Everyone goes on about how great the Cotswolds is. After driving down an ugly B road on our way to our destination it’s hard to imagine why, but all it takes is a right turn and you find yourself transported to a place which looks like a cross between the Shire and Emmerdale. This is Old Minster Village, home of The Old Swan and Minster Mill.
Situated next to a stream with well-kept gardens, cobblestone walls an abundance of flowers and even a resident cat, as with all the other properties owned by the de Savary family’s luxury hotel group this property concentrates on, location, location and eh, location.
The hotel comprises of two buildings: The Old Swan that’s packed full of character with its log fire, rickety steps, creaky doors and general oldie worldly atmosphere and the more reasonably priced Minster Mill with a more modern feel.
We stayed in the Old Swan, and what a room it was. Four poster beds with sloe gin on tap (well, in a bottle) – this is luxury squeezed into beamed guestrooms with over 600 years of history. It’s worth noting that The Minster Mill is not to be sniffed at either. Most rooms have a terrace that opens up next to the stream that runs past the hotel, and is pretty nice too.
If it wouldn’t bore you beyond belief I’d probably dedicate this whole review to the bed. Here’s a synopsis – I’ve never slept on a mattress that you sink into like memory foam, when it isn’t, until here. Peeling me from those crisp sheets and cake-like mattress in the morning would have been more difficult if the English breakfast wasn’t so damn good.
If this doesn’t sound relaxing enough for you so far, spa treatments are on offer at the Windrush Spa with everything from hot stone treatments to classic massages available.
In the evening having a drink next to the log fire is as toasty and comforting as you can imagine, and there’s a games room if you prefer to veg out on the sofa and play Monopoly.
During the day there are plenty of walks to take, antique shops to peruse and Blenheim Palace is only 11 miles away. You can even go fishing in the River Windrush – if that’s your thing.
This really is a place that’s stuck in the past, a past that you wish you hadn’t left behind.
Old Swan restaurant
Due to the constraints of being in an old building, the restaurant that lives in the Old Swan hasn’t got the luxury of a big dining space, but the room makes up for it by littering the walls full of pictures and old trinkets. This could almost be your grandparents’ living room, if they were rich and had loads of antiques.
Like everything in this hotel, the menu is very, very English. You can dine on a ploughman’s, a door step sandwich or come Sunday, a roast for lunch.
It’s when it comes to a proper dinner however, that the chef has a chance to produce a lot more flourishes. For starters you have to try the Old Swan Home Smoked Salmon with salsa. If you’re in the market for something richer with more of a punch, the Wychwood Forest Duck Terrine with citrus salad is a varied dish that manages to be fulsome in flavour but light enough to leave you with room to tackle a main.
If you’re lucky enough to get a main dish in time (service, like everything in the Cotswolds, is ‘leisurely’) the coma inducing menu contains dishes like local sausages and mash, 28 day hung 8oz Oxfordshire steak, fish and chips and steak and ale pie, among other things. Comfort food is a prerequisite here, and the dishes wouldn’t look out of place at your finest local gastropub.
Desserts continue along the hearty route, with robust classics including baked Alaska and treacle tart and poached pears.
Old Swan Restaurant Rating
Cuisine type: British
Dinner for two: Around £45 per person
Hotel rooms price: Starting from £175 for the Old Swan, or £165 for Minster Mill, including breakfast
Old Swan & Minster Mill
Old Minster, Minster Lovell
Oxfordshire, OX29 0RN
Tel: 01993 774441