Great British Boltholes: The Angel Hotel, Bury St Edmunds, Suffolk

by Lola Borg

ANGEL HOTEL

Lola Borg enjoys a break in a four-star Georgian hotel with contemporary style

Why go? For a relaxing country weekend, neatly tailored for those who demand city standards. Bury St Edmunds is a pretty and unspoiled medieval market town, a hop and a skip from London. It's perfect for mooching, enjoying the local food and beer, and within easy distance of cute villages, stately homes, tea rooms and antiques shops.

Best for: A lazy, romantic break where you can meander the historic town or hole up in luxury and order a freshly made in-room pizza to eat in front of a flat-screen TV. The Angel works equally well as an out-of-town stay with mums or girlfriends; your dog can even come too.

Easy dining: the Eaterie restaurant at The Angel Hotel

The look: A coaching inn for centuries (Dickens stayed in room 215), The Angel Hotel is a huge, ivy-clad building overlooking a Georgian square, charming but totally traditional. Inside is a different story – the hotel has been revamped into full-on boutique mode, with a mish-mash of different styles, dim lighting and a lobby area of cosy, quirky nooks for flopping with the papers. The 80 rooms range from the almost functionally corporate to über-luxe – the higher up the hotel you go, the funkier the décor – and it’s worth paying the extra. Top floor suites have an eclectic mix, which in truth doesn’t always come off (rococo beds matched with orange Perspex side tables), but the mismatched carpets are groovy. Rooms are comfy, with all the touches you’d expect (such as an iPod dock) and bathrooms mostly have freestanding copper roll-top tubs. Room 640 is a good choice as it overlooks the square.

Snuggle up in Suffolk: a Classic room at The Angel Hotel

I'm hungry... The Angel’s restaurant has an intimate vibe – warm wood, modern art – which is probably why it’s quite the hip spot at night for locals on a hot date. Food is British, local and tasty (Suffolk roast chicken, at £17.95, for example, is simple but perfect, or there's a Dedham Vale steak at £23.95); homemade sorbets and ice creams (£6) are a nice touch. The average bottle of wine comes in at £25; guests can slip off afterwards to the Wingspan Bar, which runs underneath the hotel and has the original 12th century vaults; it offers mixology nights with cocktails from £7. Breakfast (included in the rate) is worth getting up for; choosing between buttermilk pancakes with red berries or the full-on local Suffolk breakfast is the only real dilemma here. Service is good but sometimes just too over-attentive. 

While you're there... Meander historic Bury St Edmunds; opposite the hotel is the romantic Abbey Gardens with its 11th century Benedictine ruins, and browse the market on Saturdays and Wednesdays. There are oodles of vintage shops for her, such as Huxter at 14 Hatter Street. For him there is the Greene King Brewery, which has a museum and tours (greeneking.co.uk), and the smallest pub in the UK, The Nutshell (thenutshellpub.co.uk). A few miles out of town is the eccentric stately pile of Ickworth, home of the loaded and bonkers Hervey family (nationaltrust.org.uk): while away a day in the famously elegant Italianate grounds. Or stroll the pretty, medieval villages in the area famous for their wonkily timbered buildings, such as Lavenham and Long Melford. 

Gardens of delight: the Rotunda at Ickworth © National Trust Images/Arnhel de Serra

Dress code: Relax. Interiors are hip but this doesn’t always follow through to the clientele. Don’t forget flats or walking shoes, though, and a waterproof for daytime. Slip something a little smarter into your case for supper – there are no jeans to be seen and local diners glam up. 

Book now: The Angel Hotel, 3 Angel Hill, Bury St Edmunds, Suffolk, 1P33 1LT (01284 714007; theangel.co.uk). Rooms from £115 for two with breakfast; a suite costs around £340. Special offers are available such as the ‘BB&T’ (bed and breakfast including lavish afternoon tea), from £140 per couple. Wifi is free. The hotel is a 15-minute walk from Bury St Edmunds rail station or three minutes by cab (£4.50).

Info: Time Out Guide to Norfolk and Suffolk (£12.99; Time Out) gives detailed local information; useful websites are visitsuffolk.com and discoversuffolk.org.uk. Dickens mentions the Angel Hotel in Pickwick Papers (Wordsworth Classics; £1.99).


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