Surrounded by rolling rural countryside and made up of ancient gabled storefronts, quaint little alleyways and a picturesque twin-towered church, Bruton has all the ingredients of a sleepy Somerset market town (it’s not uncommon to see tractors trundling through those narrow streets). Yet, somehow, this not-so-sleepy backwater has garnered a reputation for being the West Country’s epicentre of contemporary art, creativity and food.
Antiques shops, boutiques, independent traders, organic wholefoods shops, art galleries and award-winning eateries line the High Street – even the Premier convenience store seems to have been given a chic makeover to match the town’s smart colour palette.
It’s a gorgeous place to visit, so I’ve rounded up the best things to do in Bruton to set you on your eating, drinking and cultural adventure.
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Soak up some culture
Hauser & Wirth
World-renowned contemporary art gallery, Hauser & Wirth comprises a restaurant (Roth Bar & Grill), garden and farm shop, and is a must-see on a first-time visit to Bruton.
Set in the 18th century buildings of Durslade Farm and surrounded by a Piet Oudolf-designed garden with Smiljan Radić’s bean-shaped pavilion perched at the top of the perennial meadow, the venue’s gardens are as much of an art installation as the works you’ll find inside the gallery.
Stop by little sister Make Hauser & Wirth, which sits in a small Georgian townhouse on Bruton High Street and is known for showcasing emerging and established contemporary artist-makers.
Stop for a bite to eat
Bruton isn’t enormous, but it sure does hold its own in the restaurant stakes, boasting some of the tastiest little eateries in the county.
Roth Bar and Grill, Hauser & Wirth
Housed in a former cow shed, Hauser and Wirth’s on-site restaurant, Roth Bar & Grill is filled with eclectic materials and vibrant art. On hot summer days, reserve a table in the outdoor dining area for serious Mediterranean piazza vibes. Or stop by on a Sunday for an excellent roast, washed down with an expertly-spiced Bloody Mary.
The drinks menu is as playful and inventive as the Dieter Roth-designed bar itself. Good, honest food follows the seasons, focusing on sustainable produce from Durslade Farm and their own walled garden (located five minutes away at Roundhill Grange). Favourite dishes include the pure breed wagyu burger, saffron risotto and the ultimate buttermilk fried chicken sandwich.
Keep an eye on their events calendar for Open Farm Sundays, seasonal guests chef, pop-up fondue huts and more!
This Grade II-listed, 17th century chapel has been transformed into a restaurant, artisan bakery, wine store and B&B. Located in the thumping heart of Bruton’s High Street, it has evolved into the bustling hub of the town, serving daily breads and bakes, wood-fired sourdough pizzas, Mediterranean-inspired dishes and cocktails under soaring ceilings, suspended bauble lighting and original arched windows.
As well as the vast, open-plan restaurant, there’s a clubroom downstairs (look out for happy hour drinks and DJ nights), which spills out onto a jasmine-covered outdoor terrace, with views overlooking Somerset hills.
The Old Pharmacy
Housed in a 500-year-old building that was once a (yep, you guessed it!) a Pharmacy, The Old Pharmacy is a wine bar, bistro and grocery store (selling Roundhill coffee, organic wines and local cider . The vibe here is very much rustic chic, with tarnished mirrors, simple wooden furniture and shelves laden with bottles and crockery.
The small menu, chalked up on the blackboard, celebrates Somerset produce (from shared farmland with nearby sister-restaurant Osip) while taking inspiration from rural French and Italian farmhouse kitchens.
Watch Bruton life go by from the window-facing stools, although expect to be equally gawped at by passers-by!
Matt’s Kitchen, Bruton High Street
Self-taught chef Matt Watson has been serving sensational food on the downstairs floor of his Georgian cottage for over a decade. Offering a seasonal set menu (currently £40 per head) that rotates weekly in his blue and gold dining room, the restaurant gets glowing reviews for friendly service, inspired flavours and scrummy food.
Conde Nast and The Guardian have both waxed lyrical about him and Head Chef of the Roth Bar & Grill, Steve Horrell, listed Matt’s Kitchen as a ‘must visit’ in the The Telegraph (while also calling the restaurant the ‘soul of Bruton’). Open Thursday-Saturday, 6.30pm-10pm, BYO booze, book well ahead for a table.
