The Swan Hotel, Southwold
Cool new interiors, butlers on hand to cater to every whim and Adnams on tap? Sounds like a perfect weekend at The Swan in Southwold for Muddy Cambs & Suffolk Editor - Hollie Bond.
“Do you have to tell your readers about this one?” my Southwold-loving friend moans as I reveal that I’m reviewing The Swan. “It’s kind of my secret and I don’t want loads of people knowing about it!” Sorry dear friend, but this hotel is too good to keep to myself….
Right in the middle of Southwold (overlooking the main square and a hop, skip and a jump from amazing boutique Collen and Clare), The Swan isn’t exactly a wallflower anyway, but for years it’s been a little, how do we put it, shabby round the edges. Well, shabby isn’t a word you could ever associate with it following a huge and costly renovation (£6m to be exact) that was unveiled at the end of 2017. Now, it’s all amazing stand-out colours, plush velvets and beautiful bathrooms that actually made me come home and redesign my own main bathroom (much to the dismay of my husband!).
From the outside though, it’s the same perfectly placed, ship-like beauty and is the place to stay now when visiting the poshest of all Britain’s seaside towns. Expect to see lots of families clad head-to-toe in Joules and Barbour and the odd celeb too – Ian Hislop was enjoying a drink or two in the lounge when we were there.
The hotel hasn’t just had an interior makeover – it has also massively upped its game on the experiential side of things, with a whole host inventive packages you can choose from during your stay, plus three locally born and bred butlers on hand to suggest things to see and do and to assist with everything from booking restaurants to carrying your shopping! Forget boring old bed and breakfast. Here you can choose from lots of different tailored packages – from the Detox, Retox and Repeat break to the Escape Outdoors package, all of which include experiences like paddle-boarding and picnics on the beach to spa treatments and private yoga sessions. And of course, this being an Adnams hotel, you can enjoy the Adnams Experience in the pretty courtyard and designated tasting room. We mixed up a few different packages and ended up with a rather heavenly weekend that included a picnic on the beach, a beauty treatment at nearby Blush + Glow, and a private yoga session.
The vibe here is London Set cool, but not the sort of cool that makes you feel like you don’t fit it, it’s a comfy cool. The sofas are smart, yet squishy and no-one blinks an eye if you spend all afternoon curled up on one. The Still Room Restaurant is smart with warming copper touches, but vibrant too, and there’s no hushed whispering over your wine glasses. It’s loud, fun and relaxed – with staff and other diners happily chatting away to us during dinner, even laughing when the mini muddy screamed his head off over wearing a bib. The food here is inventive, although a little bijou for the price at times. Although when there are homemade biscuits lying around every corner being hungry isn’t a problem.
For more of a pubby atmosphere and informal dishes, there’s also The Tap Room bar at the rear of the hotel. It’s a cosy place to curl up in with a book and a pint of Adnams ale or their rather delicious gin, or the perfect place to leave your other half while you hit Southwold’s shops.
The rooms are the standout feature here – we stayed in this one above and it’s even bigger than it looks, with an entrance hall area, large bathroom and this lounge area with a fireplace = pretty impressive for a Georgian building. This suite looks out on the Main Street, but doesn’t feel overlooked (or at least I hope it wasn’t when I was flouncing around in my underwear!), and it’s lovely to watch all the comings and goings of the village below.
We took our toddler along to test it out for you (actually we just couldn’t persuade the grandparents to have him that particular weekend!), but we were pleasantly surprised. Although the interiors are very grown-up, the staff and vibe of the place is extremely relaxed and kid-friendly. When we arrived our son’s bed had a mini dressing gown, slippers, teddy bear and crab fishing line and bucket, which is a pretty generous and well thought-out gift. There was also plenty of room for him in our room – we could’ve had about eight kids lined up in the lounge area to be honest (god, forbid!). There was also a kid’s menu in The Still Room restaurant with much more inventive and healthy choices than the usual sausage and chips you get offered these days. And, the waiting staff and receptionists all actually liked children (or were great actors) and chatted away to them.
Not that I am comparing children to dogs (Ok, maybe just a little bit) , but… the hotel is also partly dog-friendly. Pooches aren’t allowed in the main hotel, but there are garden rooms that you can book that allow dogs and that you can leave them in when you go to the restaurants. Southwold Beach towards Walberswick is open to dogs year-round too, so it’s pretty much heaven for Fido.
THE MUDDY VERDICT:
Good for: Couples or families looking for a luxe break by the seaside, without worrying about getting sand on the carpets of a posh hotel. If you want to be in the thick of Southwold and minutes from the soft sand dunes, the pier and all those independent boutiques, but with a huge room and a home-from-home vibe, this is the place.
Not for: Just crashing at the end of a day. The rooms here are special and the packages are well-thought out, so if you’ve got your own plans in the area and won’t be spending much time in the hotel itself you’d be better off looking for something less luxurious.
The damage: Considering this town is often called Chelsea-on-Sea because of the millionaire Londoners who visit for a breath of unpolluted seaside air and to buy the beach huts that cost more than your average flat, £200 per night for an excellent room with breakfast isn’t bad. For a special occasion go for one of the Outstanding rooms from £350 a night.
Words Hollie Bond (Editor Muddy Cambs & Suffolk)
The Swan Southwold, Market Place, Southwold IP18 6EG