Georgian splendour meets contemporary colour in this stylish hotel on the Suffolk Heritage Coast.
The Swan is situated in Southwold, a pretty seaside town on the East Anglian coast with winding, cobbled streets, Georgian architecture and a gorgeous golden sand beach. The hotel ,which is part Georgian, part 17th Century inn, is located amongst a strip of elegant townhouses opposite the busy market square, where you’ll find some of the town’s best delis, coffee shops and shopping. Five minutes’ walk away is the beach and a little further on is the harbour and lighthouse.
THE PACKING EDIT
The Swan is owned by Adnams brewery, a fitting partner considering the building’s brewing heritage that goes back 650 years. In 2017, the building was completely renovated with the help of trendy architect and interior design firm Project Orange, resulting in a strikingly colourful and elegant redesign. The Swan is now one of the trendiest places in town, where locals popping in for a pint of Adnams ale sit alongside glamorous dinner guests drinking Negronis.
This isn’t your usual whitewashed coastal hotel; only a small selection of nautical paintings give away its seaside location. The design at The Swan is all about brightly coloured velvet sofas, seagrass green walls, bold clashing patterns and statement tiling. Exposed wood, copper fittings and handmade glass lamps help to lend a contemporary, fresh look. We loved the confident use of colours and the cosy, plush materials.
The hotel has a relaxed, but attentive atmosphere with butlers on hand to arrange seaside experiences, from gourmet picnics in one of Southwold’s pastel coloured beach huts, to sunrise paddle boarding (with a cup of tea and pastry afterwards) and crabbing in the rock pools.
There are three types of room at The Swan, which has 35 rooms in total. These include ‘excellent’, ‘fabulous’ and ‘outstanding’. We stayed in an ‘outstanding’ room, the largest option of the three, which included a sitting area (ideal for breakfast) and a huge four poster bed.
Top tip: Request a room at the top of the house with views over the market square and plenty of natural light with floor-to-ceiling windows.
As well as lots of thoughtful complimentary things like freshly made truffles, organic tea and a bottle of Adnams gin, our bedroom really had the design wow factor. Bold wall panelling, locally made ceramics, archive prints on the walls and Moroccan style tiling in the bathroom were interesting details. Soft wool throws, velvet furnishings and huge fluffy bathrobes kept the room feeling snug-like and inviting.
Part of The Swan’s makeover involved investing in a new team for their two restaurants, headed up by Executive Head Chef Nick Claxton-Webb and Executive Chef Rory Whelan. The quality really shows – we didn’t have one average meal during our stay, in fact the food was superb.
The Tap Room, which attracts a young, local crowd, is the hotel’s more informal spot. It has an English inn feel with an Adnams bar and a menu of dishes such as gin cured Norfolk stream trout, monkfish and chips and the excellent fish platter (sweet cured herring, crevettes, blackwater oysters…). There are a host of vegan options too.
The second restaurant, the Still Room, is in a majestic Georgian setting with a distillery inspired copper bar and modern, colourful artwork on the walls. We enjoyed our Negronis with a special edition Adnams gin, followed by steak tartare and seared halibut with matching wines.
THE TO-DO LIST
Adnams brewery and distillery tour
A must-do in Southwold, this 90-minute tour is a fun insight into the company’s 650-year history, with complimentary gin or beer sampling to finish.
Check out Southwold town
Even though it’s relatively tiny (you can walk round the whole town in an hour or so), Southwold has lots to see including the harbour, lighthouse and an excellent selection of independent shops, pubs, cafes and art galleries. Collen & Clare is a good spot for designer shopping.
Picnic on Southwold beach
Southwold beach is picturesque and spacious with a long stretch of golden sand flanked by colourful beach huts. Pick a spot for a picnic – the Swan provide excellent hampers.
Go for a hike
Pretty Southwold, which itself has been declared as an area of Outstanding Natural Beauty, is surrounded by stunning countryside. The RSPB’S nature reserve at Minsmere further north along the coast is beautiful.