There was far more to Kesgrave Hall than I’d expected. Having just come from its sister hotel, Maison Talbooth, a luxurious, refined, relaxed country house with outdoor pool and 12 beautifully designed rooms, I wasn’t sure whether the 23-room Grade II-listed Kesgrave Hall would be on similar lines or be something far grander.
It turned out to be neither: instead it was a mixture of several styles which blended together to make a very different hotel experience. It was a wonderfully relaxed place to stay, with the bustling lounge, bar and restaurant built along ‘shabby-chic’ lines in the manner of The Pig hotel chain, all bare floorboards, Chesterfield sofas, Union Jack cushions and playing card picture frames and a focus on local ale and artisan gin.
The Swan at Lavenham is located in one of those villages where you catch yourself thinking; ‘Is this actually real?’
The chocolate-box gorgeousness of some Cotswold villages for example: Bampton (the real-life Downton Village) and nearby Burford can look exactly as if imagined by an American director making a film about quintessential England, or Clovelly in North Devon which ticks all the boxes of a beautiful fishing village.
Lavenham in Suffolk is much the same. After a perfectly fine if mundane journey along the A1141 or whatever road has taken you there, you suddenly find yourself in a village so packed with crooked cottages and half-timbered buildings that you feel as if you have been suddenly transported back to medieval England. (Or magical England – some of the Harry Potter films were shot here).
A short walk down the High Street – in which you expect to see horse-drawn carts and straw everywhere – turns into a succession of picture-taking and marvelling at ‘Why have I never been to this place before?’