Good taste in every sense at Adnams excellent Swan hotel in Southwold

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It does great food and excellent cocktails, it’s got beautiful bedrooms, friendly staff and even has a brewery and distillery on site (it’s owned by 147-year-old Suffolk brewer Adnams). Added to that, it’s right in the heart of Southwold, one of Britain’s loveliest seaside towns, so there’s a lot going for the Swan hotel in Southwold and I would wholeheartedly recommend a stay at this most charming of places.

adnams swan hotel in southwold review
My rather lovely bedroom in the Swan hotel in Southwold

The moment I walked into the room at the Swan I knew I wanted my bedroom at home to look exactly the same. The use of colour and light – a bright rug here, some lovely pictures there – was quirky and fun, and there was the shabby chic charm of colourful chairs, uplit pictures and a wooden dresser packed with essentials such as Nespresso coffee, Tyrells crisps and a complimentary bottle of Adams own Longshore vodka.

adnams swan hotel in southwold review
The Fabulous class room (the Swan has Excellent, Fabulous and Outstanding rooms) came with a complimentary bottle of Adnams Longshore vodka

The bathroom had full-sized Temple Spa toiletries, a luxurious fast-filling and very deep bath and there was lots of information to read about the hotel so you could fully immerse yourself in its history. The Swan itself dates back hundreds of years, with records of ale being brewed here as far back as 1345 – by determined ‘ale wife’ Johanna de Corby who kept on appearing in court thanks to the crime of selling ale in unmarked measures – and has been owned by Adnams ever since the brewery was founded in 1872. Continue reading Good taste in every sense at Adnams excellent Swan hotel in Southwold

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Curry, bagels, fish and chips and bacon butties on a food tour of London’s East End

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In just four hours I ate curry, fish and chips, stilton cheese, salt beef bagels, bread and butter pudding, salted caramel cheesecake and a bacon sandwich. With ketchup. Why? You might well ask. It was because I had decided to be a tourist in London for the day. And my day was all the better for it.  There is a certain delight in being in a tourist in your home town. It’s such an unusual thing to do that it feels slightly illicit, that you have no right to be there, this is an experience for visitors, not locals. And how much are you going to discover, given that you know the area so well?

Curry, bagels, fish and chips and bacon butties on a food tour of London's East End
Our excellent guide Flic with a happy tour participant and a handful of portions of fish and chips – one of our many food stops!

The answer is – a lot. I have lived and worked in London for most of my adult life and yet I found the four-hour Eating Europe food tour of London truly fascinating. Some of the places we visited I was familiar with, others not at all, and yet even the familiar places were given a new light as I discovered there is a big difference between walking through an area and actually getting to know it by hearing its history and eating its food.

That was another unexpected element about the tour: I thought it would just be about the food but our fabulously enthusiastic and well-informed guide Flic told us all about the history of each area so I came away much fuller in both food and local knowledge.

Curry, bagels, fish and chips and bacon butties on a food tour of London's East End
The entrance to London’s historic Spitalfields Market

We started off near Liverpool Street station in Spitalfields market which began began trading back in the 13th century. The market operated for more than 700 years until the 1990s when it moved to larger premises in Leyton, east London and the building itself became a rather run-down collection of shops and sporting facilities (I used to play five-a-side football here!) Reopening in 2005 after a regeneration programme, Spitalfields is now a rather smart shopping and food area which still retains a hint of its original function.

Curry, bagels, fish and chips and bacon butties on a food tour of London's East End
Our enthusiastic and informative guide Flic in full flow

Passing by the Ten Bells pub where Flic informed us ‘Jack the Ripper drank here and scouted for his future victims’ we headed up Commercial Street to notable chef Fergus Henderson’s restaurant St John Bread and Wine. Continue reading Curry, bagels, fish and chips and bacon butties on a food tour of London’s East End

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Relaxing in the slow lane at Brandshatch Place hotel and spa

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As befits a hotel which shares its name with famous motor racing circuit, guests to the Brandshatch Place hotel and spa are greeted with the hum of traffic when they park at the front of the hotel. Rather than superbikes and touring cars on the racing circuit however, the sound is actually coming from the nearby M20 but don’t worry – not a sound or squeak from the motorway actually penetrates the hotel or adjacent spa at all and a night in Brandshatch Place will see you securely insulated from the outside world.

