The Old Swan & Minster Mill is situated in Minster Lovell, Cotswolds, about an hour and a half's drive from London and half an hour from Oxford. Perfect if you want to escape the big smoke without an epic road trip.
Set over two buildings - The Swan and the Minster Mill - the property couldn't be more quintissentially English. Although you'll get all the mod cons (power shower/TV/DVD), the 16th century built Swan retains all of its vintage charm, with low ceilings, log fires and beams. The Minster Mill wing is slightly more modern, and at the same time more down-to-earth in both decor and cost, but is still in no way cutting edge.
The social media status brag:
Reclining in the snug with a glass of red wine and Scrabble for company #nosignal
The Instagram shot:
The countryside setting is idyllic - nestling on the River Windrush, the property has acres of land to explore, frolic and feel free. There's a pretty church to venture to in the local village, as well as impressive ruins just a ten-minute stroll away, which make you feel as if you've ticked the cultural box despite just being only a stumble to get there.
The picturesque village of Burbage is just a short drive away, where you'll find old-fashioned tea rooms - go to Huffkins for tea and one of their signature Lardy Cakes - cobbled streets and Cotswolds-stone walls.
Back at the hotel, the Old Swan building is everything you'd want from an Old English pub and lodgings - cosy, with the smell of log fires throughout and lots of hidden rooms and plenty of board games to snuggle up in and hide away from the world.
The lack of phone signal is a breath of fresh air in our permanently switched on world - but there is free Wifi for anyone wanting to check in with cyberspace.
The rooms in the Old Swan, which can be found by going up a maze of step stairs, may not be huge compared with other more modern properties but what they lack in size are made up for by their character - preserved from their 600-year-old heritage. The wardrobe is hidden behind an original wooden door with steel latch and the bed evokes feelings of grandeur and royalty.
The lack of pool and the fact the spa is basically just a few treatment rooms prevents it from being a 'weekend retreat' in the truest sense. Although my massage with organic Yon-Ka products was pleasant and my masseuse couldn't have been friendlier I might have enjoyed it more if I was able to plunge into a jacuzzi afterwards. Fear not, though, as they are promising both an indoor and outdoor pool in the not too distant future, and they definitely have the space for it so I expect it won't scrimp on luxury.
Although we were teased by an eclectic and well accompanied (roasted vegetables and tasty olives) cheese platter on arrival, and then an artistically presented serving of scones, cream and jam (on a charcoal slate) for tea, we were slightly disappointed by dinner in the restaurant. There were no major complaints but the food lacked imagination - it was billed as classic food with a twist but we found nothing out of the ordinary about our rack of lamb and steak and ale pie. The roasted vegetables were a little too done and it was all rather heaped on top of each other on the plate. Dessert was the biggest let-down, though. For a chocoholic to see both a tart AND a fondant on the menu was a dream but the former lacked richness and texture and the latter smacked of being made in a mould and was too firm. However what they lacked in finesse was certainly made up for in service. The waiting staff were a delight and in particular the head of staff Rob, who was attentive and informative.
In A Nutshell:
The owners, the de Savary family want the hotel to act like an extension of their home. And it certainly felt as cosy and friendly as staying at a friend's country pile. We left feeling serene and pampered which is exactly what the doctor ordered.
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 http://www.ghotw.com/old-swan-minster-mill or call 020 7380 3658.