The Swan at Lavenham
If you love quirky, higgledy piggledy historical properties you’ll be swanning with joy over The Swan at Lavenham Hotel & Spa.
A study in beams, this medieval 15th century gem is everything you’d wish for in a period property. The hotel is comprised of three houses from which the hotel was later developed. It's not fully known when the conversion from houses into an inn took place, but it was well established in 1667. During its heyday in times bygone, it served as a public and posting house, with stabling for 50 horses.
So many beams!
Today, the 4-star hotel has 45 bedrooms, all of which are unique. We stayed in Room 34, The Newton Room, which had a very low ceiling and original timber-beamed walls. Although the room was on the small side, we had enough room for a cosy double bed, a desk, two arm chairs and an en-suite bathroom with chequered tiles and country-chic wooden panelling.
Our cosy bedroom - The Newton Room
Within the hotel there are two on-site restaurants – the Brasserie, a relaxed restaurant with original stone floors and contemporary décor serving casual fare, and the award-winning two rosette The Gallery restaurant. On a warm summer’s day, guests can also enjoy afternoon tea in the garden.
The back entrance of the property adjacent to the garden
The chef at the helm is Head Chef Justin Kett, who is passionate about classic British cuisine featuring quality, local ingredients. Wine lovers will be pleased to know that the restaurant also has a sommelier, Head Sommelier Francois Belin (previously of the Goring Hotel in London), who is on hand to help guests navigate the extensive wine menu to find a wine that beautifully matches their chosen dishes.
Dining at The Gallery has a real sense of occasion to it, with its stunning minstrel's gallery where a pianist plays popular medleys on the grand piano while diners enjoy their meals. We opted for three courses, all of which were delightful and served with a smile by our friendly server.
After a restful night's sleep, guests can tuck into the complimentary breakfast, which includes a selection of breads, porridge, yogurts and a cooked breakfast featuring favourites such as smoked salmon and scrambled eggs or Eggs Benedict.
Weavers' House Spa located within the hotel is a serene space with a soothing colour palette of sage green and white, making it the perfect place to chill out after a hectic week. The spa uses Temple Spa products, all of which are available for purchase.
Weavers' House Spa at The Swan at Lavenham
The on-site spa facilities include a sauna, steam room and an outdoor terrace with a small whirlpool - a great place to relax if the weather is cooperating! Guests can choose from more than 30 treatments from hot stone massages to a unique brush massage or more traditional facials, manicures and pedicures.
Upon arrival guests are given an exceptionally fluffy robe and slippers and are then asked to fill out a questionnaire, which arrives on a cute tray with an olive branch decoration and a hot towel and a fresh fruit smoothie to help you ease into your visit.
During my visit, I experienced the New Beginnings mummy-to-be massage (£70), an extra-gentle 60-minute massage tailored for pregnant women. Instead of a traditional massage where you lie on your back, you rest on your side on top of a special water bed as the therapist gives you a head-to-toe massage. Although the massage was relaxing, I found myself wishing for a bit more pressure, but to ensure safety, the therapists have to be as careful as possible, which is why they use such a light touch throughout the treatment.
Exploring further afield
As the hotel is located right in the heart of town, taking a stroll is a must. Lavenham is considered one of England’s best medieval villages with more than 340 listed buildings, so it’s worth checking it out. One of the key things to see in Lavenham is its gorgeous church - the church of St Peter and St Paul - which boasts a striking 141ft-high tower.
If you’re into shopping, head to Snape Maltings with its seven acres of Victorian buildings with shops, galleries and restaurants. If you’re a foodie, head for the Suffolk Food hall, near Ipswich, which boasts more than 8,000sq ft of space filled with some of the best food from Suffolk.
To book a stay at the Swan at Lavenham Hotel & Spa visit www.theswanatlavenham.co.uk.
Rooms start from £185 per night for two sharing including a full Suffolk breakfast; dinner from the a la carte menu is from £39 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.
