country hotel
country hotel

Minster Mill sits on the edge of the River Windrush in the Cotswolds

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.

First Impressions

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.

restaurant dining room

The restaurant at Minster Mill

The Experience

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.

Read more: An exclusive private tasting of Ornellaia with Axel Heinz

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.

luxurious drawing room

The drawing room of a junior suite


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:

Darius Sanai

Reading time: 3 min
Luxury hotel bedroom with huge double bed, gold wall and plush linens
The Tjuvholmen (thieves' island) in Oslo, Norway

The Thief boutique hotel sits on the edge of a peninsula known as Tjuvholmen

Why should I go now?

One of the fastest growing capitals in the world, Oslo is in the midst of some serious reinvention, which admittedly means you’ll encounter a few clusters of cranes but the excitement is palpable. You can now walk the entire length of the pretty harbour which is lined with cafes and shops, and it’s well worth popping into the Nobel Peace Center while you’re at it.

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The Thief is very much part of the grand redesign; perched on the edge of the small peninsula known as Tjuvholmen (translated as thieves’ island) alongside slick luxury apartments, restaurants and galleries. The hotel’s views over the Oslo fjord are staggering especially at this time of year when the sun’s shining.

Artworks hanging in five star hotel foyer

The Thief is an art-lover’s dream

What’s the lowdown?

smart restaurant with large table laid for dining and industrial style lighting

The Thief Foodbar restaurant

The hotel is made for aesthetes; there are Warhols in the restaurant, works by Sir Peter Blake in the suites and Julian Opie artworks in the lift. The art is supplied in partnership with the Astrup Fearnley Museum (room keys to the hotel also grant you unlimited access to the museum) next door and forms an eclectic in-house collection that contributes to the cool ambiance.

Read more: Geoffrey Kent reveals how luxury hotels are still getting it wrong

The action goes down at the Thief Foodbar, a chic and stylish restaurant; personified it’s a sexy deep, dark and interesting character. Breakfast is also served daily for guests here, and in the warmer months the roof terrace opens for alfresco dining with panoramic views of the harbour and live music as part of the hotel’s Unplugged series. The grilled squid with eggplant, cherry tomato and browned butter comes highly recommended.

luxury concrete spa with indoor pool and underwater lighting

The Thief Spa’s cove-like indoor pool

The Thief Spa features an indoor pool with an eye-level window so that you can gaze out onto the crisp blue sea that gently laps against the glass as speedboats hurtle past. The Turkish hammam is dreamy with its twinkling LED lights in the ceiling and the Sensory Sky showers, by German brand Dornbracht, offer waterfall or rainfall downpours depending on your preferred level of drenching.

Read more: Introducing Richemont’s new, sustainable watch brand Baume

Getting Horizontal

We were in a Deluxe Suite on the seventh floor decorated in sultry shades of blue, grey and cream with an enormous, and exceptionally comfortable double bed piled high with pillows. All of the rooms have huge floor-to-ceiling windows and private balconies, but the higher up you are, the better views.

Luxury hotel bedroom with huge double bed, gold wall and plush linens

The extravagant suites are furnished with unique artworks


The hotel’s moody atmosphere makes it perfect for a romantic getaway, but if you’re there on business, it might be harder to, well, actually get any work done.

Rates: From 3000 NOK (approx. €400/ £350 / $500)

Kitty Harris



Reading time: 2 min