A picture perfect Cotswold stone hotel surrounded by prim gardens full of clipped topiary on the edge of the gurgling River Windrush, the Old Swan and Minster Mill looks almost too perfect to be true.

A gem of a hotel and restaurant, it is tucked away in Old Minster – that pretty part of Minster Lovell approached down a steep, winding road, and which always feels more like a film set than a real village. And that sense of going back in time extends to the hotel itself.

It may be only a few minutes from the A40, and the workaday fringes of Witney, but leaving the car and walking along the crunchy gravel path, the sun glinting off the river and turning the limestone walls the shade of golden honey, it feels like Brigadoon; a bucolic fantasy.

It looks homely and feels intimate and cosy – as any self-resepecting country hotel should. There’s a tang of wood smoke from a burning log in the grate, and tapestries and antique books on the bare stone walls.

It is deceptively large though, with rooms extending all the way down to a state of the art spa which looks out onto some of the 65 acres of gardens, and, at this time of year, misty, frosty wild flower meadow and woodland.

Visiting with my two boys, we were installed in the separate Swan Cottage next door to the hotel’s Old Swan pub and restaurant.

“Do we get all of this?” asked the youngest, Danny, as they ran around the two-storey cottage – taking in the lounge, with books and games, fireplace with stack of logs, kitchenette and large back garden complete with fire basket.

They made quick work of selecting their rooms for the night and settling in, in a flurry of phones, iPads, comic books, chocolate and chargers.

I dumped my own things upstairs in the master bedroom I obviously claimed, pausing only for a lustful leaf through the property pages of Cotswold Life and just the one... okay two... espressos from the Nespresso maker in the room (there was another in the kitchenette along with a crisp bottle of fizz on ice). It was then time to wander back to the Garden Spa, where a couple of hours of stress-busting bliss awaited.

This started with a back and shoulder massage so sublime my previously tense shoulders turned to marshmallow.

I practically floated out of the treatment room, the effort of sipping a cold glass of fresh lemon water proving almost too much effort. Then a swim, a good old swelter in the sauna, a shower designed to simulate a tropical downpour (ice cold of course!), a decent steam and an invigorating jacuzzi before an aimless amble in the grounds – empty save for the comforting sound of cawing crows – before getting ready for the main event: dinner.

The Old Swan restaurant is a classic traditional village pub, straight out of the Ladybird Book of English Inns. There are the requisite low beams, stone walls, chunky, well-worn oak furniture and another roaring fire. Standing separate to the hotel, it adds to the feeling that the hotel is the village, and there’s a pleasant sense of 'going out for the evening' afforded by the short hop along the road.

We sat in the cosy bar for a drink and dug into the eye-poppingly extravagant, and equally tasty, amuse-bouches, before going into the dining room beyond.

While the setting is rustic, the food is elegantly presented, well executed and, importantly, offering a decent choice to those who don’t necessarily crave cheffy flights of fancy.

I started with steamed razor clams, shaved cauliflower and squid ink tapioca, (£10). The shellfish was flavoursome, juicy and afforded a little marine tang by the unusual tapioca. The whole ensemble was beautiful; a sheer delight.

The others enjoyed a flavour-packed creamed goats cheese, beetroot and walnut salad (£8) – a symphony in smoothness and crunch, and an even tastier, warming honey smoked duck, which came with Asian slaw, and a soy dressing (£9). The duck was rich, pink and tender and given an appetising kick by the Korean-style tangy accompaniments.

On a recommendation, I then went for the 8oz sirloin steak (£26) served bleu, naturally, topped with a rich shitake mushroom and brandy cream sauce and served with my favourite: triple cooked chips. The steak was as tender and juicy as you'd expect, the sauce a masterly creation - rich without being overpowering, creamy yet still light.

The others went less fancy, tucking into a very respectable fish and chips with crushed peas and, best of all, given the reaction, more of those triple cooked chips (£18), and an honest, but well received, ham hock, runny egg and the same chips (£16).

While tempted to stick with the good ale, I did justice to the steak by going for a bottle of Amaru Malbec, El Esteco (£27) – with its rich baked plummy finish and notes of oak and chocolate.

Pudding was fabulous: the strawberry Eton mess (£7.50) weighing in as the winner – a canny twist on a nostalgic treat and great fun to eat in all its almost-too-sweet crunchy messiness.

Fortunately our cottage was next door - an easy stumble, remainder of wine in hand. Then it was a simple matter of chucking a log on the fire, getting out the board games and getting thoroughly beaten in a good old game of snakes & ladders. Perfect!

STAY: Double rooms at the Old Swan and Minster Mill start from £115 per night on a bed and breakfast basis. For details and to book, call 01993 774 441 or visit oldswanminstermill.co.uk.

OFFER: The Old Swan and Minster Mill is offering a Winter Spa Break, valid until 30 April 2018 and available Sunday – Friday from £139 per person, per night. Included is a luxurious overnight stay, a 60 minute treatment (plus 20% off any additional spa treatments booked on the day), full use of the spa facilities, a three course dinner and breakfast the following morning. Subject to availability and terms and conditions apply. To book, visit oldswanminstermill.co.uk