Best Days Out in Oxfordshire
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Driving down country lanes, thickets play host to courting pheasants, sheep graze peacefully on a thick carpet of green and birds sing in trees that bloom with the promise of spring.
Welcome to Oxfordshire, home to pretty villages, cosy pubs, ancient churches, legendary university cities and stately homes. We were here to discover the best days out in Oxfordshire.
- 1 Where is Oxfordshire
- 2 How to plan your visit for days out in Oxfordshire
- 3 Nearby Oxfordshire Attractions and Villages
- 4 Brightwell Baldwin
- 5 Cuxham
- 6 Benson
- 7 Wallingford
- 8 Dorchester (on Thames)
- 9 Henley (on Thames)
- 10 Visit Blenheim Palace
- 11 Getting from London to Oxfordshire
- 12 Summary of things to do and see in Oxfordshire
Where is Oxfordshire
Oxfordshire is an English county located in South East England. The city of Oxford sits in the heart of the county and is home to Oxford University, “The City of Dreaming Spires”.
Oxford has a rich history, stunning architecture and is within easy reach of London and a stepping stone to some of the most picturesque countryside in England.
How to plan your visit for days out in Oxfordshire
What to see in Oxford
There are so many things to see in Oxford, the regal splendour of its buildings, colourful gardens, ancient colleges, quiet laneways, lush green meadows, the Cherwell and Thames Rivers.
All reasons why Oxford should be on your list of best places to see in Oxfordshire England. Here are a few of our favourite must see Oxford attractions…
Oxford Walking Tours
Oxford University is huge, it is made up of 38 different colleges which are spread out all over Oxford. To get the best out of your time in Oxford it really pays to take a walking tour.
Oxford Walking Tours are ideal for discovering the history of is fascinating city. There are several walking tours available, including the Harry Potter tour, Inspector Morse tour and food and drink tasting tour. In the evening, you can join the chilling twilight ghost tour or try some of the best pubs in Oxfordshire by taking a pub tour.
The tours are informative, fun and it’s awe-inspiring to be following in the foot-steps of so many famous people.
Oxford Hop-on Hop-Off Bus
If you don’t feel like walking, take the Oxford Hop-on Hop-Off Bus, it’s an informative and entertaining alternative with a choice of 24 hour or 48 hour durations.
The Hop-on Hop-off bus stops at a multitude of locations across the city, including the railway station which is convenient for anyone travelling from London.
Oxford Cruises and Oxford Punting
To truly experience Oxford, you must take to the river, what better way to discover the beauty of the city than by taking an Oxford cruise. There are a range of river cruises to choose from including sightseeing, picnic and dinner cruises, all perfect for viewing the splendour of Oxford.
From Christ Church meadow to the University Regatta course and boat houses, punting and rowing eights, you will discover a city whose traditions are firmly linked to the river.
Punting and Oxford go hand in hand, imagine a lazy sunny day, the splash of the oar as you slowly make your way along the tree shaded river, enjoying the peace and watching ducks float leisurely along beside you. Punting can be enjoyed by everyone and is a popular pastime for family days out in Oxfordshire.
Christ Church College and Meadows
Founded in 1546 by King Henry the VIII, Christ Church College would have to be one of Oxfords most impressive colleges. It featured in the Harry Potter films and has connections to Lewis Carrol the author of Alice in Wonderland.
Though the grand buildings of the college take centre stage, the Christ Church War Memorial Gardens are a moving and beautiful tribute to those who fell during WWI.
Christ Church meadow walk is a peaceful walking path along the Cherwell and Thames Rivers, a lovely place for a picnic and to watch the people rowing and punting on the river.
The Ashmolean Museum would have to be one of my favourite museums in Oxfordshire. This fascinating Museum of Art and Archaeology is a place you could happily spend hours. The Ashmolean Museum has a massive collection of artefacts and decorative arts as well as visiting exhibitions.
Oxford Covered Market
Oxford Covered Market is a charming old-world market that houses a collection of shops that showcase top quality local produce, fashion, jewellery, gifts and crafts, fine food and cakes. The market should be on any list of places to see in Oxford.
The Museum of the History of Science
If you are fascinated by science this is the place for you. There are free tours that showcase the museum’s collection of early scientific instruments and memorabilia, including the astrolabe of Queen Elizabeth I, the ornate microscope of King George III and a blackboard with the equations of Albert Einstein’s Theory of Relativity.
Where to eat in Oxford
Being a fan of C.S. Lewis and J.R.R Tolkien there was only one place in Oxford to eat and that was the Eagle and Child.
