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On the fringes of the Cotswolds lies the hidden gem of Minster Lovell Hall ruins.
Tucked away in the Oxfordshire countryside, this once-thriving noble residence now lies in disrepair.
Although it’s upsetting to see this grand house in decay, a walk around these gothic ruins is incredibly romantic as it’s perched beside the River Windrush.
Here’s a complete guide on how to visit Minster Lovell Hall ruins & Dovecote with all the things to do here!
The history of Minster Lovell Hall & Dovecote
Minster Lovell was recorded in the Domesday Books in 1086 as Minstre. At that time there were 29 households and two mills.
There have also been multiple artifacts found around here that confirm it was a Saxon settlement.
A manor home was later built on the grounds in the 12th century by William the ‘Little Wolf’. He was granted the land by King Henry I.
The name was later adapted to Lovell and the 7th Baron William Lovell built this stately home in the 15th-century between 1431-1440.
He was one of the richest men in England at the time and built this to show off his incredible wealth.
He completely tore down his ancestor’s old house and built a new one. This was because the fashion at the time was to have a grand home surrounding a courtyard.
William had a son, called John, who was a Lancastrian and appointed the master forester of Wychwood by Henry VI.
During the War of the Roses John’s son, Francis Lovell became Yorkist in support of Richard III.
The hall still remained the main residence of the Lovell family and Richard III even visited as a guest of Francis Lovell.
However, after the Battle of Bosworth, Francis Lovell’s estates were forfeited to the crown. The land was then gifted to Jasper Tudor, uncle of Henry VII.
Francis would be the last of the Lovell line to live here.
What happened to Minster Lovell Hall?
After the Battle of Bosworth Field, the lands were the property of the crown and switched hands many times. Eventually, it was purchased by a lawyer called Sir Edward Coke in 1602.
He then passed the home to his descendant Thomas Coke, the Earl of Leicester. He lived here between 1721 and 1728. He then gained the title of Lord Lovell of Minster Lovell.
Lord Coke then assumed his seat at Holkham in Norfolk in the 1730s and the majority of Minster Lovell Hall was dismantled in 1747.
Eventually, due to the site being abandoned, the rest of the manor fell into disrepair over the centuries. Many parts of the foundations have decayed and crumbled over time. What is left over is what we can explore today.
The legend of the Minster Lovell Hall ghost!
There are many legends associated with Minster Lovell Hall that still have people spooked about visiting this place.
According to records, a skeleton was found here underneath the manor by workmen in 1718.
The skeleton was sat at a table with a book, pen, and paper. There was also a small dog who was lying by his feet. When the workmen touched the skeleton, it crumbled before their eyes!
Workers were convinced that this skeleton was that of Francis Lovell who hid here after the Battle of Bosworth Field.
They believed that he had a servant here to wait on him. When the servant suddenly died, Francis starved to death.
People still believe Francis’ ghost haunts these ruins today and many visitors report a sudden feeling of melancholy that disappears moments later.
There is also another legend that says the ruins are haunted by a knight in armour who rides around on a white horse.
Others say that this is the sight of a murder! One of the Lovell brothers brought home a pretty wife and the other brother killed him out of jealousy.
The wife couldn’t bear the thought of living with the brother-in-law and so drowned herself in the pond nearby the hall. She haunts the grounds and visitors have reported hearing a lady crying.
The Ballad of the Mistletoe Bough
Another tale is related to The Ballad of the Mistletoe Bough. A poem that has been connected to many stately homes in England.
The verses speak of William Lovell who brought his bride home after their wedding. On the day of the feast, they were playing a game of hide and seek. His bride offered to hide but then went missing!
William and his servants searched the hall and grounds for weeks. Eventually, William died of a broken heart.
There have been reports that visitors can still hear his screams of anguish on the grounds. Incredibly spooky!
Unfortunately, I didn’t see any ghosts or even a hint of paranormal activity on my visit. Maybe you will on yours…
Who owns Minster Lovell Hall today?
Today, Minster Lovell Hall & Dovecote is protected by English Heritage. It’s protected as a Grade I listed building because it is of significant interest.
Although it is a ruin, many of the chambers are still standing and it’s a fantastic example of a courtyard residence from the 15th-century.
Its beautiful location on Minster Riding draws many tourists here each year!
How to visit the Minster Lovell Hall ruins in Oxfordshire
You will find the Minster Lovell Hall ruins in Witney which is in Oxfordshire in the South West of England. It’s just a few miles from the beautiful town of Burford, the gateway to the Cotswolds.
As it’s in quite a remote countryside location, the easiest way to visit would be to drive over to Minster Lovell Village.
Minster Lovell actually has three parts to it. Those are Old Minster, Little Minster, and New Minster. You’ll need to navigate your way over to Old Minster which is in the lower end.
As you drive over the bridge and into Old Minster turn right when you see the Minster Lovell pub, the Old Swan, and drive up to the top of the road.
Eventually, you’ll spot a small car park before the road forks into two small single-track lanes.
The Minster Lovell Hall postcode is OX29 0RR
Where to park to access the ruins
There is no dedicated English Heritage car park for the ruins. The road towards the site is also a single-track road and there is no turning available by the church.
So, don’t drive your car down there otherwise it will be a fifty-point turn to get it out!
There is a small car park at the top of the village that is free of charge. You’ll see it by the sign pointing towards the church.
To get to the ruins from the car park, you’ll be walking down a narrow country lane for around a quarter of a mile which leads to St Kenelm’s Church. The walk only takes around 5-10 minutes at a leisurely pace.
If you follow the pathway through St Kenelm’s churchyard, you’ll find Minster Lovell Hall ruins just behind it.
Opening times and prices
Although the site is owned by English Heritage, Minster Lovell Hall ruins are FREE to visit.
