Home Hotel reviews Medieval charm and modern spa at The Swan Lavenham, Suffolk

Medieval charm and modern spa at The Swan Lavenham, Suffolk

This 15th century hotel is full of history, with luxury bedrooms, Airmen's Bar and modern spa

by Sarah Bridge
the swan lavenham

A stay at The Swan Lavenham

If you like your hotels built along traditional lines, with flagstone floors, high-ceilings, open fires and exposed beams then The Swan, Lavenham is for you.

This 15th century hotel with 45 luxury bedrooms and suites is sprawling but intimate, where exploring down a random corridor can take you to a peaceful inner courtyard, a cosy lounge for afternoon tea, grand meeting rooms lined with tapestries, a casual brasserie, a formal restaurant, the terraced garden or a classic British pub.

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half-timbered building of The Swan at Lavenham

The Swan at Lavenham dates back to the 15th century, as its stunning half-timbered exterior shows

Guests who can’t decide between a historic coaching inn stay and modern spa treatments can have both worlds, as the recent addition of Weavers Spa at the Swan, Lavenham means that they can indulge in a range of treatments including body massage, facials, manicures and pedicures and relax in the hotel’s outdoor hot tub – two hours’ complimentary use of the heat and relaxations suites is included in all hotel stays at The Swan.

Arriving at the Swan at Lavenham

Finding The Swan itself is easy – it’s right in the heart of the beautiful Suffolk town of Lavenham, famous for its stunning traditional half-timbered buildings which line every street.

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Indeed, the moment you check in (and haul your bags from the hotel’s private car park which is across the road) you might be tempted like me to head straight out again and take endless pictures of the rickety buildings which make up the majority of the High Street and its surrounding streets – one of which might look eerily familiar.

The Swan Lavenham in the snow

The Swan Lavenham looks particularly beautiful at winter time

historic houses in Lavenham in Suffolk

The historic houses which line the streets of Lavenham in Suffolk

Harry Potter’s house in Godric’s Hollow

One of the building is particularly famous with Harry Potter fans as, according to the Harry Potter films, the fictional wizard was born just round the corner from the hotel at De Vere House on Water Street – Lavenham having stood in for Godric’s Hollow in Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows.

the swan at lavenham review

The suitably creepy De Vere House on Water Street which was used as the filming location for Harry Potter’s birthplace, Godric’s Hollow, in Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows

the swan at lavenham review

There are more then 340 buildings which have protected or listed status in Lavenham

The Swan Lavenham spa

Once you’re done with marveling at a village which seems to have come straight out of a film set or medieval England (more than half the buildings are listed) then you can retreat to The Swan for a thoroughly relaxing stay.

Weavers' House spa at the swan at lavenham

The Weavers’ House spa was opened a few years ago next to The Swan and welcomes day and overnight guests

I headed for Weavers House spa for a hour-long massage and a long soak in its outdoor jacuzzi hot tub an eemerged very relaxed, which was the whole idea – it’s not a vast spa area though so I imagine this could get busy in the summer months – and resisted the various food and drink options on offer in the spa’s conservatory/chill-out room so as best to enjoy dinner that evening.

Book The Swan at Lavenham

Visit The Swan at Lavenham on Tripadvisor

outdoor hot tub at the swan at lavenham

There is an outdoor hot tub plus a steam room and sauna inside

Bedrooms at The Swan

Our bedroom was on the first first of the main building and was a good size, with a double or twin bed option. There were plenty of pillows and cushions, plus tea and coffee facilities, Smart TV, lots of towels, a fruit bowl, free wifi, fluffy towelling robes, amplye Temple Spa toiletries and all the essentials and non-essentials you’d hope for in a luxury hotel room.

The bathroom was large with free-standing bath, and the evening turndown service produced even yet more toiletries and towels, so we were never in danger of running out.

bedroom at The Swan at Lavenham

My bedroom at The Swan at Lavenham

There are many different bedroom options at The Swan, ranging from modern to classic styles, some with four-poster beds and stand-alone baths, and all with a sense of style and luxury.

