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
I love a good spa weekend. It’s the perfect tonic for truly relaxing after a hectic work week. What’s more it’s even better if I can escape London without having to embark on a massive journey to find a bit of solace. So, Bedford Lodge Hotel and Spa in Newmark (located less than an hour and a half train journey from London) was the perfect place for a bit of R&R.
Set within three acres of secluded gardens and adjacent to some of the most famous paddocks and training stables in the world, this 4-star spa hotel has an on-site restaurant and an award-winning luxury spa.
The hotel is contemporary in style and the rooms are typical of what you’d expect from a 4-star hotel – quite plain but with everything you need for a short stay, including complimentary Molton Brown toiletries. The real highlights of the hotel are the cracking cuisine at the 2AA Rosette Squires restaurant and the superb ESPA spa, which combined provide the perfect weekend escape.
The Spa at Bedford Hotel
Heralded one of the best spas in the east of England, this award-winning ESPA spa complex is a chic retreat. A muted colour palette of creams, sage green curtains, bleached wood floorboards provides a restful atmosphere.
Before we settled into our spa day, we started with lunch in the spa lounge. Lunch options include afternoon tea (with or without champers), and other light bites such as sandwiches and salads. We opted for the Eggs Benedict with Parma ham and a Coronation Chicken wrap, which were both nice.
After lunch, my husband and I each made our way to spa where we’d spend the next couple of hours relaxing before our treatments. The spa area has a vitality pool, sauna, steam room, and a relaxation room with a selection of comfy loungers and two welcoming lounge beds with draping over them, which lend a beachy feel to the décor. To help while away the hours, there are also a variety of magazines to enjoy while you wait for your treatments.
Outside, there is a small hot tub that can comfortably hold four people. As it’s very warm inside the spa, popping outdoors to feel a cool breeze on your face as you bubble away feels fabulous. On the rooftop, you can also view the neighbouring paddocks with the horse residents poking their heads over the stable doors.
Our spa treatments at The Spa at Bedford Hotel and Spa
After our lazy spa day, my husband and I went our separate ways for our spa treatments. My husband enjoyed a 60-minute personalised massage (£70) and I had the 60-minute personalised facial (£65), which starts with the therapist examining your skin to determine the best products for your individual needs. I selected my favourite scrubs and oils from the selection and they were used throughout my treatment.
During the hour-long treatment, my skin was steamed, massaged and moisturised. I also had a neck and head massage, which was so relaxing I fell asleep! There are a variety of spa packages to choose from, depending on the treatments you’d like to indulge in, whether it be a bridal weekend, a romantic retreat or simply a day for a bit of ‘me time’.
Dining at Bedford Hotel – 2AA Rosettes Squires Restaurant
Squires is a contemporary restaurant located within the hotel. Here guests can enjoy breakfast, lunch and dinner in a classy environment.
The charcoal and dove grey dining room with its tapestry print arm chairs, large palladium windows and smartly dressed waiters is the perfect place to enjoy a sophisticated meal. Diners are spoilt for choice with two menus to choose from – the ala carte menu and the daily menu, ensuring that even picky eaters are certain to find something they like.
The cuisine at Squires
We started off with an amuse bouche of raw trout and caviar - compliments of the chef – which was a great start to our meal.
For our starters, my husband went for the mussels in garlic white wine broth, which were salty and garlicky with a bit of creamy goodness from the broth. I opted for the sweet potato ravioli with sage butter, which was gorgeous - each bite was a perfect little parcel of joy.
For our mains, the waiter recommended the Scotch sirloin and the Dover sole, which didn’t disappoint. The sirloin was superb and was served with a homemade béarnaise sauce that was seriously moreish and generous portion of hand-cut fries. The whole Dover sole arrived deboned and was light and flaky and accompanied by a rich butter sauce, which added a bit of flavour.
Although the dessert offerings looked amazing, we sadly didn't have enough room in our bellies to indulge (that’s got to be a first), so we gave it a miss. Next time, we'll ensure we save room! After dinner, we went to bed pleasantly full and tired after such a restful day.
The following morning, we headed down to Squires for our breakfast. I’m a huge fan of breakfast and the breakfast offering here is wonderful. Guests can graze from the continental spread which includes freshly baked croissants and pastries, fruit salad, thick yogurt with fresh fruits, cold meats and cheeses, cereal and a variety of fruit juices. I also ordered scrambled eggs and sausages (they were fab) and the full English that my husband tucked into also looked delicious.
Throughout our stay service was welcoming and friendly in all aspects of the hotel from reception through to the wait staff and the spa attendants. We thought the evening turn down service was a nice touch and they even brought me peppermint tea upon request, so I could enjoy a relaxing cuppa before bed.
This is a great place to visit if you want to feel pampered while enjoying great good and fabulous spa services without a long jaunt from London.
Though the lure of cheap airline seats, affordable European city breaks and Mediterranean sunshine is ever present in my world, the fact that we reside on one of the most richly historical and cultural islands in the Western world means there’s never any shortage of home-grown breaks to indulge in. From the cobbles of Cambridge to the beaches of Devon, I’m determined to start making the most of Britain and its beauty and exploring more of our fair land this year.
