  • The location: ideal for exploring the wilds of Exmoor, the secretive wooded hills and valleys of the Quantocks, and the high cliffs and shingle beaches of the West Somerset coast
  • Super-comfy rooms (all with roll-top tubs) that looked just as snazzy during our 2016 revisit as they did when the B&B first opened
  • Jason and Annie are relaxed, friendly and attentive hosts with a real passion for the area and its produce
  • Ideal for a romantic weekend - no kids allowed
  • A great option for a celebration or house party for up to 8 people - and, with notice, Jason can knock up a 3-course dinner with local wine


  • An original shop window is a one-off, perhaps, among B&Bs, but it also puts guests on display during breakfast and supper
  • No twin rooms, and the front rooms overlooking the street can be a little noisy at weekends
  • No private parking, though there’s a large (and inexpensive) pay and display within a 2-minute walk
  • If you're expecting a hotel-like reception, you’ll be disappointed. The Robinsons live next door and are on call at the press of a bell, but they don’t offer 24-hour service
  • No outside space - all the more reason to make use of the area’s great outdoors

Best time to go

The West Somerset / Exmoor region is a year-round destination, particularly beautiful in spring and autumn thanks to its extensive woodland. Summer can be busy, though you can always escape the crowds. Winter is very quiet but just as lovely, with deserted beaches and snow on high ground. Highlights include Dunster by Candlelight (2 nights in December), the annual Tour of Wessex (the UK’s biggest cycling event in May) and a walking festival in May. Swain House is closed for 2 weeks over Christmas (dates vary).

Our top tips

Time-warped Watchet is a curious little place in a relatively undiscovered corner of the West Country, so don’t expect much in the way of nightlife, haute cuisine or chi-chi shopping. Do expect ravishing countryside, picture-postcard villages and a real sense of history. There’s so much to see in this lovely region, and this smart, one-off B&B has added a bit of 21st-century style to the mix. There’s nothing quite like it for miles.

Great for...

Great Outdoors
  • = Recommended
  • = Best in region
  • = World favourite
  • Boutique B&B
  • 4
  • Breakfast (+ dinners on request)
  • Over 16s only
  • Open all year
  • Pool
  • Spa Treatments
  • WiFi
  • Pet Friendly
  • Disabled Access
  • Beach Nearby
  • Off-street Parking
  • Restaurants Nearby
  • Air Conditioning
  • Guest Lounge
  • Terrace
  • Garden
  • Gym
  • Bicycles Available


There are just 4 rooms - 2 on the first floor and 2 above. The street-facing rooms are a teeny bit larger but all have the same stylish look: smart and contemporary with graphite, chocolate and cream décor. One wall in each is emblazoned with custom-made digital wallpaper taken from an 18th- or early 19th-century Master in the National or National Portrait Gallery - in Room 1, Charlotte Sophia of Mecklenburg-Strelitz; in Room 2, the face of her husband, King George III (by the same artist, Allan Ramsay); in Room 3, the hands of Christina of Denmark by Hans Holbein the Younger; and in Room 4, a young woman from The Surprise by Claude-Marie Dubufe.

These eye-catching murals give each room a distinct character, though all share the basics: kingsize beds dressed in luxury linens, button-back easy chairs, black-out blinds, antique-style radiators, mini flat-screen TVs, and welcome trays with tea, coffee, fresh milk and homemade cakes. We loved the beautiful bathrooms, which have free-standing slipper baths, walk-in showers, waffle robes and REN toiletries. Views aren't a strong point, though from Room 4 you can see steam trains coming and going from Watchet station.

Features include:

  • Bathrobes
  • Central heating
  • Coffee tea making
  • Dvd player
  • Freeview TV
  • Hairdryer
  • Internet access
  • Ipod dock
  • Iron
  • Radio
  • Safe box
  • Toiletries
  • WiFi
  • Wifi internet


Breakfast is served at a communal table in the old shop and combines a buffet of fruit, juices, pastries and cereals with a menu of made-to-order fare. We loved our Full English and stack of pancakes with maple syrup - a delicious way to start the day. Where possible, all food is homemade and the ingredients organic and local: farm-shop muesli from the Quantocks, local dry-cured bacon, Somerset cheeses. Jason is a keen cook and is also responsible for the delicious cakes you’ll find in your room (perhaps raspberry and blueberry muffins, chocolate truffles with Cointreau or American-style cookies).

Come evening, you can order a simple, light supper of cheeses, charcuterie, pickles and rustic bread, served with wines by local vineyard Oakley or beers and ciders from the Six Trees micro brewery. Jason also offers occasional weekend foodie packages, which include tea and cake, supper, breakfast and a 3-course meal on the second night; enquire when booking if this interests you.

When it comes to eating out, there are several options in Watchet, including the Spice Merchant Indian restaurant just around the corner. The excellent Culbone Inn near Porlock is 25 minutes by car or taxi, but worth it for the views of the Lorna Doone Valley. The high-class menu includes Devon Red beef and Exmoor lamb, and Swain House guests get 10% off the bill.

Features include:

  • Breakfast
  • Coffee tea making
  • Communal dining
  • Dinner by arrangement
  • Organic produce
  • Picnics on request
  • Restaurants nearby


  • Stroll around Watchet, best known for its 1,000-year-old mineral harbour, red lighthouse and rocky beach. For rainy days, there’s a quaint little museum
  • Visit historic Dunster, 9km to the west. It’s quintessential England, with cobbled streets, bow-fronted shops, tea rooms, a 17th-century yarn market and a fairytale castle (owned by the National Trust and open to the public)
  • Head to Blue Anchor, a strip of white-pebble beach with an excellent café, a 7-minute drive (or 1-hour walk along the West Somerset Coast Path) to the west. Further west there’s a sandier beach at Dunster; to the east, Kilve beach is a designated Site of Special Scientific Interest thanks to its wave-cut rock formations and fossils
  • Puff through the countryside on the West Somerset Steam Railway, which runs between Bishop’s Lydeard and Minehead with stops at Watchet, Blue Anchor and Dunster
  • Another West Somerset gem is the village of Porlock. It has a meandering high street of speciality shops, plus a quaint harbour and shingle ridge at Porlock Weir
  • Drive, hike or (if you’re super-fit) take a bike up the 1-in-4 Porlock Hill. A killer climb with Alp-like hairpins and stupendous views, it’s the main route up to beautiful Exmoor
  • The whole area is heaven for walkers. Classic routes include Bossington Hill, Selworthy Beacon, Dunkery Beacon, the South West Coast Path (which begins at Minehead) and the 36-mile Coleridge Way from the Quantock Hills to Porlock
  • Swain House works with Active Adventure South West to arrange paddle boarding, kayaking and mountain-biking in the area

Activities on site or nearby include:

  • Boat trips
  • Cycling
  • Fishing
  • Golf
  • Hiking
  • Historical sites
  • Horse-riding
  • Kayaking
  • Mountain biking
  • Sailing
  • Shopping / markets
  • Windsurfing


The B&B is not designed for young guests, and only adults are allowed.

Kid Friendly:

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