THE SWAN AT LAVENHAM, SUFFOLK
WHAT’S THE SCOOP? Lavenham is widely regarded as the best-preserved medieval village in England. Many of its timber-framed buildings date back to the 15th Century – including The Swan at Lavenham Hotel & Spa. This luxurious 45 bedroom property, owned by The Hotel Folk, is one of the finest places to stay in Suffolk. It’s renowned for its fine dining and even finer spa – and it’s dog-friendly to boot.
ARE MUDDY PAWS WELCOME? They certainly are. The hotel has eight dog-friendly rooms and generally, they are on the ground floor or near exits – handy for late-night ablutions. Up to two dogs can stay at a time for £12 per night and this includes a cute welcome pack with a pop-up bowl, paw wipes, biscuits, toy and poo bags.
Dogs are given their own registration card at check-in, which is a quirky way of making sure you read the hotel’s pet policy. If your pooch promises to obey you, not to disrupt other guests or “leave paw prints all over the hotel”, they are encouraged to sign.
Pets are welcome in the Airmen’s Bar and lounge areas but in the evenings, they must steer clear of the restaurants. They are not allowed in the Gallery Restaurant at any time but guests can enjoy breakfast with their pet in the Brasserie, which boasts an original stone floor. Alternatively, dogs can be left to enjoy their own room service menu, with dishes such as the Bowser Burger (£6.95) and Crunchy Crudites (£3).
AND WHEN I’M DOG TIRED? Retreat to your room via a maze of higgledy-piggledy corridors and sloped ceilings. The hotel was once three separate houses and there are signs literally everywhere telling you to watch your head! We stayed in Cockfield – or Room 53 – which is on the ground floor at the back of the hotel, overlooking a small courtyard garden. We found it to be nice and quiet and there is only one other room nearby so you and your pet are unlikely to be disturbed.
There are five different room options at the hotel – Classic Double, Superior Double, Feature, Junior Suite and Suite. All rooms have been individually designed and come with all the mod cons, such as free Wifi and flatscreen TVs. Ours also included beamed ceilings, an enormous bed and lots of lovely little touches, such as plush robes and slippers and complimentary tea, coffee and biscuits. The bathroom was also filled with luxurious Temple Spa toiletries, as used in the onsite Weavers’ House Spa.
If you enjoy being pampered, you really must pencil in time for a treatment here. All hotel guests can enjoy a complimentary two-hour session at the spa, which is a lovely little bonus, and includes access to the sauna, steam room, outdoor vitality pool and relaxation lounge. Treatments can be added on to this at any time – as a rough guide, expect to pay around £75 for an hour-long massage.
HOW ARE THE SCOOBY SNACKS? Very special indeed. The grand Gallery Restaurant has two rosette awards and is a beautiful location for a meal. Dinner from the contemporary a la carte menu – where you can enjoy dishes such as venison, rump steak and crispy pork belly – starts from £40 for three courses and much of the food is locally sourced. The fresh bread, for example, is made with flour from a nearby farm while the chicken comes from Sutton Hoo and the crab is freshly-caught in Cromer.
Wine lovers will appreciate the vast selection on offer in the enormous “wine book”, while there is also a separate vegetarian menu and staff are happy to cater for other dietary requirements. Diners are invited to mix and match dishes from the formal restaurant menu with the lighter bites served in the Brasserie, overlooking the gardens. Here, items on the menu include burgers and beer-battered fish and chips. Afternoon tea is also a popular choice.
Make time for a nightcap in the dog-friendly Airmen’s Bar, too. During the Second World War, a huge number of servicemen were based at RAF Lavenham and by signing the walls of the bar, they have turned it into a living piece of history. More information about the Swan’s wartime history can be found here.
ANY FOUR-LEGGED FRIENDS TO PLAY WITH? No, but there will probably be other dogs staying or popping in for a pint with their owners.
WHERE’S GOOD FOR WALKIES? With more than 300 listed buildings, including the lime-washed Guildhall overlooking the market square, Lavenham is a lovely place to enjoy a stroll. From March to October, the National Trust offer regular guided walks around the village for £10 per person, which includes a hot drink and a pastry. The walks generally leave from the Guildhall on Saturdays and I’m sure dogs would be welcome to tag along, but it’s best to check before you book.
If you’re keen to venture a little further afield, check out Essential Suffolk’s 3.5-mile Pub Walk with Darcy. This circular walk – which takes about 75 minutes – starts and finishes at The Greyhound and takes in the gardens of Lavenham Hall, as well as part of the former Great Eastern Railway line, which you can follow all the way to Long Melford. There is also plenty of woodland to explore just outside the village – check out the National Trust’s recommended three-mile route here.
WHAT ERNIE LOVED: Having the option to order room service, the doggy welcome pack, relaxing in front of the fire in the lounge
WHAT I LOVED: Being pampered in the Weavers’ House Spa, the delicious food in the restaurant, having so much history on the doorstep
GET ON THE DOG AND BONE: Rooms at The Swan at Lavenham start from £185 per night, based on two people sharing. The price includes a full Suffolk breakfast. For more information or to book a stay, call 01787 247477 or visit the official hotel website by clicking here.