Ellie & I recently stayed at the four-star Swan Hotel, in Wells, Somerset. I was doing some caving with a buddy of mine in the Mendips. My wife decided to join me for some above-ground sightseeing, so we needed a place to stay. This hotel is where constable Nicholas Angel stays in the 2007 film Hot Fuzz with Simon Pegg.
THE SWAN HOTEL, WELLS – PERFECT LOCATION
The location could not be any better. From the rooms located at the front of the building, you have views of the magnificent front of Wells Cathedral. The market square, the Bishop’s Palace, and High Street with plenty of traditional pubs and quirky shops, are all just a minute’s walk away.
PARKING THE CAR WAS A CHALLENGE
Service was very helpful and friendly from the moment we arrived. After a lengthy car ride from London in at least partially difficult icy conditions, driving the rental SUV along a crooked, tiny alley to the car park, was a challenge.
There was only one parking space left in the whole, large car park. You guessed it: it was the one space no one wanted to park their car in. I’m not exaggerating when I say I must have reversed back and forth some 50 times before I had managed to park the vehicle in a position where there was (just) enough space on either side to get in and out of the car.
MEDIEVAL ELEMENTS COMBINED WITH MODERN DÉCOR AT THE SWAN HOTEL, WELLS
The interior of the premises combines medieval elements from the early days of this coaching inn, 600 years ago, with modern elements. Several reviewers have commented about a clash between old and new, a lack of subtlety in the modern parts of the décor. Not sure, if some of this has been amended when ownership of the hotel changed last year (it is now part of the Coaching Inn Group). Ellie & I had no complaints about the furniture. There are no lifts, but staff are happy to help with carrying the luggage and many rooms are on the ground floor.
THE ROOM WAS PRETTY MUCH WHAT WE’D BEEN LOOKING FOR
Perhaps our room’s interior design was a little bit on the heavy side, and outdated, but we found it pleasant enough. The bathroom amenities could have been more modern. That said, everything worked just fine. Considering that I had plenty of heavy and not always perfectly clean caving gear with me, I was glad that the room wasn’t filled with delicate Louis XV chairs or expensive artwork.
HEATING NOT VERY HOT, EVEN ON HIGHEST NOTCH
Immediately upon arrival we had noticed that the room temperature was significantly below a cosy level, so we turned up the heating all the way. It didn’t make any difference, so we added an extra blanket on top of our duvets. The next day my buddy and I were busy caving, while Ellie spent the whole day out and about exploring Wells and its surrounds. We completely forgot to mention the heating issue to reception. Our bad. When we arrived back at the hotel late in the evening, we couldn’t be bothered to ask anyone for assistance.
NOT IDEAL WHEN YOU’VE GOT HYPOTHERMIA,
BUT THE LATTER’S NOT THE HOTEL’S FAULT
Underground, things had not gone as smoothly as expected. I had chosen to go caving in my regular caving gear, with thick fleece overall beneath the actual caving suit, but without neoprene suit. This turned out to be a mistake. At -4C outside temperature, the water inside the cave near the entrance was at freezing point, hardly warming up much more along its path through the permanently year-round 11C warm cave.
BROUGHT THAT ONE ONTO MYSELF
On a few occasions I struggled when climbing up subterranean waterfalls and got soaked in the ice-cold water for minutes on end. After four hours underground, I had to walk 15 minutes from the cave entrance back to the caving club hut. Wearing soaking wet clothes, wandering across frozen fields in strong winds. In the end I was seriously hypothermic. The second night felt much, much colder than the first night.
GOOD BREAKFAST AT THE SWAN HOTEL, WELLS
Breakfast on both days was relatively little choice. However, everything from the buffet tasted lovely. The waiter also took orders for egg dishes to complement the meal. During the warmer time of the year, there is an outdoor terrace for guests, on the other side of the street, and a walled garden café.
IN-HOUSE RESTAURANT REASONABLY PRICED
The in-house restaurant is reasonably priced for a four-star hotel restaurant. It doesn’t seem to get a lot of great reviews, so we chose to eat at the excellent Globe Inn, just five minutes down the road.
THE SWAN HOTEL, WELLS, IN SUMMARY
The Telegraph gave The Swan Hotel in Wells, a decent 7/10 a few years ago. On Tripadvisor it is the second best rated establishment in or near Wells. On Booking.com the rating by 1,600+ customers is 8 out of 10. Prices seem to range from £120 to £200 per night for a standard double. If booked in advance, even top season weekends are available for around £140. Like with so many UK four-star hotels outside of London, I don’t think they deserve four stars. Rated as a three-star, I’d gladly give the hotel a 3.5 out of 5. Should location not be that important to you, then bear in mind that Wookey Hole Hotel is about 40% cheaper on most dates. It feels significantly more basic than The Swan. But it has similarly good customer ratings and an official three-star rating.
Looking for more hotel reviews? Check out our write-ups about the Haven Hotel, Sandbanks, Cotswold House Hotel & Spa in Chipping Campden, The Sheep on Sheep Street in Stow-on-the-Wold, Le Mareuil, Paris, or QT Bondi Hotel in Sydney. We’ve also done many restaurant reviews, such as Galvin at Windows and Galvin La Chapelle in London, La Vache et Le Cuisinier & Au Comptoir Du Relais, Paris, Robot Restaurant and Sushi Zanmai, Tokyo, as well as Tapabento Porto.