Bruton may not be huge, but it’s got some brilliant things to do. Start with a stroll around its pretty streets to find quirky book/games cafes, cool homeware and sustainable clothing shops (like Caro), as well as bespoke picture framing and landscape design.
A short drive west of town is the sprawling, world-famous landscape garden at Stourhead. Its 1.8 mile lake-side walk will take you past classical temples, a treetop walkway and a 300-year old Druid Tree.
1. Hauser & Wirth
The Bruton branch of Hauser & Wirth (the art gallery brand with locations in Zurich, London and New York) is not what you might expect from sleepy Somerset. Set in the rural outskirts at Durslade farm, it is part of a thriving complex that includes a cafe and a restaurant.
A meadow garden designed by Piet Oudolf, the Dutch landscape designer who reimagined New York’s High Line park, sits alongside an open-plan building that features an exhibition space and a swanky bar and grill. It’s a unique, irresistible place to see contemporary art and enjoy a meal or glass of wine in the countryside.
Afterwards, walk around the grounds to admire the views. Look out for the Baroque-style maze, treetop walkways, a grove of all the British apple varieties and a Roman Villa experience.
2. The Dovecote
Bruton may seem sleepy at first glance, but it’s the village on everyone’s lips for its top notch restaurants and world class art galleries. Visit Hauser & Wirth Somerset for a dose of modern art surrounded by a Piet Oudolf-designed garden, while little sister Make is set in a Georgian townhouse on the High Street showcasing emerging and established artist-makers.
A stroll down the pretty streets will reveal a plethora of independent shops and eateries, from the quirky book/games cafe Stripy Duck to the bespoke picture framing and landscape design of Lunaria. For something to take home, head to organic Godminster Farm for hampers of their signature cheese (you can also pick up a bottle of their own vodka, made using local ingredients).
If you need a quick bite to eat, chef Merlin Labron-Johnson’s field-to-fork restaurant Osip is an intimate bistro with a rustic chic feel – think pale linen tablecloths, tarnished mirrors and shelves stacked with bottles and crockery.
3. Westcombe Cheese
Amid a backdrop of quaint gabled storefronts and a twin-towered church, the High Street in Bruton might look like any other sleepy Somerset market town (it’s not unusual to see tractors trundling past). But this rural backwater has quietly garnered a reputation as a West Country epicentre of contemporary art and creativity.
Among the best independent shops are Caro and Hole & Corner – the latter, an offshoot of the eponymous independent magazine, hawks maker-led homeware and fashion with a Scandi-Japanese bent and a pared-back aesthetic. Caro, meanwhile, stocks everything from Ferm Living and Kinto kitchenware to rails of workwear-inspired threads.
Bruton’s culinary scene is also strong. Self-taught chef Matt’s Kitchen, located downstairs in a Georgian cottage on the High Street, is a must for seasonal food served at reasonable prices. Also try The Old Pharmacy, a restaurant, bistro and grocery shop (selling Roundhill coffee, organic wine and local cider) in a 500-year-old building. It’s got a rustic chic vibe with tarnished mirrors and wooden furniture, while the small menu celebrates locally grown produce (it uses ingredients from a shared farm). A short drive east is Stourhead, a sprawling Arcadian dreamscape complete with treetop walkways, classical temples and a reimagined Roman villa.
A surprisingly cosmopolitan town, Bruton has three top-notch boarding schools (including Kings School and Sexey’s) and narrow, closely built streets, giving it a decidedly collegiate flavour. The multi-award winning garden, estate and hotel Hauser & Wirth Somerset is a big draw for many, as well as the art gallery and boutique B&B The Newt in Somerset.
Potter the pretty streets and you’ll find a plethora of great independent shops, from the book/games cafe Caro to rails of workwear-inspired threads at Hole & Corner. At Durslade Farm Shop, a foodie destination anchored by a buzzing restaurant, you’ll find meat from the onsite butchers, jams made from wild berries and woods and a treasure trove of Somerset produce.
A hop skip and a jump up the High Street brings you to At the Chapel, a restaurant and bakery in a Grade II-listed 17th century former chapel, where soaring ceilings, suspended bauble lighting and original arched windows frame the menu of wholesome Mediterranean-inspired dishes and wood-fired pizzas. A blackboard-written menu, chalked up with Roundhill coffee and organic wines, draws inspiration from rural French and Italian farmhouse kitchens.