When I found myself in Glasgow recently, I decided to indulge in some well-earned R&R with a night at the Blythswood Square Hotel & Spa. Having heard more than one or two complimentary reports on this city centre oasis, I couldn’t wait to visit.
Perfectly situated only a few minutes’ walk from the bustling shops, restaurants, galleries and attractions Glasgow city centre, Blythswood Square seems a world away from the buzz of the city. The award-winning five-star hotel is one of the most elegant in the city, taking up one side of Blythswood Square overlooking beautiful gardens (though the view was a tad grey and blustery the day I arrived…) and features 100 guest rooms including suites and a rather impressive penthouse. The lobby instantly transports you back in time; heels clack on the black and white tiled floor, little red velvet lined seating nooks call out for your you to sink in with the weekend papers and the impeccably dressed doorman doffing his cap to you can’t help but make you stand a little straighter and walk a little taller.
With a chic restaurant, garden view salon, fully-loaded spa, private dining rooms and private screening room, you’d be hard-pressed to want to leave its four walls.
The Rooms at Blythswood
Good luck not falling in love with your room the moment you step through the door. The decor in my Deluxe Room was luxurious yet understated. The room had a beautifully comfortable king size bed (complete with pillow menu, naturally) and an absolutely dreamy bespoke Spanish marble bathroom with a huge tub and rain shower, making scheduling a time to get into that tub number one on my to-do list!
The spa at Blythswood
With a Scottish storm full-on raging outside, there was nothing better to do with my Friday afternoon than really get away from it all by paying a visit to the 10,000 square foot basement spa.
One wouldn’t think that a city centre building would have the space to accommodate nine treatment rooms, a thermal suite, two relaxation pools, a lounge and café area and additional relaxation rooms, but lo and behold this cavernous subterranean wonderland does just that.
Slipping into a robe and flip flops, we managed to while away three hours quite easily, flitting between the walk-through hydrotherapy pool, sauna, crystal steam room, laconium, saunarium and vitality pool, before falling asleep on one of the heated tiled beds in the toasty tepidarium.
Treatments on offer vary from signature hot stone massages, seaweed body wraps and rhassouls to couples’ massages, detoxing body scrubs and chakra-aligning experiences. I indulged (the only word for it really) in a relaxing massage, using seaweed oil from local Hebridean beauty brand ishga; so lovely to see a spa supporting local brands and businesses and it’s certainly a beauty brand I’m going to be trying again.
The restaurant at Blythswood
After floating back up to the room on a cloud of bliss to chill out in front of the TV, my guest and I headed down to the restaurant. Inspired by local Scottish favourites, the dishes focus on classics with a twist and European flavours,
The Restaurant at Blythswood Square comes with impeccable reviews and is obviously a big hitter on the Glasgow dining scene. Housed in a majestic former RSAC ballroom, it’s certainly an elegant setting in which to enjoy dishes such as hand-dived scallops, cured Loch Etive trout and slow cooked ox cheek.
With a menu full of tempting dishes, we’d need to visit again to work our way through the menu. During our visit, we had the pistachio-crusted goat’s cheese mousse, with beetroot, curly endive, apple gel and rye wafers, a perfectly light intro before my steamed fillet of lemon sole with a potato cake, roast shallots, lobster scampi and lobster bisque. While my dish was delicious, I did get a slight dose of food envy at the chicken and duck liver parfait that arrived across the table however, resplendent with blood orange and hibiscus fluid gel, shaved fennel salad and sourdough wafers, accompanied with a fresh, warm bread basket we couldn’t get enough of.
The wild Highland venison with date and darjeeling tea puree, honey spiced beetroot, red wine pickled salsify and red wine sauce looked particularly good and - uncouth as it may be - I couldn’t help but have a nose around at the other dishes that were arriving on surrounding tables throughout our meal. Everything looked - and smelt - sublime - and judging by the empty plates everywhere one presumes it tasted it too. Try and leave space for dessert if you can, the gingerbread cheesecake with honeycomb and gingerbread crumb won’t disappoint.
If not being lured out to the bright lights of a night in Glasgow, I can heartily recommend the aforementioned bubble bath, wrapping up in a cosy bathrobe and getting into that glorious bed for a night in front of your screen; with Pitch Perfect 2 on the TV and a bottle of prosecco on ice, my tonic for the perfect night in.
Although the thought of a 7am wake up on a Saturday was enough to make me want to stay in bed, my woes were eased by a hearty Scottish breakfast consisting of tattie scones, haggis and smoothie station.
Work or play, when looking for accommodation in Glasgow, I urge you to eschew the Hiltons and Marriotts of the world and embrace the independent. My night at Blythswood was one of the most relaxing and reviving I’ve had in a long time and when aligned with big chains I’ve stayed with in the past, there really is no contest.
Overnight stays including bed and breakfast from £160. Market Menu lunch at the Restaurant at Blythswood Square from £18.50 per person for two courses, dinner from £20 per person for two courses. Afternoon Tea in The Salon from £28 per person.
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