The Swan at Lavenham Hotel & Spa
Situated within 163 acres of lush Irish countryside in County Antrim (just outside Belfast), Galgorm Resort & Spa is an impressive luxury spa hotel with 127 rooms, an outdoor Thermal village and three large dining areas. Galgorm caters to both locals seeking a fine dining experience as well as spa enthusiasts from across Europe who book in for a restful weekend.
At most spas, you come to expect fluffy towels, an array of saunas and steam rooms, lovely food, staff happily attending your requirements and a feeling of overall relaxation and enjoyment. What we didn’t expect was delicious lemon sorbet served after a massage, a free (and regularly replenished) mini bar, a Quality Street chocolate wrapped in our dinner napkins, a 3AA Rosette dining experience and a Gin Library with more than 250 gins. It’s that extra attention to detail and the impeccable hospitality at every point of your stay that made our stay at Galgorm feel truly exclusive.
The Thermal Village
The Thermal Village is a vast and welcoming labyrinth of cold rooms, hot rooms, invigorating aromatherapy rooms and meditative rooms, which provide a great place to while away a few hours with only the sound of the fast-flowing River Maine in the background. The outdoor hot tubs, hydro pools and the open fire pit are the perfect place to hole away for warmth and relaxation during the depths of winter.
The impressive 25-metre pool is perfect for getting in some lengths and The Orangery is a fab place to relax and enjoy a light snack.
Despite the hotel being busy with guests and the spa being busy with day visitors, there was always enough space to accommodate everyone without it feeling cramped.
The Celtic Sauna Ritual
A gong sounded to mark the start of the ritual and we entered the sauna with a group of nervous looking people, all slightly unsure as to what to expect. Chris, our ‘sauna master’, soon put our minds at rest with his relaxed confidence, healthy glow and friendly introduction. Over a 12-minute period, Chris mixed a variety of essential oils, which he placed on hot stones, while instructing us to inhale deeply as he wafted hot air in our faces with a hot towel, all while explaining the health benefits of essential oils.
To help keep us cool, Chris provided us with snow that we could use to cool down and he also ensured that we stayed hydrated. Afterwards, we were led to the riverside lodge where we were instructed to lie down while Chris opened the window to let in the soothing sounds of bird song and the flowing River Maine as he guided us through a mindfulness meditation session.
At only £15, this really is an essential treatment!
To help us unwind, my friend and I both had the back and shoulder massage. I often find that massages can be a bit of a disappointment at spa hotels, but not at Galgorm; my masseur gave me a fantastic deep tissue massage that left me feeling amazing.
The River Room
The highlight of Galgorm’s three restaurants is The River Room, a 3AA Rosettes restaurant where head chef Johnnie Boyd serves up delicious high quality locally sourced Irish cuisine. The smallest of the three restaurants at Galgorm, its intimate atmosphere and excellent service make it a truly special dining experience.
We knew we were in for a treat when we were offered delicious canapes compliments of the chef. We devoured the crispy chicken skin with brown crab mayo; haggis fritter with turnip puree; and the turbot ceviche.
The short rib starter served with parmesan crisp and quails egg wrapped in potato string was fab. We loved the quality of the fresh fish and the perfect balance of flavours, which we savoured with every bite.
Throughout our meal, we were impressed by the presentation and the incredible mix of textures on our plate. The restaurant is currently striving for a Michelin star and we're confident they’re on their way to great success.
Gin lovers are in for a treat with the Gin Library, which boasts more than 250 gins. Here knowledgeable staff are on hand to help guests find a gin that best suits their tastes. Sitting in The Conservatory, listening to jazz as we looked at the river and sipped gin cocktails (served with popcorn, which we thought was a nice touch), we began to feel fully relaxed.
For true gin connoisseurs, there is the option to enjoy a gin tasting with your meal for £50.
My friend and I had arrived at Galgorm stressed from the chaos of London and work demands. Forty-eight hours later, we sprung out of Galgorm transformed, akin to two giddy teenagers who were full of life. Everyone made such an effort to look after us during our stay (especially John the Head Concierge), helping us to leave feeling so invigorated we’re already planning our trip for next year.
Galgorm Resort & Spa
136 Fenaghy Road
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