This 600-year-old inn, tucked away in a small Cotswolds village on the River Windrush, offers a truly astonishing range of guest spaces, rooms and facilities within its centuries-old walls.
At first glance the Old Swan and Minster Mill, the newest outpost of the de Savary family’s group of boutique hotels, appears to be a traditional old inn, with charm in abundance but perhaps not such a generosity of space.
The first sign that this hotel, which comprises two buildings – The Old Swan on one side of the road and The Minster Mill on the other – is more than it seems comes during the short walk from the car park behind The Old Swan into the bar reception area.
Tucked away behind a hedgerow is a large, lush garden, accommodating rows of vegetables, herbs, flowers and shrubs, as well as chickens rescued from battery farms, a pair of ducks and an adopted cat, each with their own home on the grounds. Under an arch The Good Life is exchanged for The High Life, with a second garden full of stunning topiary, an over-sized lawn chess set and tables and chairs for al fresco dining.
Inside, The Old Swan, which dates back almost 600 years, is cosy and welcoming, with a bar at the centre of the ground floor, giving way to the restaurant on one side and a guest dining area and function room on the other. Friendly staff showed us up the winding staircase to our room, where a glass of sherry and bowl of fresh fruit awaited us. The rooms are beautifully furnished and impeccably clean, with all of the facilities you would expect from a hotel of this caliber – including free wifi for those so inclined.
Despite being a larger and more modern building, The Minster Mill is as lovely as any in the area. Sitting on the bank of the Windrush, with dainty tables and chairs in front and sculpted hedges framing the ivy-draped walls, it belies the capacity within.
A tour of the site took us through an old-fashioned reception room, mezzanine games room and along contemporary hallways lined with 45 well-appointed bedrooms, all with king-size beds and a few with private access out to a riverbank nook with seating and a fire pot.
Grounds play a huge part in the appeal of this building as well. Atop a grassy hill in the distance sit two rooms within their own greenhouse conservatory, while at the bottom the millrace cuts between a rose garden and tennis court and within the lovely lawns you will find the purring Archimedean screw turbine, which subtly provides power for the entire site.
If you’d like to explore the Cotswolds beyond these elegant grounds then you can choose from several walks that have been painstakingly described in the hotel-produced guide to the area. We opted for the walk to Crawley: through fields, woodland and over waterways we took the guide’s advice to stop for a fabulous lunch in the Lamb Inn in Crawley before completing the circuit through the awesome ruins of Minster Lovell Hall, back to our base, ready to relax before our evening meal.
The menu at The Old Swan describes itself as ‘gastropub’ but there is a finesse to the dishes that lifts it above usual pub fare. Accompanied by a generous wine list, which includes a few de Savary family cellar wines, the menu changes often to encompass daily specials and seasonal dishes. Service at dinner is relaxed, warm and friendly and for any guests with canine companions, there is even a dinner menu for dogs and a place for them at (under) the table. Breakfast offers the same relaxed dining experience with hot food, pastries and fruit all available for guests to help themselves.
As the main feature of a small village, The Old Swan and Minster Mill delivers a destination beyond the ordinary. It invites guests to make themselves at home, eat, walk, play, fish or cycle and get lost in this very special countryside retreat.
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