The Churchyard Suite at the swan at lavenham  

The Churchyard Suite, room number 7 at the Swan at Lavenham

the swan at lavenham bedrooms  

Even the smaller rooms are perfectly styled at The Swan at Lavenham

Dinner at The Swan Lavenham

Dinner was in the Swan’s formal Gallery restaurant which is well named – there actually is a gallery and lots of exposed beams – and the foods was as impressive as the surroundings.

Gallery restaurant at the Swan

The formal dining option at The Swan is the Gallery restaurant

The menu was sparsely-written but intriguing, with dishes described thus: ‘Tarragon, Gnocchi, Wild Mushroom, Dashi’ and ‘Carrot, Confit Lamb Shoulder,  Goat’s Curd, Pumpkin Seeds’ or ‘Potato, Onion Jam, Truffle.’

the swan at lavenham brasserie

A more informal dining option at The Swan is the Brasserie

It certainly added a touch of mystery to the proceedings and while some seemed a little ‘eclectic – ‘Mackerel, Rhubarb, White Chocolate and Buttermilk’ anyone?’ – you did get the feeling that head chef Aaron Gilbert knew what he was doing. The dishes are listed on the menu in sections from ‘To Start, In-Between, To Follow, and Mains which makes you worry you’re supposed to select from every course, but thankfully you don’t have to, unless you’ve ravenous.

Our faith in the chef was justified as the dishes were excellent, from the hand-poured dashi soup and to the scallops with crispy pork belly, to the roast loin of venison with kale for the main course.

dashi and tarragon soup

Our dashi and tarragon soup being poured

scallops and crispy pork belly

My starter of scallops and crispy pork belly

Roast venison, croquettes and kale

Roast venison, croquettes and kale for the main course

There was an epic choice of desserts ranging from a deconstructed Marathon bar to ‘Pudding Rice’ and so we went for passion fruit tart with white chocolate and the prune and Armagnac souffle which sounded weird but thankfully tasted great. Thus replete, we staggered upstairs and crashed out in our lovely large bedroom.

Breakfast at The Swan

After a dreamless sleep it seem only minutes later we were embarking on another epic meal, this time, breakfast, which was a slightly austere event thanks to lots of staff hovering about in dead silence and seeming just moving jugs of juice around. Some background classical music and making more of the central table would go a long way here but the food was still excellent.

Full English breakfast

Our hearty Full English breakfast

Finally we visited the hotel’s own pub, the Airmen’s Bar. Named after the servicemen stationed at RAF Lavenham, the bar is like stepping back into the 1940s, with poignant memorabilia of the 487th Bombardment group of the 8th US Army Air Force who flew more 6,000 sorties while stationed here during the Second World War.  It’s a fitting tribute and yet another thing that makes The Swan at Lavenham a truly unique place to stay.

Airmen's Bar at The Swan at Lavenham

The Airmen’s Bar at The Swan at Lavenham contains moving memorabilia of former RAF and US Army servicemen

Hotel information and book The Swan at Lavenham

The Swan hotel and spa, High Street, Lavenham, Suffolk C010 9QA

Prices start from £110 per room B&B based on two sharing going up to £365 for a top Constable suite. Check website for special offers and packages. Dinner from the a la carte menu is from £40 per person for three courses. Overnight guests have a complimentary two-hour session with use of the facilities in Weavers’ House Spa including the sauna, steam room, outdoor vitality pool and relaxation lounge.

Book The Swan at Lavenham

Visit The Swan at Lavenham on Tripadvisor

The Swan at Lavenham is part of the prestigious PoB Hotels group which is made up of some of the best 50 hotels in Britain. Other PoB Hotels reviewed by ALadyofLeisure include: Hampton Manor hotel: top class Michelin dining near Birmingham; Barnsley House hotel and spa: luxury Cotswolds stay; Lucknam Park hotel near Bath: Palladian mansion, spa and Michelin-dining

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