48 hours in Oxfordshire – tips for a wonderful weekend
Just a short hop from London, the historic county of Oxfordshire is famous for its dreaming spires, quaint villages, chocolate-box cottages, grand stately homes and ancient market towns. Oxfordshire can offer something different for every visitor, such as romantic punting, family fun or stomping round a grand old estate.
Oxfordshire was recorded as a county in the early 10th century and sits between the River Thames to the south, the Cotswolds to the west, the Chiltern Hills to the east and the Midlands to the north, with segments also running south to Henley-on-Thames and north to Banbury.
With so much to explore within its boundaries, it would take several months to really experience all Oxfordshire has to offer. Here however is my suggested itinerary for a whistle-stop, 48-hour weekend.
Friday afternoon in Oxfordshire
Start the weekend off by meandering through Oxford’s quiet and ancient cobbled streets, ticking off some of the 30 colleges, as you spot their famous crests. Take in a visit to the Radcliffe Camera, built in 1737–49 to house the Radcliffe Science Library. Then stroll down Broad street to gaze at the awe-inspiring Sheldonian Theatre, designed by Sir Christopher Wren. Stop off for a coffee at new outpost of Crosstown Oxford, for a fresh hot brew and treat yourself to a delicious, handcrafted doughnut.
Friday evening in Oxfordshire
After a late afternoon visit to Oxford’s beautiful Botanic Gardens on the River and an hours’ punting trip from Magdalen Bridge, head towards Jericho. Stop for an early evening pint in The Lamb & Flag, a pub on St Giles’ Street owned by St John’s College, where historically profits fund DPhil student scholarships.
If the mood then takes you, try a cocktail at swanky bar the Duke of Cambridge on Walton Street, before making your way to the floral outpost of the Giggling Squid, for the best Thai in Oxford. Then spend the night in prison, or what was once a home for inmates, at the city’s trendy and unique boutique hotel Malmaison Oxford.
Saturday morning in Oxfordshire
What’s the story Jackanory? Well, there are quite a few to be told, if you visit the inspiring Story Museum – a one-off building, divided by tiers telling many tales old and new. Walk through an enchanted woodland, where trees talk and animated story tellers recount ancient legends to a captivated crowd of children and adults alike. Learn how to draw your own comics from the professionals or if you have little ones that are under five, take them into to a magical playroom, with a marvellous giant story bed, where they can listen to stories told with props and toys.
Saturday lunchtime in Oxfordshire
Afterwards take a visit to the University’s Museum of art and archaeology – the Ashmolean, with its collections ranging from Egyptian mummies to contemporary modern art.
Stop off for lunch here too in its outstanding café, with its selection of freshly-made meals from soups, quiches and stews to delicious sandwiches, cakes and pastries.
Saturday afternoon in Oxfordshire
Then take a drive out to picturesque Woodstock, home of Blenheim Palace – the birthplace of Winston Churchill.
At over 300 years old, the grand historic house offers a plethora of tours, exhibitions, walks, new adventure playgrounds and even boasts its own maze. So a good few hours will fly by while taking in the grounds and don’t forget the gorgeous gift shop, selling all sorts of wonderful things to take home.
Saturday evening in Oxfordshire
Then not so far away, enjoy a gourmet dinner and bed down at the beautiful Kingham Plough, a traditional Cotswolds country pub, which has been thoughtfully restored and offers the best dining around.
Sunday morning in Oxfordshire
Next morning head to Henley-on-Thames and another outstanding stately home – Stonor Park.
Set in magnificent deer park, the house recently opened the impressive Tumblestone Hollow, an adventure playground like no other. The playground was inspired by a set of books about Tumblestone Hollow, written by best-selling author Amy Sparkes and illustrated by Steve Pearce.
The first book, ‘The Legend of Tumblestone Hollow’ is centred around a character called Obsidian – who saves magical stones from harmful shadows, planting them hidden from view. The story is centred around the stone circle at Stonor Park which has been a feature within its grounds long before the house was built 850 years ago. These stones were, before the end of the Ice age, part of a stone cap which was crushed by the weight of melting ice, causing the larger stones to tumble down to the valley where they still lie.
Sunday lunchtime in Oxfordshire
Finish off your Oxfordshire weekend with a Sunday roast with all the trimmings at The Hare at Milton, Oxfordshire. This Oxfordshire gem’s Head Chef Matt Dare leads an experienced team to create delicious plates from predominantly local suppliers. A Sunday at the Hare is a laid back, leisurely affair, where you can enjoy a delicious roast with the whole family, in front of a roaring fire.