The Old Swan inn is so pretty it even has its own postcard. I wouldn’t be at all surprised to see the image printed on a biscuit tin or tea towel.
Built in 1445, the interior is as comfortable and full of character as the exterior would suggest. The Old Swan inn and Minster Mill hotel is, as the name implies, a duplex of traditional buildings positioned in a picturesque and historic corner of the Cotswolds adjacent to the River Windrush.
The Old Swan comprises 15 guest rooms with 44 housed over the lane in the Minster Mill. There is a garden suite and river rooms with private terrace and fire-pit, interconnecting family rooms and dog friendly accommodation. The neighbouring Swan Cottage is a three-bedroomed house available for private hire. The complex is set within a well-tended 65 acres of garden and woodland.
Budget or boutique?
With rooms priced from £175 per night up to our garden suite at a budget-busting £395, this is no crash pad but a destination in itself. Good things don’t come cheap and a five-star Visit England rating may help reassure potential guests that it will be money well spent.
Rooms are decorated in a quintessentially English style and contain every modern convenience. Our garden suite has two bathrooms, one with a deep bath and the other a walk-in rainforest shower with White Company toiletries. There’s a flat-screen TV, kettle, hairdryer, iron and free wi-fi. A vast assortment of teas, biscuits and sweet treats are supplied. Jelly beans and tablet in Kilner jars go down a treat with our 11-year-old, while the sloe gin, Krups Nespresso machine and jug of fresh milk in the fridge are most appreciated by the grown-ups.
Wining and dining
The dining room is elegantly relaxed and on the first evening the three of us enjoy a full three-course meal, which actually involves sampling nine dishes as we are keen to share. The ethos is local and fresh and also dependent on what’s available from the garden. The bar maintains the feel of a traditional inn with low beams and roaring fire – dogs are welcome and even have their own menu board. It is here, on the second evening, that we all order the same dish – sirloin steak with Béarnaise sauce and triple-cooked chips – which we declare the best we have ever had.
At breakfast, eggs are freshly delivered – so to speak – from the hotel’s hens and honey comes straight from the hive frame.
Worth getting out of bed for
Not a family to lounge in bed – despite their generous size and comfort – we explore the hotel and surrounds. The village of Old Minster is also as pretty as a picture with light, honey-coloured Cotswold stone cottages, some topped with thatch, and a stream running by the entrances. A short walk through the churchyard brings us out to Minster Lovell Hall and Dovecot, a ruined 15th-century Oxfordshire manor house. It is allegedly haunted by Richard III’s henchman, Lord Lovell, whose skeleton was found after he became trapped in a hidden room with his dog when his servant died. The River Windrush flows by and it’s a popular spot for dog walking and picnics. Back at the hotel there’s plenty to keep guests occupied; indoors there’s a games room and cosy reception areas to relax and dry out by a roaring fire if the weather’s not so good. There’s also a gym and Yon-ka spa therapists. In the garden next to our suite we play a few games of boules and our daughter completes a wooden balance course. Tennis, badminton and croquet are further outdoor options and a swimming pool with sauna and steam room are under construction.
In the room there are the hotel postcards, guide booklets for local fishing, walking and cycling routes published by the hotel and a selection of current magazines. Pashley bikes can be hired and fishing rods are available – guides and lessons are bookable. Packed lunches can be ordered for outings. A hot water bottle in the bed at tuck-down is a nice touch.
A high-end hotel packed with character, comfort and quality. I hope to return to haunt it one day.
• Old Swan & Minster Mill, Old Minster, Minster Lovell, Oxfordshire, Cotswolds, OX29 0RN, England, (01993 774441) www.oldswanandminstermill.com, email: firstname.lastname@example.org