They are also open 24 hours a day so you can visit at any time. I wouldn’t recommend visiting at night though as it will be pitch.
Plus, I think it would be so creepy. Remember, this place is meant to be haunted by ghosts!
Things to do at Minster Lovell Hall
So, what is there to do when you arrive? It’s a relatively small place, but there is actually quite a lot to see and do.
Here are some of the best parts;
Explore the Minster Lovell Hall ruins
Once you walk through St Kenelm’s churchyard, you’ll be pleasantly surprised at the size of this incredible hall!
Despite it mostly being a ruin, a big portion of the structure is still intact like the Great Hall. You can access this via the patterned cobble-stoned pathway which leads you to the old porch.
You’ll walk through an arched passageway, make sure to look up at the rose carvings on the vaulted ceiling which are perfectly intact.
Once you step inside the Great Hall, you can see the outline of the fireplace which would have brought warmth to the cold halls. This room in particular allows you to imagine just how grand this stately home would have been.
The residence was vast and included private bedroom chambers, a chapel, pantry, buttery, kitchens, and water tanks.
As well as the family who lived here, the property would have been thriving with workers who tended to the family, cooked meals, and mucked out the horses.
William Lovell built this residence in the courtyard fashion and the ruins show that the rooms were built on three sides of a square.
The four-storey tower hall you can see nearest to the River Windrush was built by his son Francis Lovell.
Most of this property is now just an outline of its foundation walls but you can still get a feel for how it would have looked all those years ago.
You can explore William Lovell Hall by walking through the arched doorways and discovering ancient rooms. What I liked the most was the fact you could see glimpses of the old winding staircases through the walls!
The medieval Dovecote
Just beyond the ruins, located on a small farm is the medieval dovecote that was also built in the 15th-century.
It was large enough to house 700 pairs of nesting birds that were bred to be eaten by the estate.
There are records of ‘ripe pigeons’ being taken out of the dovecote. Nearby lay the ruins of the kitchens where food was prepared daily.
Today, it lies on a private farm so you cannot get close or go inside. But, you do get a good view from the ruins.
You may spot some friendly donkeys who live here and greet passers-by. Their names are Sid and Jake!
Stroll beside the River Windrush & fish pond
One of the best parts about a visit here is the fact that the ruins are located by the charming River Windrush.
You’ll find weeping willows that sigh into the stream and you can enjoy a quick stroll along the river banks.
The path doesn’t lead anywhere in particular and you’ll eventually reach a dead end. But, it’s quite scenic and many people enjoy a dip on a sunny day!
At the end of the path, there is a small loop you can take around the fish pond. In winter, this makes a perfect reflection of the ruins.
Back when William Lovell lived here, this pond and the river would have provided the household with fresh fish.
When the Coke family lived here, there are records of Edward Coke’s wife ordering lamprey pies to be prepared and sent off to London.
These eel-like fish pies were a delicacy only eaten by nobility and it was a medieval tradition for families to present a lamprey pie to the reigning monarch at Christmas!
Admire St Kenelm’s Church
This church takes the name of Kenelm, the 8th-century boy-king of Mercia who was murdered on the orders of his sister.
After his death, he was buried at Winchcombe Abbey where many miracles were reported around his tomb.
Soon after, churches and temples were built to worship Kenelm in the area including this one which was founded in the 12th century.
The church we see today was built in the 1450s around the same time as the fashion-forward Lovell residence. William Lovell completely rebuilt the church in the Gothic style to complement his new home.
It’s well worth popping inside if it’s open and you have the time. Highlights include the vaulted tower ceilings and the carved effigy tomb of William Lovell.
Explore Old Minster Lovell village
Once you’ve explored the ruins and the church, I would highly recommend paying a visit to the attractive village surrounding it.
The road leading down towards Old Minster Lovell from the car park is incredibly pretty and is filled with adorable old houses and thatched cottages.
It’s quintessentially Cotswolds. But, it has the benefit of fewer crowds as it’s in such a remote location!
It’s like walking through a postcard, so have your camera at the ready.
Dine at the Minster Lovell pub, The Old Swan
One of the prettiest buildings in Minster Lovell village has to be the timber-framed tavern at its centre.
It’s called The Old Swan and it’s the perfect setting for a bite to eat or a well-deserved drink after your walk around the ruins.
Like the hall, this former coaching inn was also built in the 15th-century which makes it over 600 years old!
They have cosy indoor seating to enjoy a pie by the fireside. Or, you can sit on their delightful terrace for a drink or dinner outdoors.
Look out for the friendly black and white pub cat called Parker. You’ll spot his ‘pad’ when you enter from the car park!
Head out on a Minster Lovell Walk
If the weather is nice, there is nothing better than heading out on a countryside walk!
There are many walking routes that you can enjoy from here including the Crawley Circular, the Swinford Trail, and a longer scenic hike over to Burford.
Remember to wear a good pair of ankle supporting shoes as the areas can become boggy if it has been raining.
Where to stay in Minster Lovell
If you fancy staying the night in Minster Lovell, one of the finest hotels is the Minster Mill Hotel & Spa which is a partner of The Old Swan over the road!
It’s just had a recent refurbishment and is set within 65 acres of wildflower meadows and woodlands to enjoy. There are also fishing banks.
The spa treatments and facilities are available at an extra charge. There is a heated plunge pool, rock sauna steam room, ice fountain, and tropical rainforest showers!
This little countryside retreat sounds utterly divine. Click here to book your room for the night.
Looking for more things to do in Oxfordshire & the Cotswolds?
If you’re heading to Oxfordshire, you’re on the fringes of the Cotswolds and there are so many lovely places to explore!
Make sure to read some of my detailed travel guides for inspiration: