It is no secret to those who know me well that recently London has become a little unbearable for me. As much as I love the opportunities, the events, the culture and the friends I have, I hate the traffic, the noise, the dirt, the chicken bones on the floor (it should be an offense to litter with those particularly!) and so forth. I was longing to spend a few days away, but somewhere we could take Amber too, somewhere driveable and not requiring a plane journey.
After some deliberation, we picked Suffolk, specifically the village of Lavenham. Not only we have friends there but also it is a historic and medieval location and I needed a bit of a fix of the Middle Ages… Needless to say, our stay was fantastic, relaxing and just what we needed as a family, dog friendly break.
Lavenham is located in the heart of Suffolk and one of England’s best preserved medieval wool towns. Less than 2 hours by car or train from London, Lavenham boasts over 30 High Street businesses including an wide array of hotels, restaurants and friendly local pubs.
The centre of Lavenham is of a good size, with loads of picture perfect streets full of characterful listed houses and cottages, a huge number of these dating back to the XIV century, heaven for me of course.
We spent pretty much most of our time walking around, discovering new views and sights as well as going all the way to the edges of the village towards the river and towards the church where Amber could find more green areas to have fun
Yet even in town there were plenty of doggy friends, some very friendly and it was so refreshing to see people and be greeted in the morning even if you don’t know them… doesn’t happen in London for sure!
A lot of these historic properties are available to rent… so one has really plenty of choice. There are also a couple of hotels in town, including the upmarket and beautiful The Swan (which has a spa and a couple of restaurants), located right on the high street. With a baby and a dog we preferred a cottage and after much deliberation, opten for Market Keepers cottage, a Grade listed quaint building right in the middle of the Guildhall square. I mean, it doesn’t get much more ‘central’ than that.
We absolutely loved it and could not recommend it more. It looks small from the outside, but these master builders of centuries gone knew how to make use of the space much better than their modern counterparts!
Downstairs there is a fully fitted kitchen (very bright and spacious), a cute dining room and a cosy lounge with plenty of space and a log burner, as well as a guest loo. Upstairs, two spacious double bedrooms (the main huge is actually huge by London standards!) with comfy beds and loads of storage space and natural light and a bathroom.
The cottage is surrounded by beautiful buildings (the XVI century Guildhall, the medieval Little Hall, the Great House french restaurant, the Angel Hotel) and also facilities such a really lovely village shop (open until 10pm weekdays, really convenient) and a cute, old fashion proper bakery).
Walking around Lavenham one does discover some incredible treasures. I couldn’t get enough of the medieval architecture (massively envying, I admit, those who own a piece of those!). The most photographed building in Britain is here actually and is De Vere House, a timber framed stunning house used in movies like Harry Potter, currently for sale (I am so tempted).
In the square, is the Guildhall, managed by the National Trust, one of the finest timber-framed buildings in England. The building dates from around 1530 built on the back of the boom of the cloth industry in the early 16th Century. It is very interesting, due to its various uses through history and worth a visit, including its tea room housed in one of the rooms with beautifully timber framed ceiling; it is open thursdays to sundays from 11am. Next to it, the yellow painted Little Hall, a XIV century weavers’ home. We sadly did not get a chance to visit as it is staffed by volunteers and only opened April-October.
Eating, of course
Lavenham offers enough places to eat or drink, although coming from central London it took a bit to get used to everything opening at 10am and closing around 5pm! We tried a few places and these are our favourites:
Munnings Tea Room at the Crooked House
On the ground floor of a gorgeously wonky medieval building, the interior is warm and welcoming and a little crammed. Loads of cakes and afternoon teas as well as light lunches, friendly service and strong aromatherapy smells as they sell perfumes and the likes in the team room(!). Dog friendly, which is brilliant. We pretty much visited only dog friendly places.
Coffee is ok, as pretty much most of Lavenham (I am now so used to London’s variety and high standards!). I enjoyed a lovely jam biscuit with my coffee while baby O napped in his pram, a brief moment of quiet during my morning walk. Dog friendly in the front area, tables outside too.
Lavenham Blue Vintage Tearoom
By the Guildhall square, this was probably our favourite tea room. Spacious, garden area, massive choice of cakes and fantastic home baked scones. I loved my Spiced Plum scone, and @bmcboy enjoyed a humongous slice of chocolate cake. Good choice of Fentimans soft drinks and teas of course. Coffee was also ok, as above. Super friendly staff and of course, dog friendly!
Hadleys – ice cream parlour
We bought take away ice cream and it was really good. They make some special, Christmas pudding looking ice cream pots: we bought the cherry and chocolate and it was delicious! We’d have loved to enjoy a hot chocolate or a coffee (they sell Monmouth coffee) the next day but they are not dog friendly so we left, obviously. What a shame.
A gastro pub right on the high street, they do pretty decent coffees, cakes and have a good menu too. Dogs are allowed in the lounge area.
Lavenham’s indian restaurant we ordered a take away one evening, and while the restaurant was empty when I picked it up (it was sunday night), and they are not dog friendly, the food we had was pretty good, with some original dishes too although the menu is far too extensive for it to be fresh, I fear.
Where to stay
As mentioned, there are loads of cottages for hire, mostly grade listed and well located, plus a couple of hotels and BnB. With a baby and a dog, renting a selft catering was the best option, however if I was treating myself to a romantic weekend, the Swan hotel would probably be my pick. Here is our top 3 choices of self catering:
This small, cute cottage is within minutes from the main square and the high street and has plenty of facilities as well as two bedrooms, a bathroom with a bath (great if you have little ones) and a garden, and it is dog friendly too. This offers a great value for money and is a good option for a small family. The owners are very friendly. It is available through Air Bnb.
Around £80 per night
Market Keepers Cottage: this was the beautiful cottage which we called home for 6 days and I was so sad to leave. Homely, super comfortable, spacious, very well located and with all amenities (including a dish washer), it is just perfect. Dog friendly too, and has a courtyard at the back and a manicured garden at the front as well as a private parking space by the windows so you can always keep an eye on your car (even though this isnt london and one should probably not worry).
Right across the property are some of Lavenham’s landmarks like the Guildhall, Little Hall and the Great House. Waking up early in the morning, I loved looking out of the windows into the dark and quiet square, seeing the lights come on in the Angel hotel, as well as the morning sky lit up from the main bedroom windows, which looks out onto the garden. I could not recommend this place more, and I really hope to come back and stay again!
From £150 per night
Only a few metres away from de Vere House is Lavenham Priory, a beautiful white washed structure which currently is available to stay at as a luxury accommodation. It is simply beautiful and full of quirks including a medieval mummified rat! The owners are very friendly and the accommodation allows well behaved small dogs too. We did not stay here because the suite for 4 people was booked, and the double bedroom suite was too smal for us while the three bedroom wing too big. While it is pricy, it is simply incredible and full of history and charme.
From £180 per night
I must admit, we were lazy, we had man flu and baby cold and generally mainly relaxed in Lavenham however we did some short trips and can recommend the below things to do:
Lamarsh & Bures
Small villages about half hour drive from Lavenham, great for dog walking bythe river with a couple of good country pubs (such as the Henry Swann).
Really pretty small village about 20m drive away; cute pink cottages, village green, antique shops and a great gastro pub (the George).
Hollow Tree Farm
One of the many ‘petting zoo’ in the area, this has a great farm shop with good prices and products, a nice restaurant, unfortunately it is dog UNfriendly. We had to leave Amber in the car while we had lunch and I was way too stressed to relax!
We truly had a good short break and hope to return soon; sometimes there is no need to go far far away because beauty and history are close by.