I don’t know about you but when you need to buy presents, I’m fresh out of ideas on what to buy for those special in my life. There are only so many boxes of chocolate, jumpers and socks you can buy before it becomes very monotonous.

So what do you buy for the people in your life that have everything? The ones who tell you they don’t need anything but you still want to get them something? I’m looking at you Dad! For me, this is where Red Letter Days comes to the rescue and perfect for last minute gifts for procrastinators like myself.

Red Letter Days was the first of its kind, pioneering the concept of experience day vouchers way back in 1989. Over the years it has transformed and now, you can choose from 6000+ variations of amazing gifts. Now surely you’d be able to find a special gift for that person in your life?

I tested out one of Red Letter Days more popular experiences, Boutique Escape for Two recently and transported myself to the Lake District for the weekend before Christmas season was upon me. Years ago, I actually went to Boarding School for two years near the Lake District. I visited Kendall and Windermere a good few times but had never been back since the early 00’s. At just under 3 hours drive, I forgot just how accessible it is from Glasgow. The Lakes are a beautiful part of England and the perfect place for some relaxation and exploration. Its been rather stressful the past few months and I desperately needed a break.

Tucked away in the rural village of Minster Lovell, The Old Swan and Minster Mill is a delightful boutique hotel, not only charming but the perfect place to relax after a hard days work.

With a new job and promotion, the past six months have been hectic. My life has resolved around catching flights, packing suitcases, hotel living, dinners for one and doing laundry on the one day I was back in Glasgow before jumping on another flight back down to south. Thankfully, the amount of travelling has calmed down enough for me to enjoy Glasgow living again.

The first of my travels took me to the rural countryside and the village of Minster Lovell which was 15 minutes away from Brize Norton, where I was going to be spending a few days with work.

Old Swan and Minster Mill Hotel- River Windrush

I found The Old Swan and Minster Mill by chance and I certainly don’t regret it. All our work travel has to be booked on a centralised system and the “preferred hotel” was a little too far away for a daily commute. I chose The Old Swan & Minster Mill out of sheer laziness and ease. The location meant I could get an extra hour in bed in the mornings. Win win.

Old Swan and Minster Mill Hotel- Old Swan Bar Restaurant

Set in 65 acres of gardens, woodlands and orchards on the banks of the River Windrush, The Old Swan & Minster Mill is over 600 years old and combines a Victorian mill with stylish, modern rooms and a late medieval inn, both bursting with traditional charm and period features.

Old Swan and Minster Mill Hotel- Minster Mill

With a 5-star rating, rooms are stylishly decorated and most rooms also have the added addition of a scenic garden or river view. An on-site gym, spa and tennis court ensures there’s plenty of opportunity to explore and relax. Sadly, I was unable to visit the spa during my stay, but I loved walking around the estate during sunset with nature as my backdrop. There is something so therapeutic with walking around the countryside, inhaling fresh air and listening to the water flowing down the river. 

I stayed in the Windrush room for two nights, costing approximately £175 per night, and was impressed by how beautiful the room was. A wooden four poster bed was the focal point of the room and set the theme for the entire stay. Small touches such as bottles of water, nespresso machine, biscuits, a whisky decanter, magazines and high quality toiletries were also a welcome addition. My room had patio door access to part of the hotel grounds so if you fancied playing lawn chess a short stroll from your room or even sit and have a coffee during sunrise or sunset, you could.

Old Swan and Minster Mill Hotel- Hotel Grounds

Throughout my stay, I dined alone at their cosy bar and dining room within the Old Swan, first having the rib eye steak for main and sticky date pudding for dessert and then chicken and black pudding press for starter and lamb cutlets for main the next. I’m normally a little intimidated dining alone in new surroundings, however, staff were very welcoming and I was soon at ease after spotting a few other guests dining alone. 

Food was cooked beautifully and from chatting with staff discovered that on-site vegetable gardens supply the chef with fruit, vegetables and herbs as well as fresh eggs from chickens and honey from hives. Great for sustainability. Breakfast each day was also served within the Old Swan; buffet style. I enjoyed fresh fruit salad with yoghurt then scrambled eggs with a mountain of toast. Great to set me up for a busy day ahead. 

I throughly enjoyed my stay at The Old Swan & Minster Mill, my own little slice of the Cotswolds and cannot wait to return to try out their new garden spa and escape from the world, this time with a plus one. 

Have you ever stayed in the Cotswolds before? Ever wanted to escape to the countryside? Let me know your favourite escape destinations in the comments below.

No sooner was it New Year than I found myself in the middle of Glasgow Airport ready to fly down to Bristol on another extended work trip. This time? Staying in Bath for a week and commuting to Corsham daily. This has been my second trip to the area and I keep kicking myself that I don’t try and squeeze in some time to explore the city in all its glory.

Luckily, I was able to finish up work early one day, head to my favourite coffee shop, Colonna & Small’s to pick up more Nespresso® capsules and a much needed Flat White before heading to The Roman Baths, the one place I’ve been dying to visit.

Exploring The Roman Baths- Terrace