When Merlin Labron-Johnson won his Michelin star at London’s Portland at 24 years old, he was the youngest chef ever to do so. He managed another star in his first year at Osip (in spite of the pandemic), ‘cooking from the heart’ with seasonal ingredients cultivated on the restaurant’s own land.
Don’t expect a menu – guests are presented with a multi-dish tasting menu. Put your faith in the kitchen to create six or nine delectable dishes! For an extra special treat, opt for a bespoke wine pairing to go with your lunch or dinner.
If you wish to stay the night, you can book a bedroom with their partners at Number One Bruton (more on that below), which includes a farmhouse breakfast, prepared by Osip.
Get out and about in nature
The Newt in Somerset
The stunning gardens of the The Newt surround the luxury Newt hotel and are open to the public to explore. Membership buys you unlimited entry for a year, and to see the estate at different times of year along with the seasonal activities on offer, is well worth it.
British apple varieties are arranged in a Baroque-style maze, buggy-friendly paths lead off through woodland to a serpentine treetop walkway and a natural wood playground. There’s also a 300-year old Druid Tree, fascinating Story of Gardening museum, Roman Villa experience and Beezantium to explore.
If you get peckish, onsite eateries serve fresh, vegetable-led homegrown food foraged from the gardens. There’s also a cyder press and bar to quench your thirst and a thatched ice cream parlour which opens for summer treats.
Stock up on local produce
A ten-minute drive out of Bruton lies charming artisan cheese farm Westcombe Dairy Farm, run by Tom Calver.
Famed for its flagship cheddar, they specialise in producing proper unpasteurised Somerset cheeses (traditional clothbound Westcombe Cheddar, Duckett’s Aged Caerphilly, Somerset Ricotta, Smoked Westcombe and Westcombe Red) using raw milk from their own cows, holistic farming methods and the special conditions of Somerset’s natural Westcombe terroir.
They also hand-make their own charcuterie on-site in small batches, all of which can be purchased in their Dairy Shop (and online if you can’t wait that long!) alongside bottles brewed by Westcombe neighbour, Wild Beer Company, and cider from nearby Burrow Hill.
Organic Godminster Farm’s sustainable approach to farming is a major factor in creating the distinctive taste of their award-winning cheese. Daily cheese tasting and vodka sampling (they also make their own spirits, infused with elderflower, horseradish or blackcurrants) takes place at the Godminster shop in Bruton.
Take a taste of Bruton home with you and pick up a hunk or two or their signature cheddar, encased in its iconic burgundy wax. Treat someone to a cheese and wine hamper and discover local guest producers – the shop is open seven days a week and is filled with Somerset goodies.
Sited at Hauser & Wirth, Durslade Farm Shop is both a cultural and culinary destination. Inside is a treasure trove of Somerset’s agricultural bounty – you’ll find meat from their onsite butchers, jams foraged from their woodlands, tasty local tipples, fresh bread, sweet treats, ice cream, fruit, veg, homeware and gifts sourced from the best farmers, growers, makers and artisans in the county.
Read more: 18 Best farm shops in Somerset
Take a stroll
Bruton’s location means that the surrounding sprawling Somerset countryside is prime stomping territory and there are tons of walks and trails to explore, from short riverside walks in the town to more challenging hikes.
Climb up to Bruton Dovecote
Somerset has really nailed the tower-on-top-of-tor combo. This 16th century, National Trust-protected tower in Bruton sits on a small green hump and is an easy climb, although you may have to deal with some stubborn (but chilled) cows en route.
There are some lovely views over Bruton from the top and a playground down below if you have kids in tow. Combine a visit to the Dovecote with the Riverside Walk and a visit to Hauser and Wirth – the walk takes you through Bruton’s community gardens, where lovely plots of veggies and flowers are tended by locals.
Walk the Leland Trail
The popular Leland trail follows in the footsteps of royal librarian John Leland’s 16th century survey of Britain’s churches and priories. The 28-mile trail starts at King Alfred’s Tower on the edge of the Stourhead estate, then leads you west towards Bruton and Castle Cary, past Cadbury Castle Iron Age Hill Fort, before coming to the picturesque village of Queen Camel.
