Set in the heart of rural Suffolk, Lavenham is considered as one of England’s most perfect medieval villages. A tribute to its 300 plus preserved ancient buildings and collection of colourful timber-framed cottages. With an accolade of this calibre the quaint picturesque village was the perfect place to celebrate Mr and Mrs S’s 11 year wedding anniversary.
The unhurried, laid-back pace Lavenham exudes makes it ideal for a weekend break. With its glorious buildings and lack of street furniture it’s a perfect film location too. Recently the grade I listed De Vere building was used to create the fictional village of Godric’s Hollow in the Harry Potter movies.
Whether you’re a foodie, love rural walks or a sucker for historical buildings and architecture, I guarantee you’ll fall in love with this picture perfect village.
Here are 5 reasons why you should visit this stunning part of Suffolk.
1. Charming walks
The best way to see this medieval village steeped in history is via a guided walk you can book through the Tourist Office on Lady Street. An experienced Blue Badge guide leads you through the streets lined with the most Instagrammable houses. The hour and a half walk is filled with tales of Lavenham’s chequered history.
From the late 15th century it was one of England’s wealthiest wool towns due to its huge success in the wool and cloth trades. However, during the 16th century Lavenham’s industry took a downward turn when the Dutch refugees settled in Colchester producing cheaper, lighter and fashionable cloth than Lavenham’s. The historical ups and downs can be clearly seen in the architecture around the village. It’s a real gem of a tour at £4.50 for adults and free for under 14’s. I think it’s a great way to gain a better understanding of how this beautiful village came to be.
There are a number of circular walks you can do around the village taking in the spectacular landscape with its rolling meadows spotting birds and animal wildlife in their natural habitat.
2. Munnings Tea Rooms at the Crooked House
When in such quaint surroundings, it would be churlish not to indulge in one of England’s best culinary treats. The Crooked House on the High Street is probably one of the most photographed buildings in Lavenham and home to a delightful, old-fashioned tea room. The menu offers a variety of dishes ranging from breakfast, lunches and daily specials, with a range of tasty pastries, cakes and scones all baked freshly on site.
We couldn’t resist the lure of the full afternoon tea. The generously-filled fresh sandwiches can come with fillings like Suffolk ham and mustard or cheddar cheese and red onion chutney. Ours were bursting with creamy egg mayonnaise and salad, or salmon and cream cheese.
Gigantic hot scones followed with lashings of clotted cream and fruit conserve, an enormous piece of cake (which we ended up having as a take-away) and a huge pretty pot of tea.
And if you really can’t get enough of this amazing place, they now offer upstairs a Tudor 4 poster room with a full English breakfast included at £85 per night.
3. Foodie stop at The Great House
Lavenham is Suffolk’s gourmet foodie hotspot and brimming with superb dining options. One of them being The Great House on the main square, it’s a restaurant with rooms with an impressive Georgian façade. It was built over 600 years ago by the Caustons, an important weaving family in the area. Now its award-winning French modern cuisine brings foodies from all over to savour the delights from the kitchen.
It’s probably Lavenham’s most elegant restaurant too, with local produce on the menu. We indulged in starters of local Ardleigh aspargus and scallops. Mains of wild sea bass and vegetable tian. Ending with a delicious dessert of rhubarb tartlet with strawberries, yoghurt and lime sorbet and basil opaline tuile.
There’s a spectacular cheese board and an excellent wine list. You can enjoy three courses for lunch or dinner for £36.50.
4. Weavers’ House Spa
After all that walking and eating the only thing left to do is relax. The Weavers’ House Spa is the place to go. A recent addition to one of Lavenham’s iconic buildings – The Swan Hotel. The fifteenth century hotel where we chose to stay on our break is historic and characterful, but the spa is housed in a modern extension in the peaceful courtyard. The stylish, modern interiors with its taupe walls, light wooden floors and warming scented candles permeating the air immediately sets a calming tone.
Once checked in you slip into your fluffy bathrobes and slippers and sip on berry smoothies whilst you have a consultation with your therapist in the spa lounge. We indulged in a 90 minute Drift Away, a top-to-toe massage complete with a face and scalp massage – Bliss.
Once the dreamy massage is over you’re offered a refreshing sorbet before being led to the dark and peaceful relaxation room. With hot herbal tea and delectable macarons on hand,we were left in peace for a post treatment snooze. Mr S had to physically pry me off the chaise-longue style beds.
The spas thermal facilities are housed around a Mediterranean style courtyard, both the sauna and steam can easily accommodate seven to eight people. Outside is a sun-trap courtyard and a large vitality pool surrounded by loungers.
It’s a relaxing haven of calm and luxury and well worth a splurge to recalibrate and emerge re-energised and refreshed. You can read my review of our stay at The Swan Hotel here.
Technically not Lavenham (a 20 minute drive away), but well worth a little visit if you love your picture postcard villages. Kersey is a small, sleepy village with a population of about 350 people.
On a steep hill a ford crosses the hill at its lowest point, which is also the centre of the village on the main street. Locally known as the ‘Splash’, it can sometimes just look like a large puddle. Pedestrians, can cross via a small bridge to the side to save their tootsies from getting wet.
The single street village is full of colourful crooked houses apricot, cream, pink and burnt orange. Believe me, you’ll go into overdrive with your camera. Also like Lavenham it was a well used location for the mid 90’s BBC TV drama Lovejoy – much to my delight.
Have you ever been to Lavenham or Suffolk? Do you have a favourite spot? Let me know in the comments below.
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