Tucked away in the quiet Cotswolds village of Minster Lovell, Stylist’s Kat Poole discovered the perfect place for a chic — and wholly rejuvenating — staycation
The sun is shining, the champagne is flowing, water flows by your feet and there’s not a sound of the city to be heard. No, you haven’t escaped to Tuscany — this is Minster Mill, the beautiful and recently refurbished Cotswolds spa hotel in Minster Lovell, a tranquil and picturesque part of Oxfordshire.
It’s a quiet little village, not as famous as its more buzzy cousins like Chipping Norton and Southrop. But it’s an absolute gem of a location for a quick, chic and relaxing UK getaway — and it won’t cost the earth to get there.
Plan your weekend right, and, like me, you’ll leave feeling calmer, healthier and way more relaxed than when you arrived.
Getting to Minster Mill from London
The most straightforward way to reach the village of Minster Lovell is by car — it only takes about two hours from London, depending on where you’re travelling from, and there’s plenty of space to park (for free) in the private car park when you arrive.
Not a driver? It’s still a speedy (and easy) journey by train — go direct to Oxford or the nearest station, Charlbury, before hopping in a taxi for about 20 minutes. First tip: don’t spend the journey on your phone, you’ll want to enjoy the view of farms, wildflowers and the River Windrush on the way to the hotel.
Think of calming, cosy decor, and one word surely springs to mind: hygge. Minster Mill has it in spades, from the neutral Scandi colour palette and midcentury furniture to the sandy-hued brickwork and old-beams-made-new in the refurbished dining room.
When it comes to where you rest your head, there are several room types to choose from, each offering something a little different. I stayed in a spacious junior suite (think huge bathtub, a sofa to sink into after a long walk and a view of the lovely gardens) but for a short-and-sweet stay, there’s the classic; the garden rooms are dog-friendly; and the feature rooms come with a private terrace area and log burner or fire pit — and complementary marshmallows, naturally.
What to do at Minster Mill
Believe me when I say: you will not be short of things to see and places to stroll. The hotel is set amongst a whopping 65 acres of stunning scenery, which includes gardens, woodland, flower meadows and even a mile of private fishing banks on the River Windrush. You could spend hours exploring (I did), but if you’re after an actual activity, there’s lots to keep you occupied.
Take a stroll through the gardens and you’ll come across croquet, a giant chess board, a hard tennis court and a very quaint pavillion complete with a table tennis room. Want more? Just ask the staff and they’ll hook you up with badminton and boules, too.
Minster Lovell and the surrounding villages make an ideal spot for a bike ride, and helpfully the hotel staff have plotted out three routes from 10 to 30 miles for guests to follow. You can hire a Pashley bike from the hotel reception, and for a small fee (£10 for four hours, £15 for eight) you’ll also get a helmet, lock and puncture repair kit to get you on your way safely.
The walks are magnificent, even when (speaking from experience), you get lost. When I finally got back on track, I followed a 1.5 hour route taking me beyond the hotel grounds and around Minster Lovell. You’ll wend through fields and along the picturesque river, and end up at the stunning Minster Lovell Hall and Dovecote. Word to the wise: take sturdier shoes than sandals (my downfall!) and layer up the SPF if the sun is even peeping around the clouds.
If, after all (or none) of the above, you’re in need of a rest, there are plenty of places to do it here. Almost every spot in the grounds makes for a great place to sit and unwind with a book and a cup of tea (or something more bubbly). But most importantly, there’s also a glorious spa.
The Garden Spa at Minster Mill
If, like me, just the words ‘garden spa’ make you feel relaxed, you’re in for a treat — it’s an oasis of calm (in an already calm location). Alongside the pool, jacuzzi and massage fountains, there’s a rock sauna, aroma steam room and two forest showers which play a soundtrack of rain and squawking birds. I can assure you, they’re just as fun as they sound.
For treatments, the ESPA spa is a peaceful place to spend an hour or two. Here, you can get everything from an aromatherapy massage and manicure to Rasul mud therapy, then stroll back to your room in your slippers and dressing gown. Bliss.
Restaurants and dining at Minster Mill
It’s not just a pretty place; there’s excellent food to be eaten too. The restaurant is a cosy, cool space, all oak beams and light, exposed brick. And the menu, created by head chef (and 2017 Masterchef semi-finalist) Tom Moody, is a celebration of regional and seasonal fare. I can heartily recommend the lime-cured salmon with jalapeño, buttermilk and chives to start, and ordering whatever fish has been freshly caught for your mains.
If you’re staying for longer than a night or two and fancy heading out for dinner one evening, The Horse and Radish is a lovely gastro pub about 20 minutes’ walk away, with a huge selection of gin (that walk is worth it). There’s also The Lamb, a which the locals rave about.
But make sure you leave room for the heavenly breakfast — there’s all your faves (croissants fresh out of the oven and warm toast), unexpected delights (little bircher pots), and a comprehensive menu including every kind of egg dish imaginable.
I left with a full tummy, an unwound mind, and a serious urge to book my next trip back.
Rates at Minster Mill start from £150 per night, two sharing, on a B&B basis. For more information or to book visit www.minstermill.co.uk
Images: provided by Minster Mill