Adrian Mourby

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In the days when Britain's trade was almost exclusively with Europe this country's east coast ports were important and wealthy. Some of the merchant towns like Lavenham (which has three of Britain's Finest hotels in close proximity to each other) have hardly changed since medieval times whereas others, like Harwich, benefitted greatly from Victorian expansion. Inland, East Anglia offers Tudor mansions, Palladian estates, the glory of Cambridge and lots of eighteenth-century coaching inns enroute. This low-lying landscape is often buffeted by chill North Sea winds, but the welcome is always warm.
The Great House Restaurant and Hotel

Lavenham is a small, beautifully preserved medieval town whose export of blue cloth made it one of the wealthiest communities in Tudor Britain. Its white half-timbered guildhall is owned by the National Trust and the Great House nearby is one of the UK's top restaurants with rooms. There are just five highly individual bedrooms, including one with a Jacobean four-poster bed.

The Pier at Harwich

The Pier Hotel was built in 1862 in response to railway lines reaching this east coast port. On the outside it's very much a Victorian take on the Venetian palazzo, standing close to the town's famous Ha'Penny Pier. These days the hotel has fourteen enlarged contemporary rooms with a nautical feel to the decor. The Pier's waterside restaurants are famed for their fish and chips.

Strattons Hotel

Though it looks Georgian, Swaffam actually dates back to Anglo-Saxon times. Its name means "the homestead of the Swabian warriors". Over the centuries it's also been a home to Howard Carter (discoverer of Tutankhamen's tomb) and a second home to Lord Nelson. Strattons is a small family operation: part boutique hotel, part restaurant (winner of Best Norfolk Restaurant) and part café-deli.

The Victoria Inn

Holkham was constructed in the Palladian style for Thomas Coke, 1st Earl of Leicester in the seventeenth century. Like many buildings on this huge estate, the Victoria is built in a mixture of brick and local flint. Its ten bedrooms major on a lilac palette with views over the Holkham National Nature Reserve, which provides the hotel with its beef and game.

The Angel Hotel

It was in Bury St Edmunds that King John's barons met to plan Magna Carta. At the centre of the winding streets of this historic, cobbled town stands the ivy-clad Angel hotel. It's altogether much funkier inside that you might expect from without. Old leather sofas contrast with pop art and bric and brac and the restaurant is well reviewed locally.

Hotel du Vin - Cambridge

Hotel du Vin has been very successful in recent years converting unusual British buildings to hotel use. This black-bricked University building close to Cambridge's Fitzwilliam Museum is one of the more mainstream by HdV standards but offers the usual decorative quirkiness and sense of fun. There are 41 bedrooms, a library, bistro, wine-tasting room and a bar in the genuinely medieval cellars.

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