Why go there? For a luxurious stay with the best of ancient Bury St Edmunds right on your doorstep.
Highlights: The Vaults, an atmospheric private dining room whose exposed brick walls and alcoves date back to the 12th century. Wayward monks from the abbey opposite would arrive in these vaults via tunnels to trade in liquor.
What’s so good about it? Inside this striking and atmospheric Georgian coaching inn is an ably-judged mix of old and new; in private rooms and public areas, old squeaky floorboards, heavy, period-style furniture and filigree walls offset ultra-modern bathrooms and contemporary, tasteful modern art. There’s an African theme in the cosy main reception area – a space perfect for putting your feet up and sipping a cuppa while everyone else explores the local high street shops. Foodies will get a kick out of The Angel. The British/Mediterranean menu served in the Vaults and the more informal and breezier Eaterie – all charcoal leather banquettes and pine floor – is aimed at stockbroker/Lawyer-types up for a family occasion: dishes are rich, confidently presented and made with locally sourced ingredients from Suffolk Food Hall. Better still, there’s a EuroCave wine storage system, which means you can knock back more than 20 different types by the glass, should you feel so inclined.
And the things we didn’t rate? This hotel serves as a sleep spot, dining destination and is big on weddings but you don’t get much else for those four stars; those after Jacuzzi, gym or pool begone!
What else can you do in the region? Once you’ve explored the 16th-century cathedral, head out to archaeologists’ dream Sutton Hoo for yet more ancient history – there you can stroll round the burial ground of the Anglo-Saxon kings of East Anglia. Ickworth Manor should be your next stop. The eye-catching Rotunda building was built by the eccentric Hervey family and contains paintings by Titian, Gainsborough and Velazquez collected upon grand tours of Europe.
Did you know? Charles Dickens, King Louis-Philippe of France, Pierce Brosnan and Angelina Jolie have all stayed here. Plus, rumour has it that the ghost of a piper haunts one of the tunnels leading from the Vaults to the church. Don’t expect any frights though – the tunnels are now bricked up.
Bed quality: ****
By Sharon Lougher
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