As you drive up to the Old Swan & Minster Mill you can’t help but be delighted by its perfect Cotswolds village setting, complete with grey stone cottages fronted by grass verges and colorful flowers. The hotel, which was built circa 1445, spans numerous cottages and outbuildings. Beyond these, the small village tails off to one end, and the River Windrush gurgles past at the other. Take in the hotel’s beautiful surroundings with our video tour.
The reception is in one of two main buildings and sits beside an enormous open fire. I can’t imagine a more atmospheric check-in but watch out for the dark beams that hang dangerously low and the uneven stone floors that try to trip those of us who sport high heels. The second main building is a gorgeous old and quirky village pub. Here you can take a seat above the well which is set deep into the floor – just a glass slab stops you from toppling in. Alternatively, you can cozy up to one of the many fireplaces.
Our room was the garden suite; a beam-filled converted outhouse (I am guessing it used to be a barn for horses or cows), with medieval-looking chandeliers hanging from the exposed beams. Small windows sit at the foot of the huge and deeply comfy bed and look through hanging flowers at the courtyard beyond. The adjacent sitting area was made up of two seats and an inviting leather sofa. The remaining furnishings were an eclectic mix of antique drawers, dark wood side tables, and a large copper coffee table giving the room a snug cottagey feel, (see our video for the full room experience).
This particular suite had two bathrooms, one with an enormous double shower and a cleverly positioned and huge mirror literally the size of a door that hung on the wall. The other had a bath and both were stylishly finished with plenty of toiletries, (although no separate conditioner), and piles of soft towels and bathrobes.
Nice touches included a tasty complimentary sherry, (strong enough to “put hairs on your chest”), a coffee maker, some addictive homemade fudge, and a number of bottles of sparkling water.
The gardens were just beautiful at the Old Swan & Minster Mill and extended into all sorts of different areas. To the rear, there was a vegetable garden with an adventure playground, chickens, and a Pétanque pitch. Next to the bar/restaurant was an outdoor dining/drinking area in another garden, this time with ducks, a duck house, and a pond surrounded by pretty lawns. Cross the road and you are met by weeping willow trees drooping into the river with a seating area on the river’s edge. More gardens beyond rising up from the banks of the river including a sweetly scented rose garden and lawns then drop back down to the river with a croquet lawn. Usefully, throughout the gardens, the hotel had placed huddles of deck chairs so that you could grab a book and disappear into your own corner for the entire day.
The Old Swan & Minster Mill has done something that I wish more hotels did. They supply a small guidebook that contains idyllic Cotswolds walks that you could do right from the property. These walks were carefully explained with lots of detail and were easy to follow. We choose to wear off our breakfast with the “Short Circular Walk” which took the suggested 1 hour and 45 minutes. There is also a “Long Circular Walk” which takes a grinding 7 hours and which wasn’t my idea of holiday fun, but nonetheless – treks for all levels are catered for.
And what a walk! Meander through fields of corn, woodland copses, along with the reed-edged river, across precarious bridges and back via the ruins of Minster Hall. I don’t think you could have fitted more different types of English countryside into one walk and as I waded through the knee-length grasses, passed fields of full crickets and sheep, and surrounded by butterflies, I don’t think I could have been happier.
As I mentioned above, the pub is exactly how you imagine a Cotswolds pub. Low beamed ceilings, old fireplaces, comfy chairs, and candles were dotted everywhere flickering into the night. Outside you could drink and eat in the garden and the staff, who were friendly and smiley, brought you whatever you needed, including thick blankets which were necessary late evening.
The food was very much hearty pub grub, with lots of beef options as well as salmon, mackerel, and lamb choices. Portions were perhaps slightly on the small side, so remember to order a side of vegetables with your main or you might be left hungry. Ingredients were fresh and tasty although the soup was awfully bland. On the plus, the setting couldn’t have been more romantic or medieval in the back of the pub with another heavily beamed ceiling and a large fireplace to one end.
Breakfast was an absolute delight with fresh bread, tasty egg choices. All you would expect from an excellent full English. The mushrooms were huge and fresh, the sausages tasted like they were locally sourced and just out of the butchers and the fruit was so moorish that I managed to scoff most of the bowl of fresh and flavorsome strawberries, loganberries, and raspberries while I was waiting for my chunky toast to pop out of the toaster.
I would absolutely return to the Old Swan & Minster Mill. I have yet to do a nicer walk in the Cotswolds, strolling through fields under the sunshine. I would also come back for the Garden Suite, so cleverly converted and offering such a peaceful night’s sleep. The bar was just what I wanted from a Cotswolds bar and I noticed that many Londoners, who had come down for the weekend, were already quaffing champers in the sunshine late afternoon. Why not enjoy the quintessential English garden, paddle or fish in the stream, laze on loungers or drink yourself merry in the sunshine. This is a lovely Cotswolds retreat.
Our Garden Suite started at £425 GBP. Cosy Minster Mill rooms start at £169 GBP. Both rates include breakfast.
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