Checking in at The Swan, the so very English hotel
By Dennis Lennox
I was more than ready for a break after crisscrossing England when I arrived at The Swan, a quaint hotel located in the equally charming Suffolk village of Lavenham — once a prosperous village thanks to the medieval wool trade.
With its timber-framed building, creaky floors and exposed wood beams, The Swan was exactly what I envisioned when I thought of merrie olde England.
The best part? The Swan may date to the 15th century, but its amenities and better than average service was a welcome departure from the bland, transactional experiences of all too many branded hotels. The little things that chain hotels have stopped providing—slippers, bathrobes, evening turndown service and newspapers delivered to the doorstep — are standard. The Weavers’ House Spa was good, especially for a hotel.
I liked that breakfast wasn’t a buffet. Instead, everything was made to order and served atop crisp white linens. Still, it felt a little weird sitting in the dining room and eating only porridge, so I opted for room service on my second morning. For dinner, the hotel offers up fine dining as well as more casual fayre in the brasserie just off the dining room. I had a light salad both nights, as I had ate heavily on the rest of my trip. The food was fine, though admittedly it’s difficult to make a bad salad if the ingredients are fresh.
All things considered, I found The Swan to be a solid hotel that’s perfect for honeymoons, anniversaries and even as a base for exploring Cambridge, which is only 30 miles away.
Room packages start at £130 (about $200), including a full breakfast, three-course dinner and 60-minute spa treatment.
What to do
Most who stay probably never leave Lavenham, which is primarily a weekend retreat for those living in London. Still, there are a considerable number of sights to see, both in and outside the village.
The Americans who visit generally have a World War II connection, as U.S. soldiers stationed at the nearby airfield frequented The Swan, where the Airmen’s Bar is dedicated to the Greatest Generation.
In Lavenham itself, St. Peter and St. Paul’s Church (Church of England/Anglican) is a stunning 15th century parish church. Unfortunately, it has been in the news of late after thieves targeted the church for its lead roof. Just around the corner from The Swan is Lavenham’s market square and a picture-perfect guildhall.
Lavenham, as well as the nearby village of Long Melford, where the 16th century Melford Hall is worth a visit, are ideally explored by bicycle. Unfortunately, The Swan didn’t have bicycles for guests, at least when I stayed.
How to get there
Lavenham, which isn’t accessible by train, is within an hour’s drive of the larger cities of Cambridge and Bury St. Edmunds. Both can be reached by train from London.