The Swan in Lavenham is a beautiful medieval coaching inn in the heart of the Suffolk countryside, complete with oak-beamed rooms, ingle-nook fireplaces, winding staircases and a minstrel’s gallery. As if this picture-postcard rural setting wasn’t enough, this luxury hotel also serves up some exceptional fine dining and recently opened a spa which is garnering rave reviews from visitors. We also love that all that olde worlde charm never gets chintzy or twee; instead, rooms and public spaces are decorated in natural colours and fabrics with a quiet English elegance. We think it’s one of the loveliest luxury boutique hotels Suffolk offers – with tons of atmosphere and history as a bonus.
The newly opened Weavers’ House Spa is very far from the ‘treatment room’ afterthought which can be the case with some small luxury hotels. Instead, The Swan has gone all out to create a generous, stylish space that feels calming and restorative, with a carefully considered menu of treatments to feed mind and soul as much as body. Thoughtfully, men are catered for too, making The Swan a clever choice for couples. After a session in the spa, you’ll be ready to float back out into the world and enjoy the medieval village of Lavenham, which has survived almost intact for hundreds of years. It has no fewer than 300 listed buildings, which visitors can explore with the help of guided tours run from Easter to October. Other attractions include the award-winning Lavenham Vineyard and Lavenham Falconry, which offers courses in flying birds of prey. Clusters of sweet little boutique shops and galleries, all crammed into historic buildings, add to Lavenham’s considerable charms.
There’s something very reassuring about a hotel with two separate restaurants, plus a bar, plus afternoon tea on offer. Star of the show is The Gallery, run by chef Justin Kett, previously of the Michelin-starred Castle Hotel, Taunton. Two AA Rosettes are testament to a menu which is of metropolitan quality while never being fussy or pretentious. Kett makes the most of local ingredients, majoring on Suffolk lamb, British cheeses, and locally-caught fish (think ‘seared halibut with a white fish cannelloni, braised turnips, shrimps and razor clam’ and ‘celebration of Suffolk lamb: braised shoulder, confit belly, roast rack and tongue jus’).The Brasserie would suit guests looking for a lighter and more informal lunch or dinner while the Airmen’s Bar is an enchantingly snug little place adorned with a touching collection of memorabilia from WWII’s Lavenham Airfield. Afternoon tea is a serious affair here and popular enough with locals to make booking ahead a must for guests. A menu of nine different teas, plus champagne for those so inclined, accompanies sophisticated finger sandwiches, home-baked scones, and more.