The Swan hotel, in Southwold, dates back to the 1600s. After being destroyed by the Great Fire in 1659, it was rebuilt a year later. Now owned by Adnams, the family-run brewery and distillery, it reopened last year after an extensive renovation bringing a breath of fresh sea air into the building. There are 35 cheerful bedrooms, a relaxed yet refined restaurant and separate cosy bar area (the Tap Room). It’s an ideal seaside escape.
And the general vibe?
Stepping into The Swan from Southwold’s high street you’re greeted with a wooden deck chair – just one of the many seaside nods that feature throughout the hotel. Coastal tones of teal, navy blue and green are prominent but velvet textiles and pops of vibrant pink give it a modern feel.
Locals fill the Tap Room ordering pints of their favourite ales while bedrooms are occupied by those coming further afield wanting a snippet of sea life, if only for the weekend.
Which room should I book at The Swan?
The bedrooms vary in size starting at ‘excellent’ moving to ‘fabulous’ with the largest being ‘outstanding’. Excellent rooms come with double beds, arm chairs and duck-down bedding. Fabulous rooms boast super king beds with a cosy living room area to sit and enjoy a freshly made coffee. If you’re wanting extra luxury book outstanding and enjoy his and hers sinks and more space.
Bright and airy rooms are decked out with dark grey wooden panels, four poster beds and vintage mirrors. Local touches are reminders of the seaside location that pepper the whole space, from fish printed cushions and striped nautical headboards, to artwork that hangs on the walls – a framed Scrabble board reads out Southwold-related words along with black and white photos of the area. Old mahogany chest of drawers sit next to copper lights with filament bulbs and Richard the butler is on hand to explain how the Apple TV works. Think seaside classic with a modern twist.
A complimentary bottle of gin, Bose speakers and a mini bar is stocked with Adnams spirits and boxes of Booja Booja truffles (ready to be nibbled on while reading ‘Gin glorious gin’ or ‘Gin – the manual’.)
Just as much attention is paid to the bathrooms, from the slate-style tiles on the floor to the succulent plants that sit on the table next to Burlington London baths, so allow enough time for a long soak.
What’s good to drink?
With the brewery only a few steps away, a pint of ale is the obvious choice. Settle into a booth in the cosy Tap Room where walls are tiled with boats and low hanging bulbs are strung with rope. Order a bottle of the most popular Ghost Ship or go for a refreshing gin and tonic made with Rising Sun gin, distilled with matcha tea and lemongrass. If you need warming up from the fresh sea air, hunker down with a mug of hot Ribena because as the menu says, it’s a classic.
And to eat?
Dinner is served in the Still Room, a sophisticated area with low armchairs covered in grey and lime green linen while empty green glass bottles are suspended just above the dark grey lights. A decadent copper bar stands at the end of room, its magnificent display of bottles of spirits together with large oil portraits, forming a striking space for dinner.
The menu is split into meat, fish and vegetables and can all be served as starters or mains meaning there’s a good selection to decide between. Waiters are attentive and incredibly friendly, helpfully explaining the different ways the fish is cooked and the dishes that best lend themselves as a starter.
Crunchy sourdough came first with whipped salted butter, alongside a copper cup filled with a creamy spiced carrot and swede foam.
Fresh meaty mackerel came with cubes of sharp apple and an egg yolk for rich sauciness, or go for a moist piece of guinea fowl served with an earthy chestnut purée and salty wedge of chargrilled cabbage.
Flaky seared seabass was served with slightly sweet, and surprisingly chilled, aubergine purée and a drizzle of rich pine nut oil. Pink beef wellington with crisp pastry came with creamy mash topped with pungent truffles and a side of silky soft sprout tops.
End on the poached pear for a light dessert. Al dente pears served with sticky gin syrup sit alongside a refreshingly sharp cassis sorbet that broke through the richness of the Italian meringue and spiced cinnamon crumb. If you’re after a hearty dessert, choose the sticky sweet treacle tart with warm spiced nutmeg ice cream.
What’s the breakfast like?
Breakfast in the Still Room is a leisurely affair. Bring down your newspaper (delivered to your door each morning) and make yourself a spicy Blood Mary with Adnams vodka and Tabasco sauce.
Help yourself from the copper bar to rich Marybelle yogurt (made 12 miles down the road), fresh fruit, cereals, granola, pastries, five types of milk and fresh juices, or order from the kitchen for something warmer. The breakfast dishes are on the lighter side (probably for those who have over indulged the night before) but the creamy avocado on toast with smoky bacon was just enough to see us through till it was time for fish and chips.
Smoked kippers served with herb butter and lemon make for an alternative breakfast option but if you fancy something classic choose between poached eggs served Benedict, Florentine and Royale style.
Any other food experiences I shouldn’t miss?
Take an hour-long brewery tour; they start next door from the hotel. From learning about how long it takes to brew an ale to tasting the malts they use, you’ll learn about the whole process and history of the brewery, ending with a tasting of the beers. We recommend trying the new Satsuma Witbier if you want a fruity number or go for the Flat White Porter for something a little different – think espresso martini mixed with hops.
Is The Swan family-friendly?
The luxurious nature of The Swan makes it appeal more to adults wanting a peaceful weekend away. A children’s menu is available in The Still Room and The Tap Room, and the hotel is in prime location for a family beach picnic.
What can I do in the local area?
The Swan’s sea front location makes it the ideal start for a brisk beach walk past brightly coloured beach huts to Walberswick – a quieter part of the coast backed with dunes and marshland. If you have a car it’s worth exploring the local area. Drive 30 minutes south to Aldeburgh for the freshest fish and chips, cones of stem ginger ice cream and independent book shops and galleries. Another 15 minutes down the road is Orford, a small town with Pinney’s smokehouse where you can stock up on locally caught fish and, at the Pump Street Bakery, for silky smooth hot chocolates topped with homemade marshmallows and a raspberry doughnut.
The concierge says…
Head a few doors down to the Two Magpies Bakery and order a bacon sandwich or choose between their inviting window display of cinnamon swirls, clementine and pistachio loaves and almond croissants if you’ve got a sweet tooth.
For a peaceful break in Suffolk, The Swan is an ideal seaside retreat with stylish design. Make the most of the in-room luxuries by sinking into a squishy sofa, making yourself a Teapigs Earl Grey and digging into the oat, cinnamon and raisin cookies that will no doubt be waiting for you on arrival.