SWAN off to the Cotswolds for a relaxing weekend in a rural idyll
Take a spirit level and a protractor if you wish to put it to the test. Right angles and level floors are hard to see in the historic part of this Cotswolds hotel – proof positive The Old Swan is six centuries old. Further confirmation is on offer in flagstone floors, dovetail joints in wooden floors, corridors that twist and roam. Alice would be at home in this wander land.
As for the exterior of this hotel, it must have featured on dozens of jigsaw and chocolate boxes. Roses and green foliage ramble over honey-coloured stone. Nearby, there are banks of lavender. It’s easy to spend time just gazing at the building, wondering who else has stayed in the 16 bedrooms of what has been an inn since its construction in the 15th century. Richard III was a guest at the stately home a few hundred yards away. I cannot tell you for sure if he called into the Old Swan, en route to meet his opponents at the Battle of Bosworth, or his nephews in the Tower of London, but you would like to imagine he did.
The Minster Mill, a larger adjoining sister building with a further 44 bedrooms, is in its main area a mere two centuries old. As the name suggests, this part of the hotel sits beside a river. Liquid and fire, what more does a guest need? From the terrace of their apartment, some choose to do little more than drink wine and watch the river go by as they stoke their fire in a metal vessel which wards off any chill in the air.
There’s the option of viewing others being more athletic in the distance, playing tennis, badminton or, slightly less energetically, croquet and outdoor chess. Or watching from afar as small wedding parties gather for a ceremony in a simple garden temple.
Younger guests may be more interested in visiting the strawberries, scarecrow, radishes and herbs which are among the attractions in the vegetable garden. The ducks, guinea pigs and chickens rescued from a battery farm are handily nearby – as are deck chairs, a wooden play area and a summer house. Children have the option of procuring their own eggs for breakfast. An added bonus is the sight of the wildfowl which cluster in the car park. Shiny hubcaps are believed to be the attraction for bird brains.
In the flower gardens in fine weather, the hotel kitchen may offer barbecues and picnics while a jazz band plays.
Should showers disrupt proceedings you can decamp indoors to enjoy log fires and deep sofas. The de Savary family, which owns Skibo Castle and more than 30 other hotels and clubs around the world, is behind the multi-million pound refurbishment carried out in 2010. The budget hasn’t gone on opulence and uniformity. Colours are muted and while one chair may be twinned with a few others in the room, it certainly won’t match them all. The décor and the staff aim to make you feel at home rather than in a showroom.
In the Seventies extension, built in sympathetic style on to the Minster Mill, the beds seem to be as big as the sumptuous and comfortable ones in the older part of the complex, but the décor is more streamlined and access is easier than in the Old Swan, where the staircase would be a challenge for some.
Food is served mainly in an ancient area of the Old Swan. Think wooden beams, real ales and a faint smell of wood smoke.
Starters may feature scallops or duck (not the one you may have seen earlier in the gardens). Main courses might include venison or sirloin steak and vegetables from the garden. Desserts hit all the right spots, with sticky toffee pudding, vanilla seed cheesecake and deep, dark chocolate brownies making an appearance on the list.
We enjoyed the meal, as we did the breakfast, which featured fine sausages and a honeycomb & gooseberry or strawberry yogurt from a local creamery. Our stay was a fabulous glimpse into a luxurious good life.
Return rail travel from Edinburgh to Charlbury station starts from £133.70 for an off-peak return ticket, see www.thetrainline.com The Old Swan & Minster Mill at Minster Lovell (01993 774 441, www.oldswanandminstermill.com). Prices start from £165 per night.
Search for a job
Search for a car
Search for a house
Weather for Edinburgh
Wednesday 22 May 2013
Temperature: 3 C to 13 C
Wind Speed: 23 mph
Wind direction: North west
Temperature: 5 C to 10 C
Wind Speed: 24 mph
Wind direction: North west