Why should I go now?
Bluebells, blossom, and undulating greenness rolling into the distance. So long as the weather plays ball, there are very few better places to be then the English countryside in May, and specifically the Cotswolds. Add to that the opening up of Britain post lockdown and you have the makings of a perfect spring break.
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Minster Mill is a relatively new Cotswold hotel, created by the chi-chi Andrew Brownsword hotel group. Pitched more at the contemporary chic market rather than traditional luxury, it has an interesting story to tell, as a converted mill and outbuildings alongside a stream with extensive grounds.
Minster Mill is literally on the edge of the Cotswolds. Just 20 minutes from Oxford, you turn off the main road, down a narrow lane, through a hamlet of sandy Cotswold stone, and through a gate and short drive that leads charmingly alongside a stream. The property comprises several buildings clustered around the stream, together with croquet lawn, spa, a tennis court, outbuildings with a table tennis table, and pathways leading off into fields adjacent.
The welcome is informal and friendly, part English country house, part Soho House. Decor is crisp and contemporary country, but not so fashionable that it would make you feel like an interloper.
Certain types of hotel tend to offer similar experiences, in English country house hotels you expect drawing rooms, and dining room is looking out over a lawn. That’s the case for the most traditional, like Minster Mill’s stablemate Buckland Manor, and the most contemporary, like Babington House.
The most memorable parts of Minster Mill are completely different. Breakfast by the stream, looking across ancient woodland and fields. Croquet, a little further up of the same stream. Wandering off past the tennis courts into semi wild countryside, and into a natural maze in a field, looping back to the same stream where the swing slung over a high branch could act if you wished as a launch point into a bigger river. Dinners of grilled trout and extremely pert green vegetables, outside by the stream. The stone walled dining room inside would be a pleasant enough alternative if the weather turned bad, as it always can in England.
These all add up to an experience that is unique (in the best possible way) in the Cotswolds. The rooms are comfortable, relatively simple, light: blonde woods, beige and taupe fabrics and throws, light green and light grey paint. Service is low-key and good – this is not the place to go if you expect to be fussed over, and it’s a four rather than a five star, but everything is efficient and friendly.
Minster Mill is not far from the apotheosis of contemporary country house hotels, Soho Farmhouse. Although they are at a similar price and appeal to a similar market, they are very different: you are more likely to lose yourself at Minster Mill, and you’re more likely to bump into a celebrity designer at Soho Farmhouse. Which you prefer is perhaps a matter of taste and mood, but we left Minster Mill feeling like we had had an authentic and truly relaxing getaway.
Rates: From £210 (approx. €250 / $300)
Book your stay: minstermill.co.uk