In our exploration of historic inns, we turned back to East Anglia and Constable Country more particularly. This area of Suffolk and Essex has an excellent assortment of late Medieval timber framed buildings (see my post for Kersey, Suffolk), and among them are some wonderful old inns. Our first stop was to the Swan Hotel in Lavenham. This beautiful hotel recently is on the main street of the historic town. The Swan offers a certain sense of luxury, so we thought it would make for a wonderful experience. It did.
The black and white framed building would fit into any Medieval or fantasy film. It is well maintained 15th Century structure and much larger than might be imagined. It has three bars and restaurants. So with choices available we sat in The Airman’s Bar, rather than in the main dining area. What set this space apart was that they have preserved the graffiti and autographs of the World War Two flight crews that frequented the hotel bar during the conflict.
The service in the hotel was very professional and courteous. The staff provided not only quality service, but information as well – on WiFi access, and on the history of the hotel and the bar.
We had various loose leaf teas, which were very good quality, soaked in the history, and the entire experience was wonderful.
We next stopped in for an afternoon break at The Bull in Long Melford. Melford is one of the longest main street villages in England, and boasts two listed stately homes. The Bull (built circa 1475) is a really attractive “old world” building with large timber framing, small panel glass windows, and a real Tudor/Jacobean feel. We sat in a small alcove near the front windows looking out over another period building, dated 1610.
The dining/bar area had a large fireplace, and hardwood timbers and floors, and a well spaced table arrangement.
The service was friendly, and very quick in getting us served. The tea was of good quality, and there were several really nice offerings on the menu as well.
We had a leisurely chat, and (several) quiet cuppas. This is a really worthwhile and atmospheric pit stop and one we will visit again.
The 14th Century Rose and Crown in Colchester was our base of operations while visiting Constable Country. The hotel itself is a fine old timber framed building with lots of character. While our room was in a newer annex, it was still in many senses a fitting place to keep with our Constable themed getaway.
Our room was on the small side, and was in need of some cosmetic care, and felt a little tired. It has two singles which were pushed together to make a double, but these were not clamped and did slide apart a little during the stay.
The location of the hotel is good, and allows access to Colchester, the Stour basin and the Harwich. There is free WiFi, and parking as well. The sleep quality was good, and the room quiet.
Service at reception was professional, but the restaurant a little less so, which was a little disappointing. We arrived for Saturday breakfast a half hour before the posted closing time. The staff seemed impatient, and gave the impression of “just wanting to get this over with.” This was displayed in the fact that as guests finished, not only were tables bused of dishes, but the flowers and condiments were cleared as well, giving a clear of “unwelcome.” Added to this was the fact that portion sizes for the cooked breakfast were small (especially for the price). We requested vegetarian sausage, which they had run out of so they offered a chance at an alternative. We asked for the fish, to be told that that would incur a surcharge, We therefore, went without. This again seemed a failing of customer service by the dining staff.
All in all an okay stay, though not of the quality of our other Best Western stays, and I would not book the breakfast ever again. The purpose in the end was to get a taste of the ancient inns, and if for nothing more than the architecture The Rose and Crown came through.