An inn has stood on the site of the Swan Hotel & Spa in the medieval town of Lavenham, Suffolk, since the 15th century and today this sprawling half-timbered building is home to a luxurious hotel.
If you want to visit an old English town with beautiful medieval buildings in spades and plenty of quaint places to eat and drink, then Lavenham is for you, and right in the heart of the village – which was once one of Tudor England’s wealthiest wool towns, is the 15th-century Swan Hotel & Spa.
Of course the ‘spa’ element is a new addition and comes in the shape of the Weavers’ House Spa (the name a nod to the industry that saw the town flourish from the 13th to 16th centuries).
The spa opened earlier this year and provides serene surroundings in which to soak up the history of the area – literally, if you decide to take a dip in the (rather brave) outdoor heated plunge pool, which is truly invigorating. Understated, it includes nice touches such as a ‘quiet room’, where you can retire to after having one of the many lovely treatments on offer.
We opted for the I’ll be Back, a facial for the back, which was wonderfully relaxing and also included a head, neck, foot…even a hand massage. Next time we might factor in the Weavers’ House Hug – the spa’s signature treatment, which sounds like two hours of Heaven.
Of course, most people come to Lavenham to see for themselves the streets lined with crooked buildings that lean into each other as though sharing a secret, the traditional shops, and the sense of history.
The reason the village is so well preserved is actually due to its misfortune. When the wool trade on which the town once thrived began to suffer, townsfolk couldn’t afford to update their homes with beautiful Georgian facades, as was the fashion of the time, and so the medieval buildings remained unchanged.
The Swan is one of the buildings that has survived through the centuries, though it has grown over the years, albeit sympathetically. Where once there was a handful of rooms to stay in, today there are 45, all fitted with modern amenities and comfy beds, but much of the original charm of the building remains too.
One of the hotel’s most stunning rooms is its Gallery restaurant, complete with wooden beams and a minstrels’ gallery. The food served here is no less impressive and its fine-dining menu proves worthy of its 2 AA Rosettes and features such hearty dishes as Trio of Suffolk Pork with Summer Vegetables or Roast Loin of Denham Estate Venison. There is also a Brasserie for less formal dining.
After dinner find a quiet nook, either in the Airmen’s Bar, where there is memorabilia to the US Army Air Force 487th Bombardment Group, which was stationed at Lavenham during the Second World War, or in one of the cosy corners that weave their way round the ground floor.
The Swan is the perfect base for exploring Lavenham, often described at England’s finest medieval village, which has no fewer than 300 listed buildings, so what are you waiting for?
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