By Josie Laxton
What do you imagine when you think of Suffolk? I picture sleepy villages, thatched cottages, painted in muted pinks and burnt oranges...
To kick start our August Bank Holiday weekend, we headed to the countryside for our overnight stay at The Black Lion. Although Suffolk is a short drive from where I live, it's a county I am quite unfamiliar with. So, when we arranged our stay, I was excited to see as much of the county as possible and it did not disappoint. I was lucky enough to enjoy this trip with my Mum and my two gorgeous children, Leo and Arlo.
The Black Lion is in the picturesque village of Long Melford, Suffolk and close to the Essex border. The quaint village is renowned for its 3-mile-long main street full of independent shops, tea rooms, antique centres, art galleries, pubs and restaurants. It is also home to two large manor houses, Melford Hall and Kentwell Hall, both of which are a stone’s throw from the pub.
The Black Lion is just outside of the main street, overlooking an impressive Green and neighbouring pretty cottages. A Grade I listed Medieval Church stands at the top of the green. Country paths are plentiful, making it a wonderful area to explore on foot or by bike.
As we arrived, we were instantly drawn to the stunning Georgian façade – with the original sash windows and stone steps leading through a large arched doorway. As we stepped inside, we received a very warm welcome from the team. I instantly got the sense of being in a home away from home – where guests can come and feel like a local and explore the picturesque, quaint villages all at a slower country pace. The perfect break if you lead a busy life or want to escape from the city!
The interiors were a perfect mix of traditional and modern. A couple of the dining areas and bar have a timeless and typical Suffolk aesthetic with wonderful paintings, wooden floors, vintage rugs, mismatched furniture – simply beautiful.
There are a total of 10 rooms, from Cosy and Family to large Luxury rooms. We stayed in room ‘Five’ which had a large double room, with a separate room for the boys and a sizeable bathroom. Our room was cosy and calming with effortless styling that fits in with the Georgian building.
The boys' room overlooked the garden and the village church which is beautifully illuminated at night. They were over the moon with their bunk beds – which made them feel very grown up, with Arlo referring to his bottom bunk as his cave and Leo insisting, ‘we need to get bunk beds for our home!’ At bedtime after the initial excitement, they both slept like logs until half six – which is a win if you’re a parent!
The bathroom had a tub-shower combo with traditional style fittings in keeping with the timeless design seen throughout the inn, complete with Bramley products (the best!). Little touches like this always add that bit of luxury to your stay!
FOOD & DRINK
We had our evening meal in the Orangery. This room had a different aesthetic to the other rooms with its dark walls, bold wallpaper prints, plenty of mirrors and a pop of yellow, it manages to be light and airy whilst still retaining a cosy feel.
As it was a Saturday evening, we could not resist treating ourselves to a cocktail! If you’re going for dinner, you must order the burrata from the starters – it was to die for, so light and creamy!
For our main, my Mum and I both opted for fish dishes, the Mackerel and Plaice – I was torn between the Breaded Plaice and Flat Iron Steak but wanted to save some room for dessert so decided the fish would be the better option. Safe to say I was happy I did!
The boys tucked into Fish and Chips and Macaroni Cheese finished off with a Chocolate Brownie and Ice Cream. We adults opted for the Chocolate Mousse and Panna Cotta – we left with extremely full, yet happy tummies!
SUITABLE FOR FAMILIES?
When looking for a family friendly stay, it isn’t always easy to find places that are suitable, but two of The Black Lion’s rooms are family-friendly, both can sleep two adults and two children. There are a minimum of four choices on the children’s menu and at breakfast the menu can be adapted for smaller appetites.
You can easily enjoy a good run around on the village green - there is plenty of running space before you reach the road. So, bring a ball, a frisbee, a kite or simply a good game of catch and enjoy the outdoors on the doorstep of the Black Lion.
If you follow me on Instagram, you will know that travelling with my two boys is very important to me. Discovering somewhere new really sparks the soul and I could not think of anyone I’d rather enjoy that with than my boys.
CAN I BRING MY DOG?
Yes, Chestnut is mutt-mad, so no need to leave your furry companion at home - bring them along for a fun getaway. There is also a full menu just for dogs with nibbles, treats and even drinks! Breakfast is also included, so they will leave feeling like one pampered pooch by the end of the stay!
THINGS TO DO IN THE AREA
VISIT A LOCAL VILLAGE
You cannot visit Suffolk without a trip to some of their charming villages, close by:
Long Melford – Walk the longest high street in England, window shop and grab a coffee.
Lavenham – Only a 20-minute drive away this historic Tudor village is a typical postcard image of Suffolk, crooked houses painted in muted colours.
Kersey – A very small village but one of the prettiest!
VISIT MELFORD HALL OR KENTWELL HALL
Melford Hall – Tudor manor house built in the mid-16th Century and part of the National Trust.
Kentwell Hall – Beautiful redbrick moated Tudor Manor House famous for their Tudor re-enactments.
VISIT JIMMY’S FARM
Just 40 minutes away from The Black Lion, Jimmy’s Farm and Wildlife Park has over 80 species and breeds on site, a WonderWood area where children can make dens and a large playground with a sand area.
A relaxing break to the countryside and the perfect way to switch off, with good food and drink. It’s a flawless blend of traditional, stylish and modern interiors. We thoroughly enjoyed ourselves and left with some lovely memories of our trip to Suffolk!
Josie Laxton Chestnut Brand Ambassador
Josie is a lifestyle, motherhood and travel blogger, based in Essex. Follow her on Instagram here.
To book a stay at The Black Lion, or to read more about all there is to explore in the area, click here.