Here at Elysium Magazine we’re always big fans of the long luxury weekend getaway. The usual weekends are good but quickly fly by. To make the most of the experience a long weekend is much preferred and the discerning gent doesn’t always have to trek to foreign shores either. The UK is home to some amazing countryside locations, one we’re a big fan of is the Cotswolds – an expansive region spread across Oxfordshire and Gloucestershire.
In our search for luxury weekend away options, Elysium Magazine headed to the Oxfordshire Cotswolds. The destination was the Old Swan & Minster Mill hotel, nestled into a quaint spot in the region’s picturesque countryside with the promise of fresh air and rural charm. This luxury hotel, established circa. 1445 is steeped in close to 600 years of history and tradition. The discerning gent was here to experience its centuries of hospitality.
Set amongst the greenery of the Oxfordshire countryside, the Old Swan & Minster Mill hotel resides in the historic Old Minster Village, on the banks of the river Windrush. The venue actually consists of two residencies – the first, The Old Swan, is the older and is filled with charm that only years of weathering can provide, whilst Minster Mill is the less aged cousin.
The Old Swan, as mentioned earlier, is where the 600 years of history mainly fall. Made up of a laid-back gastro-pub, a large dining room, log-fired bar, exposed beams, bags of rustic character and 16 large rooms – a stay here is like stepping back in time and enjoying the fat of the land just like they did hundreds of years ago. Next door you have Minster Mill, with 44 rooms, which is a more modern affair in terms of decor, ambiance and charm. For the best of both worlds, take a step back in time or bring it back up to speed for 2015 by flirting between the two areas of the grounds.
Fans of long country walks will be in their element here. Set in 65 acres of lush wild flower-filled meadows, the borders spill into the Oxfordshire countryside and woodlands. Only 90 minutes from either central London or Birmingham it poses as the ideal spot for urban city slickers to escape to.
Due to the Old Swan & Minster Mill’s locality there are a number of activities to get involved in outside of the long walks exploring the local ruins at 15th century Minster Lovell Hall. The river Windrush provides ample opportunity for fishing or you can get on your bikes and ride around the expansive countryside – pick whichever pursuit sides with your intentions that day. For those that simply want to relax with minimal exertion, the onsite Windrush Spa will provide plenty of pampering options.
For the best of the old world experience a stay in the Old Swan is highly recommended. Here you’ll be sleeping within 600 years of history, under 16 beamed ceilings in guestrooms that are directly above the gastro-pub and restaurant. Despite the history in the walls, the furnishings are comfortable and spacious. The bed is big and aids a restful night’s sleep, although if you were to get involved in some of the long walks, sleep shouldn’t be a problem at the end of the long days’ walk.
Luxury fabrics and fine linens are the standard here, whist the modern en-suite bathrooms mean you don’t have to go back to the dark ages to wash up. The rooms at Minster Mill are much more modern in terms of appearance and decor so it’s really a matter of personal choice where you prefer to stay. For the discerning gent to get the most from the experience here, it has to be the Old Swan every time.
Due to the log fires downstairs in the lounge and reception areas of the Old Swan the whole place is filled with the scent of burning wood. It’s not really a problem for most, it’s almost a comforting smell which adds to the experience when staying out in the country. However for those that this could be a problem for, especially if you have clothing that is difficult to clean, your best bet is to opt for a stay in one of the rooms in Minster Mill instead.
The dining options at the Old Swan & Minster Mill are taken care of by the gastro-pub restaurant located in the Old Swan. Emphasis is given to locally sourced produce from Oxfordshire so the quality of the meat is top notch. Menus vary and there are plenty of options to suit discerning tastes. There are also weekly treats like Seasonal Fish Friday where chef David Mwiti cooks up the best seafood on offer – crab, lobster, prime fish – whole or filleted.
Catching our attention from the menu were starters like the Devonshire crab and river Windrush Crayfish cocktail (£9) or platter of locally cured meats (£8.50) – both dishes had a focus on flavour whilst presentation was similar city-based dining establishments. Service can be slow at times considering the size of the restaurant but nothing to get too worried about.
The options for the main course excelled further, with roast Oxfordshire farm sirloin (£16.95) and traditional cod fish and chips (£15.95) really hitting the culinary spot. The wine list is pretty extensive and will cover a wide range of palates. The desert menu features the usual suspects from summer berry cheesecake to warm chocolate pudding (both £7.20) and are a perfect way to end an evening’s dining before plonking yourself down besides a roaring log fire to digest the meal and reflect on the day’s sights and activities.
Breakfast the next morning is served at the same restaurant and provides the usual mix of continental and cooked breakfast options. The continental side, setup across the bar area has to be applauded for the quality of its cold meats, no doubt locally produced, and the wild honey nurtured from within the grounds’ own meadows – delightfully tasty!
The Old Swan & Minster Mill hotel is the perfect getaway beyond the refines of the urban city. Its location provides the necessary headspace to feel calm and tranquil within yourself and as a couple too. The history of the buildings and grounds will also provide additional stimulus alongside the high quality of the food. As with many things in life, there is room for improvement but they are only small glitches that can go unnoticed if you consider all the other things this place has going for it.
Old Swan & Minster Mill
Oxfordshire OX29 0RN
Tel: 01993 774 441
Old Swan rooms start from £179 up to £395, Minster Mill rooms £169. All prices inclusive of breakfast.