Brands Hatch Place hotel and spa review
Brandshatch Place hotel and spa is situated in 12 acres of Kent countryside

The hotel itself predates the motor age by almost a century, being  built by the Duke of Norfolk in 1806 and it remained a private home until 1977 when it was transformed into a hotel and country club. Now owned by Hand Picked Hotels, the 19-strong hotel company owned by Julia and Guy Hands, Brandshatch Place has 38 bedrooms and a restaurant plus a spa with a gym, indoor pool, hot tub, steam room, sauna and treatment rooms. Continue reading Relaxing in the slow lane at Brandshatch Place hotel and spa

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A seaside stay right on the Suffolk coast at The Brudenell hotel Aldeburgh

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There is something gloriously untamed about the British seaside on a blustery day and when I arrived at The Brudenell Hotel in Aldeburgh, Suffolk, the hotel building was receiving a severe battering from the elements. Situated just a few steps from the cobbled beach, the Brudenell is on the very edge of town and felt like the last sanctuary before the wildness of the neighbouring nature reserve and the long uninterrupted stretch of coastline south.

Brudenell hotel Aldeburgh Suffolk
The Brudenell hotel is right on the beach at the pretty seaside village of Aldeburgh in Suffolk

I dived inside for cover and was instantly transformed from a windswept traveller to a calm and serene guest, helped by the friendly reception staff and the happy chatter of people settling in for an afternoon’s relaxing. Being so close to the sea, the 44-bedroom 4-star luxury hotel has been known to flood on occasion, with the waves coming up through the main doors, but thankfully the weather wasn’t that extreme during our visit and people could enjoy coffee in the lounge or stronger stuff in the bar in warmth and comfort. Continue reading A seaside stay right on the Suffolk coast at The Brudenell hotel Aldeburgh

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A charming luxury stay in Brockencote Hall hotel Worcestershire

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Brockencote Hall hotel was the third hotel I’d visited from the Eden Hotel  Collection and I wasn’t sure to expect, given that the first two hotels had been so different. Would it be as grand as the spectacular and imposing Bovey Castle, the 60-bedroom colossus in the heart of Dartmoor? Or would it be more like the boutique hotel Greenway in Cheltenham, with its high-end spa and Champagne bar?

Luxury hotel review Brockencote Hall hotel Worcestershire
The hotel is surrounded by green fields and is just a short walk away from the village of Chaddesley Corbett

Brockencote Hall, set in several acres of lush green Worcestershire countryside, turned out to be different from either of them but no less an almost perfect stay, with the comforts and treats of a luxury country house hotel, from immaculate rooms, impeccable service and great food. What it did have in common with its sister hotels however, was the staff who in all establishments have been at the top of their game, being as efficient and well-informed as you’d hope but with a huge amount of charm, friendliness, humour and total unflappability. There was the sense that they were genuinely pleased to be there, that they had all the time in the world to help out (even if they probably didn’t) and were all able to answer a flurry of questions thrown at them ranging from the age of the hotel to the provenance of the cheese served at dinner.

Luxury hotel review Brockencote Hall hotel Worcestershire
On sunny days people can enjoy their drinks outside

We bumped into one member of staff while exploring the hotel and being unable to find a way out and not only did he show us outside and  suggest a walk across the field to the local village, but several hours later remembered our trip and told us more information about the area, while taking our food and drink orders and delivering everything flawlessly. Continue reading A charming luxury stay in Brockencote Hall hotel Worcestershire

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News, reviews and opinions on everything to do with leisure, from hotels and holidays to food and fitness, by national newspaper journalist and author Sarah Bridge

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