We were lucky enough to have lunch in the Eagle and Child’s “Rabbit Room”, the room where these literary giants met every Tuesday between the years 1939-1962. We had a delicious lunch; the pub had a festive atmosphere and was full of C.S Lewis and J.R.R. Tolkien fans.
Where to stay in Oxford
The Macdonald Randolph Hotel or “The Randolph” was opened in 1866. This grand old lady is one of the best hotels in Oxfordshire and stands proud amid the splendour of Oxford.
Located directly across from the Ashmolean Museum and within walking distance to the Oxford Playhouse, The Randolph’s traditionally appointed rooms welcome you to heart of Oxford.
For the ultimate in traditional style and luxury we recommend The Macdonald Randolph Hotel Oxford.
Afternoon Tea in Oxford
Be transported back in time with a traditional afternoon tea in The Drawing Room at The Macdonald Randolph Hotel. Enjoy a full or celebration afternoon tea with a selection of scones with jam and clotted cream, sandwiches, cakes and pastries.
Nearby Oxfordshire Attractions and Villages
If you are looking for interesting places to visit, Oxfordshire will surprise you, picturesque villages and attractions will have you falling in love with this quiet corner of England.
The Mini Plant Tour
The Mini Plant is located on the outskirts of Oxford and a must see for whole family. We thoroughly enjoyed this tour; our tour guide was a Mini plant veteran of 52 years and he gave us an interesting insight into production past and present.
It was fascinating to see the process of production, an engineering feat of human and robotic precision which produces a vehicle every 62 seconds.
Aston Martin Museum
Tucked away in a nondescript barn in the village of Drayton St Leonard, is a treasure that is sure to put a light in any man’s eye, the Aston Martin Heritage Trust Museum.
This small museum is dedicated to preserving the history of Aston Martin and houses a car collection that includes an early Aston Martin Ulster and for the racing car enthusiast, an Aston Martin Nimrod.
The museum has a collection of model Aston Martins, trophies and racing memorabilia. Well worth a visit for any car lover.
Shopping in Oxfordshire – Bicester Village
Girls just want to have fun and a 46-minute train ride from London’s Marylebone Station will have you shopping at Bicester Village, world famous for its an extensive range of designer clothing, jewellery, decorative items and cosmetics.
With brands like Alexander McQueen, Brooks Brothers, Polo Ralph Lauren and Valentino, you will be spoilt for choice. After a busy morning of shopping, stop and revive in one of the many restaurants that line the streets in this village style setting.
Located in South Oxfordshire, Brightwell Baldwin is a pretty village surrounded by green fields, rolling hills and wooded areas that stretch out to the horizon.
Brightwell Baldwin has been featured in episodes of Midsomer Murders, a popular British television program and is only 25 kilometres from Oxford.
What to see in Brightwell Baldwin
The Church of St Bartholomew is a grade I listed 14th Century church, though sections are believed to be of 13th Century origin. Church relics include a 14th Century church warden’s chest depicting St George and 14th Century stained glass, both of which have been painstakingly restored.
We were fortunate enough to be invited to watch the winding of the clock. Walking up the spiral staircase of the turret, I felt like I was being transported back in time and wondered how many feet had made this journey during the lifetime of the church.
Where to eat in Brightwell Baldwin
I love English village pubs, they aren’t just places to go and drink, they are the centre of village life, the place to come in out of the cold, catch up with all the gossip, while enjoying a delicious meal. They are cosy, welcoming and charming.
The Lord Nelson Inn is an attractive white washed pub decorated with English flags, hanging flower baskets and a distinguished portrait of Lord Nelson hangs on the pub sign. The Lord Nelson Inn has also starred in episodes of Midsomer Murders.
Once inside the pub, you will be greeted by a blazing fire, a cosy atmosphere and welcomed by the Lord Nelson’s friendly Staff.
The Lord Nelson Inn has a reputation for fine dining and has patrons gathering from near and far to enjoy their menu, that is why the Lord Nelson Inn is on our list as of places to eat in Oxfordshire.
Walks around Brightwell Baldwin
After a traditional Sunday roast lunch at the Lord Nelson Inn, I can’t think of a better way to end the weekend than to take a sunny afternoon walk from Brightwell Park to Chalgrove. Along the way, you will pass others also enjoying a perfect Sunday afternoon.
At Brightwell Baldwin walk down to Glebe Farm, across the road there is a stile, climb over and follow the track across the meadows.
