A few weeks ago Chris and I spent a night at swish Somerset B&B Swain House – a handy stopover on a weekend-long, West-Country-wide hunt for our perfect wedding venue. It sits in the small harbour town of Watchet, sandwiched between the Exmoor hills and the Bristol Channel, and from the outside it looks like any other Georgian house lining the High Street. But inside it’s a different matter: dark and deliciously moody, with a dash of urban style.
We were intrigued to discover that owners Jason and Annie had stumbled across Watchet while searching for their own wedding venue a few years earlier. They fell for its time-forgotten charm and soon purchased a holiday home where they could escape their hectic London lives; when the neighbouring property – a former junk shop – came on the market, they snapped it up and turned it into a B&B in order to fund a permanent move to the coast.
The old shop space on the ground floor is now a lounge-diner with slate floors, inky grey walls, a silvery velvet sofa by a cast-iron fireplace, and a reading nook lit by a vintage Anglepoise lamp. One wall is covered in framed butterflies, another in shelves of design books, and a Mickey Mouse in a glass case sits in a corner as a reminder of Jason and Annie’s former careers with Disney. The muted colours make it feel like a cosy cocoon, and it was a lovely place to linger over homemade cookies after a day of driving and meetings.
On the floors above are four guest rooms, and we had a quick peek at all of them. Each has one wall emblazoned in custom-made digital wallpaper taken from an 18th- or 19th-century painting in the National Portrait Gallery – an idea which Jason and Annie had been longing to try out for years. These panels provide wonderful focal points, and they’re made all the more eye-catching by the clean-lined, monochrome furniture.
After our tour of the rooms, we headed out for an evening stroll around Watchet. It’s a curious little place – not exactly postcard-pretty, but full of character and with a real sense of history. The harbour has existed for more than a thousand years and was reputedly once attacked by Vikings; today it’s a tangle of masts, and we pootled happily along its walls, watching fishing boats return from sea as the sky slowly turned pink. Every now and then we’d hear strains of live music drifting over from one of the waterfront pubs, along with toots from the steam trains which puff along the nearby West Somerset Railway.
Once darkness had descended, we wandered back to Swain House for platters of cheese and charcuterie, and a bottle of wine from local vineyard Oakley. Then it was upstairs for a soak in our roll-top tub (all rooms have one) and a deep night’s sleep watched over by King George III.
Following our noses downstairs the next morning, we found the long table piled high with pancakes, locally cured bacon, farm-shop muesli and more. It set us up perfectly for another busy day of venue tours, and it was a very tasty end to a short but spoiling stay. We left already planning a return visit…
You can read more about Swain House and book a stay via i-escape.
All photography by Abi Dare