In one of England's most picturesque and unspoilt thatched villages is a glorious English inn and adjoining mill which offers the perfect retreat for a weekend away.
As we wound our way through the Cotswolds, I racked my brains as to why I hadn’t heard of the Old Swan & Minster Mill before now. As an Oxfordshire resident some 15 miles to the north-east of the unspoilt and thatched village of Minster Lovell, I am, no doubt, one of many who has solely succumbed to the delights on offer from a certain establishment in Great Tew – slap on the wrist.
Located on the banks of the River Windrush, the Old Swan & Minster Mill is nestled in 65 acres of idyllic grounds. Understated and unassuming, the property encompasses sympathetically restored rural buildings including The Swan (a quintessential 600-year-old English inn with 15 charming guest rooms) and the adjoining 15th century Minster Mill which boasts 37 rooms in a more contemporary Scandinavian style.
We were delighted with our airy, light-filled room, which over-looked the croquet lawn, and quickly raised a glass of complimentary sloe gin as we donned our fluffy robes and slippers and explored the stylish, modern bathroom which boasted a lighting system that could rival a Prince concert plus lovely L’Occitane toiletries.
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Later that evening, when we returned to sink into bed, we found creamy chocolate truffles and a bottle of L’Occitane lavender mist on our pillows – a lovely touch to ensure a good night’s rest.
Food & Drink
After a stroll around the grounds pull up a pew in front of the roaring open fire in The Old Swan and get ready to indulge in proper pub grub using fresh seasonal ingredients.
My (pescatarian) companion was thrilled to discover the menu was as exciting for carnivores and veggies alike and we were both impressed with the extensive wine list. After much gluttonous deliberation we finally settled on Coln Valley smoked salmon and melba toast followed by delicious sirloin steak with triple cooked chips and mushroom sauce (me); and poached pear with blue cheese set cream, confit walnut and burnt apple puree, followed by beer-battered market fish served with crushed peas, tartare sauce, lemon and triple cooked chips (her) washed down with a delicious bottle of Argentinian Malbec.
And just when we thought we couldn’t squeeze in any more, the delightful staff recommended the cheeseboard, which disappeared as quickly as it was set on the table.
Things to do
The Garden Spa is a tranquil haven in the heart of the beautiful grounds – and certainly not to be missed. We indulged in a heavenly ESPA mini facial followed by a back, neck and shoulder massage. The spa also boasts an indoor heated plunge pool, a poolside rock sauna, an aroma steam room, ice fountain and our personal favourite – tropical rainforest showers which, on the push of a button, pimped the shower to include the sound of falling rain and tropical birdsong.
If you exhaust the tennis, badminton and croquet (to name just three of the outdoor pursuits on offer at the Old Swan & Minster Mill), just 10 minutes walk away are the ruins of Minster Lovell Hall and Dovecote which are free to wander around.
Further afield, visit the expansive Cotswold Water Park where you’ll find endless bridle paths to amble along plus a designated swimming area for your pooch (did I mention the Old Swan & Minster Mill offer dog-friendly rooms?).
Beautiful Blenheim Palace is also a short drive away, and well worth a visit if you haven’t explored its English Baroque style architecture. Blenheim is open all year round with the exception of Christmas Day.
- The complimentary decanter of sloe gin that welcomes guests to their rooms.
- Parker, the hotel’s resident cat who is normally found greeting guests as they arrive in the car park. Be warned – he is a touch on the tubby side and not to be fed.
- The impressive commitment to green energy: much of the Old Swan is run on hydro power, particularly since the recent installation of an Archimedes Screw, which harnesses the power of the river.
- Giant chess in the grounds.
- The service. We found all the staff, from the front desk to the gardeners, charming and helpful.
- The full English breakfast in the morning – faultless.
Double rooms at the Old Swan and Minster Mill start from £115.00 per night on a bed and breakfast basis.
For guests looking to restore their body and mind, The Garden Spa Great Escape package offers a luxurious 60 minute treatment of guest’s choice and access to the pool, poolside rock sauna, aroma steam room and ice fountain. Guests are then invited to finish their stay with a delicious three-course dinner in the Old Swan restaurant before curling up in a comfortable bed for a relaxing night’s sleep, followed by a full English breakfast the next day. Available Monday – Thursday this package costs from £310 per room, per night.
The Old Swan & Minster Mill, Old Minster, Minster Lovell, Witney OX29 0RN www.oldswanminstermill.co.uk; 01993 774 441
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