Located in the heart of one of the best kept medieval villages in the United Kingdom, The Swan at Lavenham Hotel & Spa is a well-placed hotel for exploring the village and the wider area of Suffolk and East Anglia.
The hotel’s history
Located on the corner of the high street, the hotel building, which was originally three separate houses, dates back to the 15th century. It likely owes its existence to the UK’s wool era, which made Lavenham one of the richest villages during that time. Part of the hotel was actually once the medieval guildhall of the Guild of Our Lady – one of the guilds that oversaw the cloth industry at the time.
As is the case with most of the buildings in Lavenham, The Swan is ‘Insta’ pretty, thanks to its medieval timber frame exterior. The inside has just as much character, with oak beams, open fires and cosy lounges for guests to unwind. In summer you can enjoy the old courtyard – now a lovely relaxing garden.
The Swan at Lavenham
Having lovingly restored as many of the original features as possible while ensuring guests have the modern comforts they expect, it’s the perfect mix of modern and medieval.
I particularly loved the fact that getting to our room was a higgledy piggledy adventure, with random steps, narrow corridors full of twists and turns, and uneven floors that leave you feeling slightly drunk. Sadly this doesn’t make it a suitable place for people with certain disabilities though, particularly as there isn’t a lift. But that’s an issue not of the hotel’s making, simply a quirk of the building’s age.
This 4-star hotel has 45 bedrooms, each unique in its design and decoration. They all are in keeping with the age of the hotel while still staying modern and fresh.
Our room had timber beams and beautiful leaded windows, while the bedding and décor was contemporary in design, giving a historic yet homely feel. We had a spacious bathroom – stocked with gorgeous Temple Spa toiletries – and the room had lovely armchairs and comfy beds to lounge on while we relaxed before dinner.
I do recommend checking the heating when you go into your room though. We found ours to be a bit too toasty for our liking, and lowered the settings on the radiators and open the window for a while to get to a more comfortable temperature.
All rooms come with the usual mod cons, including flatscreen TV and wifi, but the quality of the signal can differ depending on where you’re based, as we found at our end of the building. We were still able to add some pictures to our Instagram account ok though, so you’re unlikely to have issues unless you’re trying to do something that requires lots of bandwidth.
As I was visiting with my mum, our double bed was converted into twin bed as part of the turndown service while we enjoyed dinner. When we returned later that evening we sunk into cosy single beds, and slept ‘till the morning when we were woken by beautiful birdsong!
Drinks and dining at the Swan Hotel, Lavenham
The Airmen’s Bar
During the Second World War the Airmen’s Bar was the main meeting place for off-duty US Air Corps servicemen who were stationed at Lavenham.
It’s covered in memorabilia from the time including many of the airmen’s signatures, and a roll of honour was also recently added to the bar. It’s well worth stopping by for a drink to check it out, even if you’re not an overnight guest.
For informal dining the Swan has its Brasserie restaurant which offers with a mixture of light bites and hearty meals. It overlooks the garden and has an open fire for those chilly winter nights.
Alongside its contemporary furnishings are some beautiful medieval features, such as the original stone floor which was discovered entirely by accident!
Afternoon tea at The Swan in Lavenham
The Brasserie is also one of the spots guests can enjoy the hotel’s well-known afternoon tea. Sadly I didn’t get a chance to try it out for myself during my visit, but I’d love to come back in the summer months when you can take your afternoon tea out in the hotel’s lovely Suffolk garden.
The Gallery restaurant
For more ‘fine dining’ occasions there’s also The Swan’s Gallery restaurant, which has a two-rosette award for fine dining. The setting is beautiful, with candles on the tables, a high timbered ceiling, medieval stained glass windows, large fireplace and even a minstrel’s gallery. I never bored of looking around and seeing what little things I could find!
As guests of the hotel we were invited to The Gallery restaurant for dinner. Once seated we were served complimentary sourdough with honey and mustard butter. Fresh from the oven, this was absolutely delicious!
Both mum and I can be picky eaters and the choices on the Gallery’s small, high-end menu sadly weren’t really to our liking. One of the servers kindly told us though that we could choose dishes from either this or the Brasserie’s menu and in the end decided on a few from each. Whatever menu you choose from though, you’re ensured fresh, and where possible, locally-soured ingredients.
