Things to do near Oxford
As we drive 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. We arrive at the village of Brightwell Baldwin, a chocolate box setting of pretty stone cottages, the place we’ll call home while discovering the things to do near Oxford.
After visiting Bristol, we made our way to Oxford. Within easy reach of London, Oxford is famous for its University, rich history and stunning architecture. With all its beauty “The City of Dreaming Spires” is just a stepping stone to some of the most picturesque countryside in England.
- 1 Things to do near Oxford – Towns and Villages
- 1.1 Oxfordshire boy’s toys – Aston Martin Museum and Mini Plant Tour
- 1.2 Bicester Village
- 1.3 Brightwell Baldwin
- 1.4 Cuxham
- 1.5 Benson
- 1.6 Wallingford
- 1.7 Dorchester (on Thames)
- 1.8 Henley on Thames
- 1.9 Oxford
- 2 Summary
Things to do near Oxford – Towns and Villages
Oxfordshire boy’s toys – Aston Martin Museum and Mini Plant Tour
Tucked away in the village of Drayton St Leonard is a treasure that is sure to put a light in any man’s eye. Located in a nondescript barn is 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.
The Mini Plant Oxford is a must see for everyone. Our tour guide had been working at the Mini plant for 52 years and 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.
Girls just want to have fun – Shop till you drop in Oxfordshire
Only 46 minutes from London’s Marylebone Station, Bicester Village is world famous for 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 and drink at 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 upscale dining and is popular with patrons locally and from further afield.
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 accommodation that is handy for those wanting to spend more time enjoying the walks and beauty of this 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 and drink 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.
Where to eat and drink 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.
Boating Holidays 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. These 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 held on the 1st to the 3rd of September 2017. The Bunk Fest promises to be a weekend of musical entertainment, fun and dance. The Bunk Fest Beer festival will showcase around 30 local independent brewers.
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.
Where to Eat and Drink in Wallingford
The Boat House Pub on the River Thames at Wallingford is a magical place to sit and have lunch. Overlooking the peaceful water of the River Thames and Wallingford’s medieval bridge, it is the place to sit back and relax after a Thames Path walk.
Dorchester (on Thames)
We stumbled upon Dorchester after seeing a sign advertising the Dorchester Festival, so we decided to take a look.
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 museums 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.
The Dorchester Festival is held biennially. This year the Dorchester Festival dates are from the 28th of April to the 7th of May 2017. Events include Masquerade Bash, Dorchester Duck Race, Comic Art Masterclass, Archaeology Tour and Jazz Supper with Cate Cody and much, much more. Tickets sell out so check the programme for your favourite event.
Where to eat and drink 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 on Thames
Henley Royal Regatta is world famous rowing event that was founded in 1839. The 2017 Henley Royal Regatta will be held between the 28th of June and the 2nd of July.
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.
Where to stay in Henley on Thames
Hotel Du Vin Henley, can be described in one word “style”. What was once a Brewery is now a luxury hotel that has stayed faithful to its roots keeping original features within a modern setting. The Hotel is styled 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 ultimate in luxury boutique style we recommend Hotel Du Vin Henley. Check here for the the latest prices and more details.
What to see in Oxford
There is so much to see in Oxford, you could spend weeks here and still not see all that Oxford has to offer, here are a few of our favourite Oxford attractions.
Oxford Official Walking Tours
When we arrived in Oxford we found that we did not know where to start, Oxford University is not just one college but 38 different colleges spread out all over Oxford. We decided that to get the most out of our short time in Oxford, we would have to take a tour.
Oxford Official Walking Tours were ideal, we met up with our guide at Experience Oxfordshire Visitor Information Centre on Broad Street and started our 2-hour tour of Oxford. This was a great tour, informative, funny and awe-inspiring to be following in the foot-steps of so many famous people.
Oxford Official Walking Tours has a variety of tours including Harry Potter and Alice in Wonderland Tour and C.S. Lewis and J.R.R. Tolkien Tour.
The Ashmolean Museum is a Museum of Art and Archaeology and the place where you could happily spend hours. It has a massive collection of artefacts and decorative arts as well as visiting exhibitions. We were fortunate enough to see the visiting Degas to Picasso exhibition which displayed works by Matisse, Chagall, Renoir and many others.
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 Albert Einstein’s theory of relativity.
Where to eat and drink 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 devotees.
Where to stay in Oxford
The Macdonald Randolph Hotel or “The Randolph” was opened in 1866. This grand old lady 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. Check here for the latest prices and more details.
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.
We loved our time in Oxfordshire, 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 Oxford?