To your left, you will see the kitchen wing and stables, the only remaining buildings of Brightwell Park House to survive. As you walk across the meadow you will see the 17th Century dovecote, grade II listed walled gardens and a peaceful stream that is home to ducks and swans.
Walk on until you come to a field of rapeseed plants, follow the track and watch the fields shine golden all around you. Climb the stiles at the sheep meadow and walk through shady woodland until you come to the country lanes that will take you to the village of Chalgrove.
Where to stay in Brightwell Baldwin
The Lord Nelson Inn has attractively decorated self-contained rooms that are handy for those wanting country hotels in Oxfordshire. The Lord Nelson Inn is perfect for those who want to enjoy more time walking and exploring this beautiful area.
A short walk from Brightwell Baldwin is the village of Cuxham. Walking through this village you will find the Norman belltower of the Church of the Holy Rood and picturesque thatched houses that will make you wish you had more time to explore.
Where to eat in Cuxham
The Half Moon is in the village of Cuxham. With white washed walls and thatched roof, the Half Moon is a classic English pub. A popular meeting place for the locals and out of towners alike. The Half Moon serves a large choice of pizza and pasta dishes.
The village of Benson sits on the banks of the River Thames and is one of the many towns along the Thames Path. Benson is 27 kilometres from Oxford, the X39 bus leaves from stop H5 on St Aldates Street Oxford and stops at Benson Marina.
Walks around Benson
The Thames Path follows the River Thames on its 297-kilometre journey from its source to the sea.
There is a 5-kilometre Thames Path walk between the towns of Benson and Wallingford, just follow the Thames Path signs near the Waterfront Café at Benson.
Cross the river at Benson Weir and visit Benson Lock. We were lucky enough to see the lock in action when the narrow boat “Olivia” passed through the lock. We had a chat with the owners who live on their boat and are loving their life exploring the rivers and canals.
We walked along the bank watching the peaceful waters of the River Thames work its way down stream.
It was a beautiful morning and as we walked we saw luxury waterfront homes, boats of all sizes moored along the water’s edge, swans gliding gracefully on the river and dogs playing in Wallingford Castle meadow.
Wallingford Castle is long gone, like many castles, it was a casualty of the English Civil War, but these lush green meadows are popular with joggers and dog lovers alike.
We kept walking along a path of trees and wild flowers until we caught a glimpse of St Peter’s church spire and we knew we had reached the town of Wallingford.
Places to eat in Benson
The Waterfront Café at Benson is on the banks of the River Thames. This popular Bistro gets busy on the weekend with people relaxing in the sun watching the river pass by or stopping off for a cold drink after walking the Thames Path.
Boat Hire Oxfordshire – from Benson
While sitting at the Benson Waterfront Café you will notice Le Boats bobbing in the water, these boats are for hire at the kiosk next to the café.
The boats come in various sizes, sleeping 2 – 8 people, with cooking facilities and showers. There are many holiday packages to choose from and it is a perfect way to explore the River Thames.
After walking the Thames Path from Benson, we arrived at the town of Wallingford.
Wallingford has a long colourful history, it was settled by bronze and iron age farmers and the first town was built by the Anglo-Saxons.
William the Conqueror was so impressed with Wallingford’s position on the River Thames that he ordered the massive Wallingford Castle to be built on its banks. Almost 600 years later during the English Civil War, Wallingford Castle was captured and later demolished by Cromwell.
What to see in Wallingford
If you want to learn more about Wallingford’s fascinating history, the Wallingford Museum on the High Street is worth a visit.
The Wallingford Bunk Fest, is one of the most popular events in Oxfordshire. Held annually around August and September the Bunk Fest is a family celebration of music and workshops that promises something for every member of the family.
If you love antiques the Lamb Arcade has over 40 shops selling a wide range of antique and vintage wares. We enjoyed an afternoon browsing, the antique furniture, vintage clothing and bric-a-brac.
Places to Eat in Wallingford
The Boat House Pub sits on the River Thames at Wallingford. A magical place to have a leisurely lunch overlooking the gentle waters of the River Thames as it makes its way under Wallingford’s medieval bridge.
These peaceful views make the Boat House one of the best country pubs in Oxfordshire for sitting back and relaxing after a Thames Path walk.
Dorchester (on Thames)
Things to do in Dorchester
We stumbled upon Dorchester and decided to explore this charming little village. Dorchester is a lovely village, of whitewashed, red brick and wattle and daub style buildings and a choice of pubs and tea rooms
What to see in Dorchester
The Dorchester Abbey was built on the site of two earlier Saxon Cathedrals, the grounds are peaceful, with colourful gardens. Some of the Abbey’s treasures include 12th Century Font, 13th Century knight effigy, and 14th Century wall paintings. The Abbey is open daily.
