Villages don’t come more chocolate-box than Lavenham, a pretty and perfectly preserved medieval wool town wrapped in the Suffolk countryside. Pastel-painted cottages and halftimbered houses hem a tangle of narrow streets, which seem to trickle down towards the ancient Market Place. Spend a lazy Sunday afternoon dipping in and out of tea rooms, browsing in tiny shops and soaking up its old-fashioned feel.
A perfect day in Lavenham
Visit the huge St Peter and St Paul’s Church. It was built in the fifteenth-century when Lavenham got rich from the wool trade, and it shows. Settle into a pew and watch sunlight stream in through kaleidoscopic stained-glass windows. There’s a decent secondhand book stall too.
The Swan is Lavenham’s go-to for fine dining. A slap-up Sunday roast or fancy afternoon tea at this hotel is worth booking ahead for. For food on the move, pick up some freshly baked goodness from Sparling & Faiers in Market Place. It’s the pink bakery with the 100-year-old Hovis sign.
Marshbeck Interiors is packed to the rafters with quirky furniture. As well as stocking local honey, handmade pies and wild venison steaks, Lavenham Butchers does a surprise line in country clothing. On the fourth Sunday of every month there’s a farmers’ market in the Village Hall, where you can pick up homemade jams and a bottle of local Lavenham Brook wine.
Lavenham’s roll call of listed buildings tops 300, and a guided walk gives you a glimpse into their pasts. Tick off De Vere House for an obligatory photo stop. Featured in ‘Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows’ as the boy wizard’s birthplace, it’s one of the most papped houses in Britain.
No need to leave Lavenham’s old-world vibes behind when you can bed down in one of the oldest buildings in the village. Lavenham Priory is a Grade I-listed, thirteenth-century half-timbered house available for self-catered stays. Wander around the herb garden and spot as many ancient features as you can – medieval well and underground river, check! – or relax beneath vaulted beam ceilings before ambling up the carved oak staircase for a kip in your regal four-poster. It’s a special place to call home for a day or two. Book a room, a suite or an entire wing for up to seven of your fanciest pals. Ellie Walker-Arnott
From £155 a night.