What’s The Black Lion like?
This Georgian coaching inn is just outside the Suffolk market town of Long Melford. With stylish interiors and a cool, chilled out vibe, it’s a real retreat from the hustle and bustle of everyday life. The hotel, which is part of the Chestnut Group, is renowned for its fine food and in 2019, it was voted the Eastern region’s best place to stay by the Sunday Times.
How dog-friendly is The Black Lion?
Excellent. You’ll need to pack your own beds, bowls and food but there are big jars of dog treats on the bar and staff were quick to bring over some biscuits and water for the boys. Dining is a breeze too as dogs are allowed everywhere downstairs, from the restaurant to the bar and cosy dining room to the stylish conservatory area. There’s also a lovely courtyard garden, adorned with fairy lights. It costs an extra £15 a night for dogs to stay.
Tell me more about The Black Lion
There are 10 individually-styled bedrooms at the hotel, consisting of cosy Snugs, Luxury Rooms, a Luxury Suite and a Family Room. Ours was No.3 – one of the Snug rooms – which I actually thought was pretty spacious. The room had an on-trend grey and white colour theme and a large, comfy bed with a studded feature headboard. Mirrored tables and stylish bedside lamps gave the room a chic, upmarket feel, while a traditional – and possibly original – fireplace was a nod to the past.
There were lovely views of red tiled rooftops and the nearby church from the window, as well as tea and coffee making facilities and lush Bramley toiletries in the bathroom. Because the room was away from the road, it was also very quiet at night.
Guests with dogs should be wary of the slow-closing fire doors, though. Obviously they are necessary but as we were bringing our luggage in, moments after we’d arrived, Stan decided to dash past us and go downstairs to check out the Sunday roasts which, admittedly, smelled amazing! I ran after him (without my shoes or mask), Ernie ran after me and my husband Nick ran after Ernie. The restaurant diners must have thought they were watching a Benny Hill sketch! We quickly managed to catch both boys and were very apologetic. Fortunately, the staff – and other customers – found it hilarious.
What’s the food like at The Black Lion?
Delicious. There’s a focus on locally-sourced food and the huge sharing Sunday roasts are particularly popular. I loved that you could eat and drink in four different rooms at The Black Lion, all of which were stylish yet cosy – painted in soothing shades of green with traditional rugs in contrasting colours. It all felt very homely but at the same time, could have come straight from the pages of a magazine – especially the Botanical-style conservatory, with its roof lantern, feature wallpaper and stone floors.
The seasonal menu changes regularly but when we visited, it had everything from baked cod and ham hock to Suffolk chicken leg schnitzel. My roast cauliflower dish, with orzo pasta, goats cheese, pistachio and pesto, pictured above, was really delicious and a great example of creative vegetarian cuisine. The wine list was also impressive and there was a great range of cocktails to choose from. Breakfast was super tasty too with everything from a Full English to continental breakfast boxes and mushroom ragut.
Are there resident dogs at The Black Lion?
No, but you’re very likely to encounter some locals who have popped in for a pint or two with their owners.
Where are the best dog walks near The Black Lion?
Take a stroll along the main street in Long Melford which, at two-and-a-half miles, is the longest in England and packed with independent shops and tea rooms. The Black Lion is located at the top of the ‘Melford Mile’, overlooking the village green. This in itself is a great place for dogs to enjoy a little leg stretch and is particularly good for early morning and late night ablutions.
Just across the road you’ll find Melford Hall, pictured above – a turreted Elizabethan house that’s now managed by the National Trust. Dogs aren’t allowed inside but they can explore the grounds of the former hunting park. The Trust recommends a mile-long Estate Park walk, which takes around 30 minutes to complete. Adult tickets cost £10. Kentwell Hall – one of the finest remaining Tudor houses in England – is also close to The Black Lion. Again, dogs are not allowed in the main house but are welcome to explore the gardens, which cover more than 30 acres. Garden tickets cost £11.75 per adult.
A trip to Long Melford Country Park is also a must, as is a stroll through the Common Lands and water meadows in neighbouring Sudbury. For further walk suggestions in Long Melford, click here. For more ideas when it comes to dog-friendly things to see and do in the area, check out our Ruff Guide to Bury St Edmunds and the Suffolk Wool Towns.
What Ernie and Stan loved about The Black Lion
The fuss from staff, the great walks nearby, all the treats!
What I loved about The Black Lion
The relaxed atmosphere, the friendly staff, the great food
How to book The Black Lion
Rooms start from £120 a night, including breakfast. For more information or to book, call 01787 312356 or visit The Black Lion website.