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Old Swan & Minster Mill, Oxfordshire: Child-free travel review

One couple celebrate a special birthday at the Old Swan & Minster Mill on the River Windrush in the Cotswolds

Posted: 15 March 2016
by Kelly Beswick

The Old Swan & Minster Mill is a Cotswolds gem

Why we went

Having very recently celebrated a milestone birthday, where family members kindly clubbed together to treat my husband Phil to a weekend break somewhere ‘posh’, and he had deemed me to be a worthy enough partner to accompany him (thanks sweetie), all that was left to decide was where to go? Not being huge fans of formality, we wanted somewhere that ticked all the luxuriousness boxes but with none of the pretension. Step forward the Old Swan & Minster Mill that came very highly recommended by a work colleague, being an English country house hotel and inn renown for its charm and laid-back ambiance, located in the beautiful Cotswold village of Minster Lovell. Better still, the hotel prides itself on being super dog friendly, meaning we could take our pet pooch along too, a very bouncy young Labradoodle called Lulu!

A stunning 600-year-old coaching inn

The hotel

The Old Swan & Minster Mill is, as the name suggests, two separate properties operating as one, with the Old Swan, a 600-year-old coaching inn, housing the bar and dining rooms, as well as 15 bedrooms, while the adjoining Minster Mill has 44 bedrooms, as well as a small spa. Both properties are picture postcard perfect, with the River Windrush bubbling prettily alongside. We had opted to stay in the Mill and our dog-friendly River Room complete with private terrace and fire pit certainly didn’t disappoint on any level. Heck, there was even a bed made up and snacks left out for Lulu. Like excitable children, we soon had the fire pit lit and sat down to soak up the stunning views of the ground and gardens (of which there are 65 acres in total). Just one thing was missing… so throwing caution to the wind we rang room service and ordered a bottle of Champagne. After all, we were still celebrating Phil’s birthday, weren’t we? What a wonderful way to while away an afternoon, topped off by a cheeky visit to the Windrush Spa where the lovely Katie massaged me into a state of near oblivion!

Our River Room did not disappoint

The view of the River Windrush

Indulgent dining

All meals are taken over at the Old Swan where the atmosphere and décor are reminiscent of a members club, and where indeed everyone was so chatty and friendly (dogs are brilliant ice breakers and nearly all the guests seemed to have canine companions) that we soon felt right at home.  Whether breakfast, lunch or dinner (and we sampled all three over the course of our visit), the food at the Old Swan is superb with the emphasis being on fresh home-grown and locally produced ingredients, like eggs courtesy of the resident chickens, bread still warm from the oven and herbs and vegetables plucked that morning from the garden. Of particular note was a lunch of rare roast beef sandwiches with twice-cooked chips, which might not sound particularly challenging, but was without doubt the best we’ve ever tasted. Similarly with the lamb cutlets and stone bass mains we sampled on respective evenings.

Home grown and locally produced ingredients

Things to do

While several of our fellow guests, with whom we’d become friendly, decided to take advantage of the Old Swan & Minster Mill’s proximity to such attractions as Blenheim Palace, home of Sir Winston Churchill, and the Georgian city of Bath we preferred to stay local. So local in fact that we never ventured off the grounds, enjoying wonderful walks along the winding river with a very happy Lulu. It being February, the weather was somewhat nippy for playing croquet, tennis, boules or badminton, but the amenities are there should you so choose. Come later in the year, the hotel will have a swimming pool, sauna and steam room, too, thanks to expansion works currently taking place at the spa. To offset the chill factor of our walks, a seat beside the roaring fire in the snug nursing a steaming mug of tea became a favourite haunt. At the Old Swan & Minster Mill we quickly slipped into a lifestyle very different to our frantic family life at home, but one we could get accustomed to, nevertheless!

A walk through the beautiful gardens


A two-night stay for two at the Old Swan & Minster Mill starts from £350 (room in the Minster Mill). Visit or call 01993 774441

Read more UK child-free break recommendations here: 

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