Few places in the UK scream ‘medieval’ as much as the historic town of Lavenham in Suffolk. From being one of the richest towns in the British Isles in the late 1400s to being immortalised on celluloid in Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part I, Lavenham continues to draw visitors from all over the world. At its heart is The Swan at Lavenham. 

It is not an exaggeration to say that The Swan at Lavenham is, quite possibly, one of the country’s most iconic hotels. Set within the wonderfully preserved Tudor village of Lavenham, famed for the wool trade that made the town so rich and such a pivotal part of England at the time, Lavenham remains a must-visit tourist attraction the year round. 

With oak beams, sloping roofs and floors, the 15th century The Swan at Lavenham is a quintessential part of the town’s attraction. Offering two restaurants, a bar, a spa, and 45 bedrooms, plus The Priory Suite and the self-catering cottage The Priory Dairy, The Swan’s crowning glory is its architecture – all nooks and crannies with open fires dotted around to complement the stunning interior. With low doorways, stained glass windows, and oak staircases, it is easy to see why The Swan’s appeal remains so strong. 

Weavers House Spa and Vitality Pool at The Swan at Lavenham Hotel

We spent a night at The Swan, and the bedrooms are superb. From small touches such as bathrobes and slippers to somewhere to sit and relax while you watch tv, each room is full of character. The beds are comfortable, and the bathrooms offer Temple Spa products – as used in their Weavers’ House Spa – making for a luxurious experience. Despite signs directing us to reception, I think we took a different way each time, but we always ended up where we needed to be! 

Downstairs is the Airmen’s Bar, taking its name from RAF Lavenham and the servicemen who would come to the bar to relax and socialise during World War II, with RAF Lavenham being home to the 487th Bomb Group of the ‘Mighty Eighth’ US Army Air Force. The walls of this snug and cosy bar are decorated with memorabilia from that time, and they are well worth a read. 

Continuing the theme, Mess Call 487 is the brasserie restaurant in the hotel. Bright and airy, the brasserie has a changing seasonal menu and offers both lunch and dinner. Just down the corridor is the impressive The Gallery Restaurant, with its timber-framed walls and elegant chandeliers. Open for lunch, afternoon tea and dinner, as well as breakfast for residents. The Gallery offers more of a fine dining approach. The focus in both is on seasonal produce, and offerings include everything from British classics to Asian influences. However, since our visit, the chef has changed and with their own stamp yet to be made, it is a case of keeping an eye on social media to see what tempting dishes they have in store! 

One thing that The Swan is well known for is its afternoon teas, and these must be booked in advance. Their Jubilee Tea continues until mid-July, so there is plenty of time to still enjoy this English tradition, with the Jubilee experience including a Queen Elizabeth cake and a Dubonnet cocktail macaroon. Also of note are the Sunday roasts – just make sure you skip breakfast first! 

Jubilee Afternoon Tea at The Swan at Lavenham Hotel and Spa (credit Matt Finch)

Two new additions to The Swan are The Priory Suite and The Priory Dairy, both found on the road behind The Swan and part of the 13th century Lavenham Priory. 

The suite has its own private lounge, kitchenette, dining area, courtyard garden, a king-sized four-poster bed, and a large en-suite bathroom. Offering the perfect escape, The Priory Suite offers you a chance to enjoy the character and luxury of The Swan but remain in your own separate world at the same time. 

Opening earlier this year, The Priory Dairy sleeps up to six and offers a complete self-catering experience. With a well-equipped kitchen, a lounge oozing character, a private courtyard, and three double rooms, including a master suite with a wooden-framed double bed, this is a perfect way to get away with friends and enjoy all that Lavenham has to offer – while also popping over to the Airmen’s Bar for one of The Swan’s signature cocktails and a late lunch before exploring Lavenham and the surrounding area.

Complementing all of this is Weavers’ House Spa, set in another historic building on the site of The Swan. This boutique spa offers both Temple Spa and Tribe517 products, enhancing your visit there even further. The spa has two lounges, and facilities include steam, sauna, an outdoor vitality pool – heated to 38-40°C – and a spa garden terrace. All hotel residents are able to use these facilities for an hour during their stay, making an already luxurious experience even more so. 

The Swan at Lavenham remains a true icon, and it is wonderful to see so many people continue to visit this picture-postcard building, located at the heart of the community. 

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