This charming 600-year old hotel hits the mark with its unique features and quirky finishing touches.
The latest addition to the De Savary family’s collection of boutique inns is a hotel not only unique for its 600-year old heritage but also for its unusual set up. Placed in the heart of the picturesque Old Minster village, just outside of David Cameron’s constituency town of Witney, the Old Swan and the adjacent Minster Mill were bought last year by the De Savary family and have already undergone extensive renovation, with more to follow in 2012.
The hotel is uniquely located on two sites next door to each other. The 18th century mill consists of a sympathetic restoration of original Cotswold buildings built around the River Windrush, whilst the Old Swan boasts a history going back 600 years as a village coaching inn.
The two separate buildings provide very different accommodation. By far superior are the rooms within the Old Swan. Large and decorated in a traditional splendour, each room pays tribute to the building’s heritage. Climbing up a rickety wooden staircase and ducking under original wooden beams, while walking down a crooked hallway to your room, simply adds to the charm that the history of this building provides. A delicious plate of fruit greets you on arrival, as does the hotel’s moreish homemade sloe-gin, worth an aperitif before dinner or a nightcap before bed.
The rooms in the Minster Mill, being part of a more recent construction, lack the same olde-worlde charm, but here the finishing touches make all the difference. With the river Windrush flowing through the 65 acres on which the hotel sits, and right past the Minster Mill bedrooms, these rooms are ideally situated for those with an interest in fishing, which is exceptionally good in this river, or simply a beautiful view. Each of the more modern rooms looks out on to the river and benefits from a terrace, ideal for sitting out on at this time of year. Each terrace has its own fire pit for cooking your catch of the day on, or simply warming up on a cooler evening and toasting the plate of fluffy pink and white marshmallows that welcome your arrival.
And it’s these quirky finishing touches that really add to the experience. On a cooler evening a cute Hello Kitty water bottle sits on the bed warming the sheets, while on the pillow pieces of rock replace the more traditional chocolate. And the beautifully wrapped homemade biscuits are almost too pretty to open.
While check in is in the Minster Mill part of the property, the dining is set within the Old Swan, with its gorgeous beamed ceilings, stone floor and open fire places. The menu is fresh, local and hearty and the adjoining bar is a great place to while away the hours after dinner, sipping the best of their extensive wine list.
The outdoor parts of the hotel should also not be neglected, especially in summer when the newly planted areas really come in to their own, with vibrant colours and delicious scents. The hotel’s romantic backdrop of gardens, orchards and the surrounds of what remains of the ancient Royal Hunting Forest of Wychwood, make The Old Swan & Minster Mill quintessentially English.
If you have the weather for it, dine outside or order one of the hotels exquisite picnic hampers to enjoy on a quieter part of the river. Croquet and outdoor chess add to the quintessential British feel of the outdoor areas, and with a mini adventure playground, Guinea pigs, rescued battery hens and a small kitchen garden, there is plenty to keep the children entertained.
Probably more unexpected of such an old property is the addition of the spa treatment rooms, which offer a wide variety of holistic treatments and are a welcome addition for those looking for a little extra pampering. And in 2012 this will be extended, with planning having just been granted to build an indoor and outdoor pool as well as create more of a destination spa within the property.
For more information and to book, visit their website .