Romantics, pastoral aesthetes, foodies and historians will all find a lot to love in this Cotswolds bolthole. But anglers are the most likely to fall for it hook, line and sinker. With its ivy-laced stone walls, mossy roof, low ceilings, twisty staircases and irregular shaped beams, the Old Swan & Minster Mill is the Cotswolds at its most rustic and charming. Lana de Savary, wife of international property developer and former owner of Land’s End, Peter de Savary, bought the hotel, which dates back to the 15th century, in 2010. She put into action a strategy to refurbish the 16-bedroom Old Swan at Minster Lovell and the neighbouring 40-bedroom Minster Mill, set in 65 acres of gardens, wild meadows and woodlands.
The destination also holds abundant appeal for the history buff. Its main building is a 600-year-old former village coaching inn. Minster Lovell Hall down the road – the picturesque ruins of which make a fantastic day out – was home to Richard III’s loyal servant Lord Lovell, and therefore would have been a hotspot in Britain’s very own Lancastrian versus Yorkist game of thrones. Almost half a millennium later, Sir Winston Churchill, who was born in close-by Blenheim Palace, would become a regular visitor, and Harold Wilson spent part of his honeymoon here.
But for an increasing number of people flocking towards this stunning country retreat, both leisurely visitors and those attending a business event, the draw lies in its appeal as a premier fishing destination. The mile-long stretch of the chalk-bedded, weeping willow-lined river Windrush that the grounds encompass is packed with a variety of species including monster roach, chub, bream, pike and perch, not to mention a healthy population of wild brown trout – we caught (and put back) five. Both fly-fishing and coarse fishing are keenly encouraged by management, who now provide equipment, insight for experts and lessons for beginners, as well as permits, at reception.
Whether or not the angling has you hooked, you’ll enjoy the other delights of this extraordinary jewel in Britain’s hospitality crown; this place offers the same kind of unfussy charm that makes it more of a high-end home-away-from-home than a hotel. Added to that, a state-of-the-art spa boasting indoor and outdoor pool, sauna, steam room and a wealth of treatments is being built right alongside the river and is due to open early next year. But for now, the main riverside attraction is the opportunity to settle down on its verdant banks and clash wits with the abundant life in the riffles, cuts and flows beneath.
Exit the M40 at Junction 8 and follow signs for Cheltenham A40. Around 14 miles from Oxford on the A40, turn off where the signpost reads “Carterton, Minster
Lovell”. Hire a car with Hertz at www.iod.com/carrental
Double rooms in the luxurious Old Swan building start at £175. Double rooms in the more contemporary Minster Mill start at £165.