The Newt is an experience from the moment you pull up to the front gates. We were greeted by a key pad and a ladies voice that took details of our booking, before the electric gates opened and we were able to make our way down the winding drive. We had been directed to park on the gravel, where a gentlemen came to meet us with a trolley for our luggage.
The grounds are car free, so the minute you step foot onto the inhabited part of the property, all you can hear are the sounds of birdsong. Built in the 17th Century, the exterior of the old Hadspen House is stunning. It was bought in 1785 by the Hobhouse family who lived there until Penelope Hobhouse decided to sell it to South African Business Man Koos Bekker and his wife Karen Roos in 2013. Bekker and Roos also own Babylonstoren in South Africa – a highly regarded hotel and one of the oldest Cape Dutch Farms.
I was told that Penelope, still retains a great relationship with the house and even hosted her 90th birthday party there in 2019. Bekker and Roos kept Handspen House as a family home, until they decided to transform it into a country house hotel and it opened as The Newt in August 2019. So called, because of the population of Newts on the grounds and the ethos of “a deep respect for the land, its animals, and its environment, as well as a passion for horticulture and agriculture”.
Ben and I were awestruck to find out it had only been open a few months when we visited. The check in process was extremely smooth and we enjoyed a tour of the hotel and grounds while our bags were taken to our room.
Once we had got our bearings, we unpacked in the room and made our way immediately to The Library where we had been told a complimentary afternoon tea had been laid out for gusts. Now you know I can’t resist an afternoon tea and it doesn’t get much better than a complimentary one!
It started to get dark while we ate our scones, so we retired to the bedroom after tea for a lovely hot bath and a relax in the room. There are a number of beautiful rooms in the main house, with further rooms and guesthouses spread out across the grounds. You could go back time and time again and have a totally different experience each time in a different room.
We chose a Hadspen Room in the main house, with an incredible bathroom bigger than the bedroom. The room was furnished beautifully, retaining some of the classic features and blending them with more modern conveniences and luxuries. Our four poster bed was unbelievably comfortable, with USB slots beside the bed to charge our phones. Snacks had been left out for us. Along with complimentary tea and coffee, and The Newt’s very own branded bathroom products. A Dyson hairdryer was also on hand for guest use alongside the usual dressing gowns, safe and ironing board.
We actually ended up staying in the room until supper time and left the camera in the room for the occasion. We had a delicious dinner, with impeccable food and wines. Defeated after our meal, we decided against a cocktail at the bar. In favour of a cup of tea and a film in bed.
The next morning wasn’t particularly glorious and we flung open the windows onto a sea of fog swimming across the grounds. Undeterred, we got dressed and headed down to breakfast.
Glass is used to connect the older parts of the house and floods the spaces with natural light. Seeing The Botanical Rooms in daylight was very different to the evening. Trees grow in the middle of the room and separate tables for a bit of privacy. In the corner, a perfectly behaved child had kicked off his wellie-boots and swung his legs. Thick socks dangling off the end of his toes as he enjoyed the fresh produce supplied. At dinner the night before, we had witnessed a lady dining on her own, couples and groups of friends as well as families. Proving The Newt is perfect for anyone and any occasion. We enjoyed locally grown fruits and vegetables from the buffet for breakfast. As well as freshly baked sour dough bread and pastries.
After breakfast we decided to explore the corners of The Newt that we hadn’t yet visited. Wandering from room to room dreaming what it would be like to be ‘Lord and Lady of the Manor’.
The bar is the jewell in The Newts’ crown. Stretching the full length of the room, the gold and mirrored bar is the main feature of the room. Ornate details, a roaring fire, cut up portraits and blue velvet complete the look in a total style oxymoron.
A conservatory hides away, just off the bar area. A little escape to read a book in, paint, or just take in the beautiful outdoors from the hanging chair.
Tearing ourselves away from the inside, we headed out into the outside to explore. Bekker and Roos proved they knew what they were doing with Babylonstoren and The Newt is no different. Hiring the best of the best in horticulture to maintain the kitchen garden and landscaping. The gardens are a constant work in progress. Unfortunately, we didn’t get a chance to explore them. But I think if you booked in for two nights, you would hopefully manage to get around everything (just!)
Having spotted the beautiful spa the day before, we made a beeline for it. The spa is unbelievably well equipped. With lockers for your things, gorgeous showers and a full range of body products to use. As well as Dyson Hairdryers in both the guys and girls changing rooms. I crept out in my dressing gown and realised we had the entire pool to ourselves. We managed to get a particularly ‘off-season’ date and pretty much weren’t disturbed by other guests for the entire stay. Which really made it feel like a home away from home. The afternoon was spent dipping in and out of the heated pool. And relaxing in the seating area sipping complimentary herbal tea.
We finally left in the late afternoon. Saying a huge thank you to the staff, who had been incredible throughout the stay. I’m so sure Ben and I will be back this year. I’m also confident to say I would put The Newt in my top five hotels I’ve ever stayed at.