Dorchester Abbey Museum is well worth a visit. The museum has an interesting mix of displays that document the changing times and life of a village that has a history of settlement that goes back 6,000 years. Dorchester Abbey Museum is open from April to September.
Where to eat in Dorchester
Dorchester Abbey Tearooms has a warm homely feel and serves a delicious range of homemade scones and cakes. In the warmer months sit outside and enjoy the sun while enjoying a cream tea of freshly made scones. Dorchester Abbey Museum is open from April to September.
Henley (on Thames)
Henley on Thames is one of the prettiest towns around, with wide streets, charming boutiques, fashionable restaurants and the River Thames on its doorstep.
Things to do in Henley
The Henley Royal Regatta
Henley Royal Regatta is world famous rowing event which was founded in 1839. This great sporting event and social occasion is held every year around June and July.
Henley River and Rowing Museum
While you are visiting this rowing mecca, make sure you check out the Henley River and Rowing Museum. Here you will find galleries devoted to the history of Henley, rowing, rivers and there is a cute Wind in the Willows exhibition.
Henley Boat Hire Oxfordshire – Henley Cruises
Take a cruise on the River Thames. Hobbs of Henley have a variety of themed river cruises that feature traditional jazz afternoons, vintage afternoon tea, Gin and Fizz cruises. Daily and holiday boat hire are also available.
Henley Hotels in Oxfordshire
Hotel Du Vin Henley has transformed from brewery to one of the most stylish hotel in Oxfordshire. This luxury hotel in Oxfordshire has stayed faithful to its roots keeping original features within a modern setting. The Hotel is well appointed with quality furnishings and linens that make for a peaceful night’s sleep.
The Bistro Du Vin offers an atmosphere of sleek casual dining that showcases fresh seasonal produce. The Bistro’s menu is French inspired with a modern British twist. Afternoon tea is a favourite with a selection of miniature sandwiches and cakes and large range of tea varieties to try.
For the best luxury boutique hotel in Oxfordshire we recommend the Hotel Du Vin Henley.
Visit Blenheim Palace
Though there are many stately homes in the United Kingdom, none are as grand as Blenheim Palace. Blenheim Palace is close to the town of Woodstock in Oxfordshire and is the ancestral home of the Dukes of Marlborough
Sir Winston Churchill, England’s wartime Prime Minister, was the Grandson of the 7th Duke and Duchess of Marlborough and was born at Blenheim Palace on the 30th of November 1874. You can learn more about the life of Sir Winston Churchill in Blenheim’s Churchill Exhibition.
Blenheim Palace is stunning, from the moment you walk into the grounds you will be captivated by views overlooking the great lake and park, famed landscaper Capability Brown’s work has become a lasting legacy.
Looking back toward the palace you will be left breathless with the sheer size and magnificence of this World Heritage site.
Inside the Palace you will find a family home with a rich history that is interwoven into the artefacts and treasures that make up the legend of the Dukes of Marlborough.
Getting from London to Oxfordshire
Getting from London to Oxford is easy, there are several transport options including coach, train and car.
You can choose to hire a car in central London, from London Airports or take public transport out of London and plan car hire in Oxfordshire.
London to Oxford by Car
Oxford is approximately 90 kilometres (55 miles) North West of London, the trip can take just over an hour depending on the time of day.
London Paddington to Oxford by Train
There are frequent daily train services from London Paddington Station to Oxford. The journey takes a little over an hour.
London Heathrow Airport to Oxford by Coach
National Express have direct coach services from Heathrow Airport to Oxford with a travel time of around 90 minutes.
Experience Oxfordshire Visitor Information Centre
If you are looking for information on what to see and do in Oxford a visit the Experience Oxfordshire Visitor Information Centre is a must, the centre can be found at 15-16 Broad Street in Oxford.
The Experience Oxfordshire Visitor Information Centre has all the information you need on tourist attractions and activities in Oxfordshire.
Summary of things to do and see in Oxfordshire
We loved our time in Oxfordshire, it is one of our favourite travel destinations in the United Kingdom. With every turn there was always something more beautiful and interesting to see, we felt cheated by time and left far too soon. Everyone should visit Oxfordshire some time in their life and discover the things to do near Oxford.
Have you been to Oxfordshire? What are your favourite things to do near Oxfordshire?
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