We visited Lavenham with the kids one sunny Sunday afternoon back in September, which seems like years ago now. As far as destinations go, this pretty Suffolk town is as chilled out as they come – but never more so than a Sunday afternoon. You can stroll through streets lined with timber-framed buildings, savour a cup of tea and a cake at one of the quaint tea rooms, and potter around the farmer’s market in the Village Hall.
Lavenham is just the right size for exploring with (or without) children in the space of an afternoon – everything is easily walkable and there’s plenty of free parking. If you’re planning a visit soon, time it for the Christmas market from December 7-9. Here are eight more reasons to make this your next daytrip destination – there are even more in my round-up guide for Time Out.
1. The Swan at Lavenham
The first thing we did was stop for lunch at The Swan at Lavenham. This Pride of Britain hotel is something of an institution in Lavenham, and has a fine dining restaurant called the Gallery. We had an amazing Sunday roast and the kids chose giant garlic breads followed by fish and chips from the children’s menu. The elegant restaurant also serves up a suitably extravagant afternoon tea, and would make an amazing setting for a special Christmas meal.
2. Harry Potter’s house
De Vere House is an essential stop-off in Lavenham, although you can’t actually go in. The house featured in Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows as the place where Harry was born, and getting a photo outside is a rite of passage when you visit Lavenham (although goodness knows what the current owners think of the random people posing outside their front window). The house is currently on Rightmove for a cool £950,000 if you fancy it.
3. Curiosity Corner toy shop
Stop off at Curiosity Corner, a quirky little toy and gift shop, and follow the creaky stairs to the first floor. This place is so stuffed with teddies it’s a miracle there isn’t a lost child or two wedged in among them.
4. St Peter and St Paul’s Church
Walk up the (not very steep) hill to St Peter and St Paul’s Church – it’s absolutely huge, and drop-dead gorgeous. It’s open every day from 8.30 until 6pm and there’s a second-hand bookstall and a really sweet little children’s play area inside. The Cock Horse Inn opposite makes a nice stop-off for a pint in the sunshine, and there’s a farmer’s market at the village hall on the way back down the hill. It’s held on the fourth Sunday of every month.
5. The tea rooms
Lavenham does a lovely line in tea rooms, and Blue Vintage seemed to have the best spot in the heart of the Market Place – the only day of the week it’s closed is a Thursday. For ice-cream, try Handmade by Hadley’s.
6. The Guildhall
Lavenham’s star attraction is its Grade-I listed Guildhall, which looks out over the Market Place. It’s National Trust, and costs £18.75 for family entrance. If you just want to get a taste of the place without paying to look around the property, pop in to the tea rooms instead.
7. Little Hall
Just next to the Guildhall is Little Hall, which set us back £4 per adult and zero for kids. It’s a 14th-century house that makes a very sweet little place for kids to look around – ours were given a bag each with a little torch and a worksheet to find all the cats hidden around the building. Out the back there’s a really pretty, peaceful garden. Just bear in mind Little Hall usually closes for the season around October and reopens in March.
8. Gift shops
The High Street is dotted with lots of lovely gift shops – Love Lavenham has a great list of all of them. Plus, this year’s Lavenham Christmas Fair runs from December 7-9 and will have more than 50 stalls spread around the Market Square.
Where to stay
If you’re staying for longer than a day, bed down at The Swan at Lavenham Hotel & Spa – it has 45 individually designed rooms and suites, a cosy bar with an open fire and the luxury Weavers’ House Spa, which also offers day passes.
The hotel is a member of the Pride of Britain Hotels collection, which never has more than 50 hotels, to guarantee quality and exclusivity. Rooms start from £185 per night (two sharing) including a full Suffolk breakfast and use of the spa facilities which include a sauna, steam room, outdoor vitality pool and relaxation lounge. Call Pride of Britain Hotels on 0800 089 3929 or visit www.prideofbritainhotels.com.
With thanks to The Swan at Lavenham for hosting us for lunch.