SEVERAL conversations prior to our stay at the Old Swan and Minster Mill in The Cotswolds informed me that our hotel of choice was ‘the posh one’ in the picturesque village of Minster Lovell.
And as we arrived at the 16th century country inn, on the pretty River Windrush, it was easy to see how the hotel had earned its reputation.
Driving through the village on a Sunday afternoon, a game of cricket was playing out on the village green and tourists wandered about lapping up the sheer quaintness of the surroundings.
It was pretty hard to believe this beautiful little village is just 45 minutes away from Swindon as we unloaded our bags and watched the guests enjoying cream tea on the patio, lounging in a deckchair with a glass of Pimms or enjoying a game of croquet. And if you can’t beat them, join them, was our conclusion. But not before we’d found our room at the latest of the de Savary family’s boutique inns.
“Low wooden beams, a log fire, armchairs next to a decanter of sloe gin and a huge bed with crisp linens and armfuls of soft cushions – the room was a delight and captured the charm of bygone years.”
After checking in at reception, which felt like stepping inside the lounge of a cosy stately home (complete with the results of the village duck race on a blackboard) we were shown to our room. We were in the Old Swan, a 16th century country inn hidden up the most winding of staircases – not for the faint hearted.
Low wooden beams, a log fire, armchairs next to a decanter of sloe gin and a huge bed with crisp linens and armfuls of soft cushions – the room was a delight and captured the charm of bygone years. But it was the small details that made our room extra special, from parcels of sweets on our pillows, to bags of homemade fudge and shortbread on the dressing table. We were even treated to a VIP ticket to nearby Bicester Village.
The Minster Mill next door is in stark contrast to the Old Swan, and is officially described as the ‘slightly less posh country-cousin’. The rooms here, dubbed the ‘cosy rooms’, are much smaller and more modern. These eco-friendly rooms enjoy views over the gardens and meadows beyond, and there are also rooms with patios leading on to the river, with individual fire-pits.
The picturesque ruins of Minster Lovell Hall, just a short walk through the village, were originally home to Richard III’s henchman, Lord Lovell. It was abandoned and then dismantled in the 18th century. The ruins provide the perfect pockets of shade and privacy for picnics in the warm weather, which left us wishing we’d packed a hamper.
While we were blessed with good weather and able to make the most of the grounds at the hotel during our stay, staff have also put extra thought in to catering for guests during the winter months, with snooker tables, board games and beauty treatments available, with plans in place for a purpose-built spa.
Fresh local ingredients were the focus for dinner at the Old Swan; so local that diners can even collect their eggs for breakfast from the hotel’s chicken runs.
The food and service were excellent. I opted for the trio of local handmade sausages, King Edward mash and onion gravy, while my boyfriend chose the Oxfordshire Farm sirloin steak with wild Cotswold mushrooms and Old Swan peppercorn sauce.
We retreated to the patio for after dinner drinks, where we were accompanied by the hotel’s much loved pair of ducks who had left their home on the pond for a wander around the grounds. We enjoyed our buffet-style breakfast on the same patio the following morning, sadly minus the ducks.
Using the hotel as a base, there are plenty of walks in the area, but guests staying for more than one night would probably need a car to get around.
The Old Swan and Minster Mill is the perfect luxurious, romantic location – picturesque, full of charm and quintessentially English.