Number 36 and The Roxy: Step closer to nature or stay in with a film
PUBLISHED: 07:59 02 March 2016 | UPDATED: 14:17 04 March 2016
Number 36 and The Roxy – a stylish former pub with a cinema – has all you need to explore Somerset’s charms, from the Cheddar caves, to the amazing starling murmurations.
Converted from a derelict Georgian coaching inn, we discovered the eclectic Axbridge abode is perfect for different generations to come together to relax, have fun and enjoy each others company.
Travelling with two families, the kids ranged in age from seven to 14, and they soon proved that in a house like this you’re never too old for hide and seek, with a sporadic game here and there interspersed with pool and ping pong tournaments, and games of blackjack, set to a surround-sound music system in the large open-plan lounge-diner.
On top of this there are films on tap with an in-house cinema – and as my friend, my daughter and I squeezed cosily together on the sofa at the back, tucking into popcorn one night as we watched Nanny McPhee, I thought that having free rein of your own private cinema really makes time at this place stand out from the rest. It’s been a labour of love for Juliet and David Maclay, who began converting the derelict pub in 1997.
As artists themselves, the quirky end-product is a work of art itself, and in all directions there’s a feast for your eyes, whether it’s through colours or quirky collections – like the bright orange theme going on in the lounge, or the collection of vintage toys in a fairy lights-lit cabinet in the top-floor bedroom, or the framed selection of vintage medicines in the bathroom, where you can bathe by candlelight.
There are open fires galore and a 4,000-strong book library, and it’s no surprise the house has been featured in magazines and on television, with its eclectic style encompassing antique via vintage and contemporary.
The house can sleep nine, with four double beds and the most gorgeous owl and pussycat-themed single room which my daughter Ines took a shine to, with an old American poster bed. The cinema, one of England’s smallest, seats up to 36 people in chairs sourced from Bristol’s Colston Hall, and has a tiny foyer and 1950s cocktail bar.
The Roxy was developed as a non-profit community venue in 2007, and thanks to Big Lottery Fund money, it has become part of the cultural life of Axbridge. During our stay there was a screening for disabled children and a discussion inspired by the screening of an eco film, which Juliet and David, ever the warm and welcoming hosts, invited us along to.
Another ‘smallest’ record is set by Axbridge, England’s smallest town - more like a village - with pubs, a tea house and a tiny museum just two minutes walk away from the house, and a farmer’s market once a month.
You can see Glastonbury Tor from the top floor and the charming walled garden, and there’s so much nature to see in the area, from the Mendip Hills just behind, to the Somerset Levels in front.
Cheddar and its gorge and caves are two miles away and the world-famous site is an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty.
It’s well worth paying to see the stunning chambers with stalagtites and stalagmites in the caves, where Cheddar cheese is still matured as it was 100 years ago.
If you’re around during the winter months, between Autumn and February, the incredible wild spectacle of the starling murmurations is absolute magic to witness at RSPB’s Ham Wall, close to the village of Meare half an hour’s drive away.
The shape-shifting cloud, appears like a single being – moving and twisting in unpredictable formations in the sky – and can involve hundreds of thousands, and sometimes millions of individual birds.
The fantastic, swooping, acrobatic mass turns the sky black, before the birds roost at dusk. Scientists still have no definitive idea why the mesmerising aerial ballet takes place, but it’s thought to be an anti-predator strategy, although other theories hold that perhaps they do it for warmth.
Number 36 and The Roxy is also marketed for corporate away days, and the unusual venue is an absolute gem.
The house costs £500 per night at weekends, or £350 midweek. But special rates of £500 for three nights midweek, can be bought through a crowdfunding site for the cinema, which is trying to raise £5,000 to keep it going.