It’s a fact seldom mentioned that the average height of a man in the Fifteenth Century was Five Foot Six. Seldom mentioned because it is seldom needed to be discussed, I grant you. But it was one of the first things that crossed my mind as I negotiated the stooped hallway of the building that was to be home for the night when I visited the Medieval village of Lavenham recently.
The Swan at Lavenham is formed from three converted houses, dating back to 1425, and its medieval charm grasps you the second you enter. Beamed ceilings and uneven floors lead you through a warren of narrow corridors which link the hotel’s 45 rooms. But while the building oozes ancient charm, there’s nothing old fashioned about this place. Having settled in our ample suite at the end of the winding first floor walkway, we headed straight down the adjoining stairs and into the state-of-the-art Weavers’ House Spa.
The spa itself is set over two floors, with the reception, relaxation room, steam room and sauna all on the ground floor. It is light and airy and as you take your seat in the welcoming relaxation room you’re treated to a delicious freshly-made mixed berry smoothie while filling in the usual forms. A nice touch. What sets Weavers’ House aside from many spas is the attention to detail and really personal touch. Appointments can be booked by treatment preference or just a time slot, then you choose what you feel you really need on arrival. I had allotted myself a one hour treatment, and plumped for the Drift Away mediterranean massage, promising to soothe frazzled nerves and relax the body and mind. But when my therapist Helen greeted me she pointed out that everything in my questionnaire suggested I needed to de-stress my aching shoulders, and relieve knotted tension in my back. She suggested I go for the Work It Out massage, and boy am I glad I did! This was a firmer massage which really pummelled at the parts that most needed it! Helen was chatty and friendly, putting me at ease, but then left me to my relaxing thoughts as she worked away at the knots in my shoulder.
While an hour always seems so inviting, when a good massage is over you often wish you’d booked more, and this was certainly the case for me. I could have laid there all day. But I had promised myself a plunge in the outdoor vitality pool so, after a soothing herbal tea and little lie down in the ‘quiet room’ which neighbours the treatment room soon the first floor, I drifted back down the stairway into the sunshine for a refreshing dip.
Guests of the hotel and customers at the spa can use the facilities for for up to two hours outside of treatments, so there’s no feeling of having to rush off or cut your time short. It’s no wonder Weavers’ Spa has been voted one of the most relaxing in the country by several spa experts!
Following our afternoon of being pampered, my companion and I returned to our room for a quick freshen up before dinner. The hotel has two restaurants: the more relaxed Brasserie which offers informal dining overlooking the gardens and terrace, and is family friendly (you can even bring your well-behaved dog!), and the Gallery Restaurant – an altogether grander affair. The Gallery is a 2 AA Rosette restaurant serving fresh takes on classic British dishes. Head chef Justin Ketts has created an inspiring menu using as much locally sourced produce as possible. On the night that we visited there were such dishes as Sole port au feu with summer vegetables and truffles, Guinea fowl poached breast on a bed of carrot and pak choi, and a watercress panna cotta.
Picking from the specially created vegetarian menu I was impressed with the delicious goats cheese bon bons and beautiful heritage tomato salad served with wasabi and mascarpone. Having enjoyed the complimentary amuse bouche of a beautifully oozing arancini, we decided to go for the three course meal at £39 per person. But if your appetite is a little larger you can plump for four courses at £49 or five for £59. We found all dishes to be carefully prepared and packed with flavour, a real treat for the tastebuds. And the on hand sommelier advised and recommended perfectly a delicious syrah to accompany our meal. Having been seated by the smiling maître d‘ and had our orders taken by the knowledgeable and friendly restaurant manager, the only slight let-down was the sullenness of our servers who practically ordered us to “please enjoy!” when presenting us with our food, and appeared exasperated when we hadn’t decided on desserts within a matter of minutes. However, when our desserts arrived (an incredible honey and whisky mousse, and an equally pleasing lemon meringue) even a slightly weary waiter or waitress couldn’t dampen our enjoyment of them.
Lavenham is a visual treat of a village, with wonky houses and leaning timbers along every winding road. The journey from London is around a two hour drive, taking in many sights of the beautiful Suffolk countryside. Lavenham is home to more than 300 listed buildings and the market square makes for a beautiful destination while taking a twilight walk to work off the countless calories you are guaranteed to indulge in during your stay. The Swan itself is the epicentre of the village and many locals as well as passing visitors fill its various lounges and unique airmen’s bar from morning until night. So be it a relaxing spa break or a romantic night or two away, we would highly recommend visiting and experiencing a luxury stay at this most unique of venues.
- To book a stay at the Swan at Lavenham Hotel & Spa and treatments in Weavers’ House Spa call 01787 247477 or visitwww.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 spa facilities including the sauna, steam room, outdoor vitality pool and relaxation lounge. The In Good Spirits and Drift Away Mediterranean massages are both priced at £70 for 60 minutes.