Guide to Oxfordshire
Top 10 Must Do
In no specific order, here’s OX Living’s definitive top 10 ‘must do’ guide to Oxfordshire.
Or, if you’re looking for some more inspiration here’s our Top 10 Must See in Oxfordshire.
Quintessentially Oxford, this has to be done. Pack your favourite nibbles and tipples and prepare to set adrift on the River Cherwell, with only a lengthy metal pole and one paddle to leisurely navigate your way upstream or downstream past the University. Yes, it’s slightly eccentric but a great way to entertain visiting friends! The Cherwell Boathouse restaurant is right next door to the punt station, offering creative menus and an extensive wine list. 80 punts are available and it’s six people per punt maximum. Get there early to avoid waiting at the weekends.
Grab yourself a bargain from 160 boutiques featuring world-famous brands including Mulberry, Gucci, Versace, Ted Baker and Michael Kors. There are plenty of places to eat too if you have any money left for sustenance! For a more relaxed shopping experience try a midweek evening expedition to avoid the crowds.
Be prepared for giggles, screams and fascinating tales about Oxford’s darker side as your costumed guide entertains and horrifies you as you walk the streets of one of the most historic and haunted cities in Britain. This will get your weekend off to a frighteningly good start! The castle and prison are well worth a visit too – more information here.
The Christ Church Cathedral Choir was founded 500 years ago and is renowned globally for the youthfulness of its sound and adventurous musical programming. Sitting quietly and listening to them sing, combined with the cathedral’s magnificent architecture and fantastic acoustics, creates a truly remarkable and humbling experience. Did you know that the choir sung the TV theme tunes for Mr Bean and The Vicar of Dibley? And finally, this might be the only cathedral in the world to operate in its own special time zone. Called ‘Old Oxford Time’, it is five minutes later than GMT (or BST), so services that are listed to start at 18:00 actually start at 18:05 GMT/BST.
The view from the top of Burford High Street portrays an iconic Cotswolds’ scene. Sweet mellow stone houses with traditional mullioned windows, a number of inns steeped in history and a selection of quaint shops line the road as it sweeps down to the bridge over the Windrush River. Take a stroll to see the Tudor Market House, 15th century almshouses and England’s oldest pharmacy (founded in 1734). There are a couple of lovely circular walks along the river and rolling countryside, or enjoy afternoon tea at Huffkins on the High Street and at Burford Garden Centre, just outside the town. It’s a five-minute drive to the Cotswold Wildlife Park, which takes the concept of a zoo to another dimension. Rhinos happily graze in front of the stately home, and you can observe a host of other creatures including lions, penguins and giraffes in natural enclosures.
On a clear day, you can admire the views stretching out over six counties from the top of this remarkable National Trust site, making the climb up worth it! The whole area is steeped in ancient history and folklore. See the beautiful form of the Bronze Age Uffington White Horse carved into the chalk escarpment of the Ridgeway, walk over the Iron Age hillfort crowning the hill, spot the Neolithic burial mounds and the Giant’s Steps on the steep sides of The Manger, carved during the last Ice Age. And in the shadow of White Horse Hill, did Saint George really slay his dragon with a sword on top of flat-topped Dragon Hill? It is said the dragon’s blood poisoned the ground, leaving a white scar. This question, and more, can be debated afterwards in the comfort of one of the nearby village pubs. Hop five miles away into Wiltshire and try the acclaimed Royal Oak at Bishopstone, serving generous organic food, with proper fires in winter and newspapers year round.
Get the insider knowledge on grain to glass distilling at this unique artisan distillery where ancient heritage grains, sustainably grown on four local organic farms, are exclusively used in the production of vodka, gin, absinthe and rye whisky. The behind-the-scenes tour explains the journey from grain to bottle, with an opportunity to ask questions and taste a selection of the spirits, so it’s best not to drive there! Walk from the city centre in 30 minutes, or jump on a bus heading for the Oxford Brookes University campus.
There are many ways to enjoy the River Thames as it flows through one of its most famous stretches at Henley. During the summer, take a scheduled trip with Hobbs of Henley or Salters Steamers, or if you are feeling adventurous, hire a powered boat or rowing boat from Hobbs. You can even take to the water in a canoe with Henley Canoe Hire. Upstream of Henley Bridge, enjoy a picnic or BBQ by the river at Mill and Marsh Meadows, or follow the Ale Trail and acquaint yourself with ten of the town’s traditional pubs. For a sporting spectacle combining world class rowing on the river with the best features of an English garden party, don’t miss the Henley Royal Regatta, which takes place from July 3rd-7th 2019.
You don’t necessarily need a special occasion to push the boat out and sample exquisite cuisine. Michelin’s ‘Bib Gourmand’ is awarded to restaurants and pubs offering exceptionally good food at moderate prices, specifically menu items priced below a maximum of £28. Booking in advance however, is pretty much essential! Details of Oxfordshire’s 2 star, 1 star and Bib Gourmand dining establishments from the Michelin Guide 2019 are listed below:
Church Road, Great Milton OX44 7PD
215 Banbury Road, Summertown, OX2 7HQ
Main Street, Murcott, OX5 2RE
243 Iffley Road, OX4 1SJ
38 Magdalen Road, OX4 1RB
Langford GL7 3LF
A designated National Trail, the 184-mile long Thames Path runs the length of the river, from its source in the Cotswolds to the Thames Barrier in Greenwich. The ten-mile section from Oxford to the historic town of Abingdon takes about four hours to walk and offers a unique perspective of the city and rural countryside. Pass the city’s famous boat houses and continue to Iffley Lock and its ornamental stone bridge. Stop off at the Isis Farmhouse (open Fri-Sun) for a pub lunch or cream tea. A few miles downstream is Sandford Lock, which has the greatest fall of water on the Thames, and an impressive weir, known as the Sandford Lasher. Pop into the Kings Arms (open every day) for refreshments. As you approach Abingdon, with its magnificent town hall and abbey, founded in 675AD, cross the river at Abingdon Lock and finish at Abingdon Bridge. The original bridge was built in 1422 with 14 arches and today’s bridge retains a medieval feel. Return to Oxford by bus, or cruise back along the river with Salters Steamers (departing daily from Abingdon Bridge Marine at 16.45 from 25th May – 8th September, arriving in Oxford (Folly Bridge) at 18:30).