Great British boltholes: History meets luxury at The Swan in Lavenham – arguably England’s most perfect medieval village
- At the heart of Lavenham in Suffolk you can stay in a medieval showcase, the 15th Century Swan Hotel
- With its oak beams, leaded windows, creaky floors and pleasingly uneven walls, it bristles with history
- There are 45 rooms and suites – seven of which are dog-friendly – two restaurants and a newly built spa
To visit Lavenham, arguably England’s most perfect medieval village, is to discover a visual delight at every turn.
No fewer than 340 listed buildings adorn its streets, while its beautiful church is regarded as one of the finest examples of late perpendicular Gothic architecture in the country and is a fitting testimony to Suffolk’s prosperous wool trade.
Dominating the market square is the National Trust-owned Guildhall, one of the UK’s grandest timber-framed buildings. A self-guided tour (when available) reveals fascinating stories of Lavenham life.
Historic: The 15th Century Swan Hotel has oak beams, leaded windows, creaky floors and ‘pleasingly uneven walls’
Harry Potter fans will spot among the pink cottages 14th Century De Vere House, the film location for the young wizard’s birth. And at the heart of Lavenham you can stay in a medieval showcase, the 15th Century Swan Hotel. With its oak beams, leaded windows, creaky floors and pleasingly uneven walls, this thriving hostelry bristles with history.
Given the atmosphere, it’s no surprise that guests pile in at Christmas, and its two grand halls are popular for private dining and receptions. For medieval graffiti, ask for Room 47 and see if you can spot the teeny shoes placed in a wall as a token of good luck centuries ago but now on display nearby.
Despite its original stone floor, The Swan’s Brasserie 487 has a relaxed, contemporary feel, which is reflected in its menu.
Knockout: Expect robust traditional fixtures and fittings in the 45 rooms and suites, seven of which are dog-friendly
The Swan, Lavenham, Suffolk. Dinner, B&B £204 with no deposit and free cancellation up to 48 hours before arrival date (theswanatlavenham.co.uk).
Local produce is in abundance in dishes such as ‘Pressing of Suffolk ham hock with pistachio, Suffolk chutney and toast’ or ‘Adnams ale battered haddock with chips, mint crushed peas and sherry vinegar reduction’. Or save your appetite for the fine dining on offer at the Gallery Restaurant.
With its deep-piled carpet and cream tablecloths on vast round tables, it’s a magnificent space for romantic dinners and family celebrations, and does a roaring trade in Sunday lunches, accompanied by a pianist in the minstrels’ gallery.
But the most evocative spot in the hotel is the Airmen’s Bar – a deep, dark galley where you can lose time examining walls plastered with poignant memorabilia left by British, US and Canadian airmen who were stationed at RAF Lavenham during the Second World War.
The USP: The past is cherished but does not hold The Swan back. Its Weavers’ House Spa is a newly built little gem behind the hotel which fits in seamlessly. For now, the creative treatment menu has been replaced by a Covid-secure ‘Re-invention Treatment Menu’.
The rooms: Expect robust traditional fixtures and fittings in the 45 rooms and suites, seven of which are dog-friendly. All the goodies are here, plus teas, coffees and biscuits, Temple Spa products and knockout showers.
The food: Besides the two restaurants, afternoon tea promises ‘piles of delicious savouries and cakes’.