The Swan Hotel in Lavenham, a pretty medieval village in Suffolk, is one of the shiniest jewels in its crown. Stretching along a large swathe of the half-timbered high street, this historical hotel, restaurant and spa are so picturesque it’s like something from a film set.
That’s not such a leap actually as the streets of Lavenham were used in the filming of Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 1. The Swan, dating back to the 15th century, is all rickety Tudor staircases and low doors, with secrets around every corner. The rooms, ranging from cosy doubles to suites – and some named after the famous Suffolk artists Gainsborough and Constable – are scattered throughout the sprawling building, all linked by little corridors.
There is also a luxury self-catering option and a new addition is the Priory Suite, a cosy and romantic two-bedroom retreat a short stroll from the main hotel featuring a four-poster bed, a free-standing roll-top bath and a walk-in rainfall shower and a private courtyard. A must for a special occasion with an extra bit of privacy.
We stayed in the Gainsborough Suite, over two floors with a glorious bedroom and mezzanine seating area. It must be noted that The Swan mainly stays sympathetic to its architecture and in Tudor times people were smaller – so some of the showers and bathrooms, particularly in the older parts of the property, can be on the compact side. But do check the dimensions of your room when booking and you’ll be accommodated.
A charming flower-filled garden is perfect for summer cocktails and reflection and there is also a secret courtyard with stone slabbed seating, also great for al fresco drinks and snacks. For more casual dining there is the Brasserie, where Chelsea-based designer Todhunter Earle blended the building’s medieval features with calming hues to create an ideal space for long, leisurely, wine-fuelled lunches.
Meanwhile, The Gallery is The Swan’s more formal and upmarket option. As its name suggests, the restaurant is located in the part of the building that traditionally had a gallery space for musicians to play – and still does, on special occasions. It’s a lovely, big room with medieval-style chandeliers, leaded windows and more exposed beams than you can shake a stick at.
The menu consists of decent, British, traditional fare such as mackerel pate, duck terrine, steaks and freshly caught fish. I particularly enjoyed an enormous strawberry trifle for pudding while my husband went for the rich and delicious white chocolate cheesecake. Service was professional and friendly and each staff member knew the menu inside out.
The wine list is varied and happily, the Gallery offers champagne by the glass. Many places don’t – you have to buy a whole bottle – or the only fizzy alternative is a glass of Prosecco. So this was a big tick for me!
Now to the spa. Weavers’ House Spa is a terrific wellness space adjunct to the main hotel but entry is through a gate down a leafy path so it feels really secluded and special. It can be difficult for hotels in towns and cities to do a spa right, often lack of room means it has to be subterranean, therefore quite dark and in some hotels, it just feels squished in as an afterthought.
But Weavers’ is anything but. Each outside area has been carefully thought out, offering maximum privacy and calm, all centred around the heated plunge pool.
Overnight guests have an hour’s complimentary use of the pool, together with the sauna, steam room and relaxation suite. Numbers are controlled, so pre-book your time on arrival.
Treatment rooms are calming and quiet and I would recommend any one of the massages. Afterwards, you’re served tea, a cold drink and berry sorbet – a really nice extra touch. The spa’s modern decor and soothing interiors are at odds with the fussiness of the rest of the hotel but in a pleasing way.
Breakfast was hearty and varied with a few unusual additions such as kippers on brown bread. It’s served in The Gallery, so there is a sense of theatre about it, and you’re not rushed along at all.
The Swan is the whole package. A mecca for history (and Harry Potter) buffs, the whole building is teeming with character. For those after a luxury break, the Swan also has a chicness and modernity that doesn’t detract from its distinguished heritage. And Lavenham itself is a real treat – one of the UK’s best-kept villages with more than 300 listed buildings. There are curiosity and antique shops galore, as well as sweet tea rooms and cafes so once The Swan has you suitably rested, nourished and pampered, there’s the glory of Suffolk on the doorstep.
Prices for 2022 are from around £150 B&B for two sharing including an hour’s use of the spa facilities. To discover more visit www.theswanatlavenham.co.uk
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All images courtesy of the property