After that, it leads on to Yeovilton, following a small stretch along the River Yeo, then on towards Ilchester and Montacute before ending at Ham Hill Country Park.
For a selection of more local walks in and around Bruton, click here.
Potter the pretty streets of Bruton to discover a plethora of fantastic independent shops. From quirky book/games cafe (Stripy Duck) to trendy homewares and vibrant fashion (Rose & Lyons), to antiques stores, iconic vintage clothes and accessories, bespoke picture framing, landscape design and gorgeous flower shops.
Where to stay in Bruton
The immaculately-restored medieval chapel (whose buzzing restaurant I mentioned earlier), and its eight gorgeous bedrooms was recently voted one of The Times’ top 100 places to stay in 2023! A labour of love for its former owners, At the Chapel is now headed up by Stay Original company – the brains behind The Swan at Wedmore and a string of other West Country boutique hotels.
The eight rooms are spread across four floors, with whitewashed walls, dark wooden floors, modern furniture and many of the original ecclesiastical elements still intact, giving it a contemporary feel, but with a palpable sense of its age-old history.
One of the larger cellar rooms has French doors that open out onto a private terrace, others back onto St Mary’s Church. Bathrooms are big and luxurious with marble tiles, waterfall showers and Bramley products, four have freestanding baths.
Some rooms might catch a whiff of cooking doughy goodness from the bakery down below. Don’t worry if your tummy starts rumbling – homemade croissants made overnight are delivered to your door each morning.
A gorgeous Georgian townhouse, medieval forge and row of cottages, beautifully converted into a 12-bedroom hotel, one stays here to nosh at Osip (they share a front door), as much as the elegant rooms.
Set around a pretty courtyard, the vibe is fun, vivacious and comfortable. Rooms in the main house feature a vibrant palette of colours, aged elm flooring, William Morris wallpaper and lavish Georgian-style furnishings.
The cottages offer a more private stay and come with a small lounge area. All feel warm and inviting with exposed beams and stonework, complemented by sumptuous fabrics.
In the 12th century forge outhouses you’ll find more industrial finishes, bright art on the walls, cosy rugs on the floor, and sometimes a freestanding bath in your bedroom (my favourite!)
A fresh farmhouse breakfast at Osip is included in your room price – expect scummy creamy rice pudding, freshly baked brioche, soft boiled eggs, ham, cruffins sourdough toast, homemade jams, granola and yoghurt. Guests are welcomed with a complimentary care package starring a bunch of locally-produced goodies!
Ever stayed in an art installation? The Grade II-listed Durslade Farmhouse lies within the grounds of the Hauser & Wirth gallery and offers guests an extraordinary artistic immersive experience. Art enthusiasts will be in their element here, and with room for 12, it’s great for groups of friends or families looking for a unique blow-you-away kinda place to stay.
Alongside the dizzying mismatched wallpapers, golden facades, changing collection of artwork, unfinished stripped-bare walls, dashes of taxidermy, exposed pipes, Persian-style rugs, and a wildly varied and playful colour palette, there are gothic window panes, original flagstone floors and actual art installations within the farmhouse itself, by Paul McCarthy, Guillermo Kuitca and Pipilotti Rist (the latter’s doubles up as great disco lighting).
Decor in the six bedrooms features floral wallpapers, antique furnishings, statement chairs and original art. Beds are spread with luxurious Egyptian cotton sheets and cashmere blankets, some have fireplaces and freestanding tubs. The bathrooms themselves are really quite something.
Stumble across to on-site Roth Bar & Grill for dinner, explore the gallery and gardens and live it up in spectacular style at this one of a kind country bolthole.
A 15-minute drive from Bruton, 42 Acres, is a wellbeing retreat and regenerative farm stay in rural Somerset offering a range of wellness and nature-based experiences and events, a biodynamic farm and a thriving nature reserve.
Sleep under the stars in a bell tent, wake up on a boat, snuggle down in an 18th century farmhouse or chill out in a rustic-luxe converted barn – the beautiful accommodation at Witham Friary ranges from simple cottages to luxurious barn conversations. Each is powered by renewable energy and surrounded by Somerset scapes and greenery.