Reviewed by Lucy Ibbotson
This beautiful hotel and restaurant is set in the heart of Cotswolds and at this time of year (Christmas) the setting is even more stunning. This is another feather in the cap of the De Savary family, which has all the charm and luxury of a family run hotel that wants you to feel right at home. The decoration and furnishings were all chosen by Lana De Savary herself and highlights the love and passion she has for the hotel. Although built in the 1930’s from reclaimed brick and occupying the same footprint as the original building, the place has a much older feel about it. In contrast to the old, the newly installed Archimedes Screw currently provides all the electricity for half of the property, using the River Windrush as its source of power. The village of Old Minster is a typical village for this area and it is a pretty little place, off the beaten track and away from the A roads. A real gem of a find.
The Minster Mill is set on one side of the road, with the Old Swan on the other side. It’s amazing to think that they have over 65 acres of private gardens and wild flower meadows around the area which includes a number of short and long walks for all ages and abilities, and paths designed for the dogs to enjoy. At this time of year the cottages in the village are all decorated for Christmas as are the 2 parts of the pub/hotel so we thoroughly enjoyed our little walk around the village with the dogs.
The staff on reception were very polite, courteous and showed us to the car park and the ‘scenic’ route to our room (through the car park, passed the duck pond, through the pub back door, passed the bar, through the restaurant, up the stairs, passed all the lovely named rooms, down some more stairs and into our ground floor room). We stayed in a Swan Garden Special room, which overlooked the duck pond and had our own external exit for the dogs. Our room was very tastefully presented, we had a beautiful 4 poster bed with amazing plump pillows and enough room to swing a cat. There were a couple of dogs beds were the corner for Morley & Minnie, dog bowls and food by the door, It was all very well thought out and cosy. The dogs felt at home almost immediately.
After checking in, we made our way to the main bar for a spot of lunch – the portions are very generous and the food is cooked fresh daily. We then had a walk up to the local church and the ruins of Lovell Hall (Minster ruins) which were stunning and in the summer is where visitors can have a dip in the river for a swim or take a picnic. Back in the Swan we settled in to the snug by the fireplace with a few drinks and some home-made warm mince pies. You couldn’t get any better than that.
Dinner was at 7.30pm in the main bar and we decided on the full Christmas menu, well why not! Just as we finished our starters of Salmon for Simon and Pate for me, the dogs dinners’ arrived… wow, they were the luckiest dogs with a specially prepared meal of Chicken Risotto, it smelt amazing and on any other Thursday evening, we would have eaten that ourselves… fit for human consumption is an understatement… and their dinner disappeared as quickly as it arrived. For our main meals, I had the full turkey dinner with the trimmings while Simon had the venison. Both our meals were well cooked and presented, tasted sensational and our plates were clean in no time at all. We could barely fit in a pudding but felt obliged! I decided on the Christmas pudding with custard and Simon the chocolate brownie. To wash all this down, we enjoyed a bottle of Prosecco to toast the festive season. Sated and relaxed, we took our drinks into the snug by the fire and chilled out for a while before bed. All the fresh air and walking really takes its toll… the dogs were pooped as were we.
Breakfast consisted of a lovely hot buffet if you wanted a full English, cereals and pastries, plus you could order kippers or smoked salmon and scrambled eggs from the kitchen if this didn’t take your fancy. The ambience of the whole place was just so relaxed and chilled that nobody felt rushed and the staff were fantastic, polite and friendly. We felt so at home. We’d agreed to meet with Mimi our hostess after breakfast and before we left for a tour of the property so took the dogs for a quick stretch to the church and ruins again, where they ran around and let off a bit of steam. We met Mimi in the main reception and were shown around the grounds. The property is so relaxed and charming it attracts many different people and for different reasons. Their corporate facilities attracts ‘quirky’ clientele, from Yoga conferences to Media types who are able to use their various and different rooms and conference facilities. For example, the Malt House is set apart from the main building and can accommodate conferences, weddings or parties as it has a large room where tables/chairs or a disco/band can be set up and doesn’t disturb the other guests. There are also some beautiful ‘cosy’ rooms along the river with their own outside spaces, and further up the hill is ‘Hill Top’ where there is a fitted out gymnasium and further rooms with a conservatory to enjoy the winter sun. If you fancy a bit of extra pampering there is also a spa treatment room which we understand is in the planning stages of being expanded. As we walked round, we took in the full beauty of the property and grounds, the Archimedes Screw and Fisherman’s Hut, the previous night’s wedding party who were planting their own tree in the grounds and terrace overlooking the river. Also, next to the river they even keep honey bees to make their own honey!
From the dog’s point of view, they were welcomed wherever we went, there are no restrictions on where they can go although the only rooms they can stay in are those with their own external access, which is understandable. The staff absolutely adored our 2 doggies and were completely pampered by them. The food they were treated to at dinner was very well thought out and we understand the choice of food for the doggie menu was subject to somewhat of a debate – a choice between scrambled egg and chicken risotto – we think the chef made the right choice, and so did Morley & Minnie. The walks in the area were commissioned to be dog friendly, there are three walks between 2 hours and 8 hours, unfortunately we weren’t able to do these but we will next time and we have already planned our return in the new year.
If I could award 6 out of 5 I would.
The Old Swan and Minster Mill is a member of Great Hotels of the World Premium Collection. For more information or to book, please visit www.ghotw.com/old-swan-minster-mill or call 020 7380 3658.
The Old Swan and Minster Mill. Old Minster, Minster Lovell, Witney, Oxfordshire OX29 0RN