Mum went with the soup of the day for starters – a thick carrot soup that was comforting to eat. I chose chilli garlic prawns, which although not bursting with heat or flavour were still tasty and well cooked. Oh, and the juice that had dripped onto the bread below was delectable.
For my main I had a perfectly cooked medium rare rib-eye steak. This was served with a beef tomato and crisp fries. Mum went with the homemade burger, smothered in toppings. A big thumbs up from both of us for those.
Then for dessert, we chose lemon cake and soufflé. Mum’s cake had a very sharp lemon taste, served with a strong lemon curd. Enjoyable, but a bit like an explosion in your mouth – be prepared!
Mine may have caused a small case of food envy, as my freshly baked soufflé really hit the spot. It was light as a cloud with a gentle hint of orange flavour, and served with the most decadent hot chocolate sauce and a scoop of chocolate ice cream on a bed of biscuit crumbs. Heavenly.
Breakfast at The Swan, Lavenham
Breakfast at The Swan definitely sets you up right for the day. Returning to the Gallery restaurant, not only was the food delicious, but we had wonderful service from the friendly staff (the evening staff hadn’t been much for smiles I’m sad to say).
We started off with a pot of tea and some pastries and fresh juice from the buffet table before ordering from the hotel menu.
Mum went for the full Sussex breakfast, which went down a treat, while I had the tastiest smoked salmon served with poached eggs. I don’t know how they’d seasoned that salmon but it was perfection!
Facilities at The Swan at Lavenham
On prior request, hotel guests are able to book time on the village’s tennis courts and the hotel can also help arrange discounted visits to the local golf course.
However, the highlight of any stay at the Swan is a visit to its spa – the Weaver House Spa. I loved that guests have free access to the spa facilities for two hours each day of their stay including the day of their arrival and check out. In addition you can access the spa from inside the hotel, meaning you can pop on your swimming costume, slipping and gown in your room and wander straight over to the spa without going outside.
Weaver’s House Spa
**FYI Weavers’ House is currently closed until further notice following government COVID-19 guidelines.**
Weaver’s House is one of the best spas I’ve visited in a very long time. The customer service was wonderful, with friendly and approachable staff, and although the spa is small, it has everything you need.
Facilities include a steam room, sauna and outdoor heated vitality pool (ie jacuzzi), terrace with a number of relaxation rooms to rest in before and after treatments. With a water fountain to keep you hydrated and modern little decor touches like electric candles on the staircase and twinkling lights in the ceilings of the six treatment rooms there’s an overall ambience of relaxation that draws you in.
Other little touches really stood out for me too – on arrival we were given a warm compress and fresh smoothie to enjoy, while after our treatments we were first given a frozen strawberry yoghurt and a lemon sorbet and later a cup of herbal tea and a macron to enjoy in the relaxation lounge. Now that’s service!
The treatments we had were also brilliant – both mum and myself went for the ‘My Kinda Skin’ facial which, like all other treatments here, uses TempleSpa products.
Wrapped up cosy and warm on the most amazing warm water bed (I need to get me one of these!) my masseuse, Hannah, gave me the full pamper experience which ended with one of the best head massages I’ve ever had. I’d highly recommend Weaver’s House Spa and would return in an instant!
There are several parking options for people driving to The Swan. The main car park is opposite the main entrance on the High Street. This needs an entry/exit code from reception, which changes weekly. Free parking is also available on the roads throughout Lavenham, plus there is a large free car park just opposite Lavenham Church.
The Swan at Lavenham Hotel & Spa – our verdict
If you’re looking for a Lavenham hotel – or simply places to stay near Bury St Edmunds, like we did – I highly recommend The Swan. It’s a beautiful hotel brimming with character. Sure, it’s not the cheapest, at rooms costing from £143 B&B per night for two sharing, but in return you’re treated to a stay in a historic hotel in one of the UK’s prettiest villages.
With great food, cosy places to unwind and an amazing spa, The Swan, Lavenham provides guests with everything they need for a relaxing break in a beautiful region of the UK.
There’s lots to see and do in the village, as well as the nearest big town, Bury St Edmunds and the wider region of Suffolk, so why not consider a weekend escape here? You won’t regret it…