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Touring Oxfordshire

Oxford buildings by Barbara Ballard Oxfordshire is Oxford and its colleges, but it is also part of the Cotswolds hills in the west. On the eastern side of the county are the Chiltern hills (Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty), while the center of the county is home to the Thames (called the Isis inside the city of Oxford) and Cherwell rivers. Walkers can take advantage of the Thames River Path and the Chiltern hills Ridgeway path. Rowers have longed enjoyed punting on the Isis. The river’s Magdalen Bridge is a much-photographed site.

Christ Church college by Barbara Ballard Oxford colleges and museums are its main attraction. The colleges are: All Soul’s, Balliol, Brasenose, Christ Church, Exeter, Hertford, Jesus, Lincoln, Magdalen, Merton, New College, Oriel, The Queen’s, St John’s, Trinity, University, and Worcester. To make sense of it all, it’s best to take a guided tour to see the highlights.

Christ Church cathedral by Barbara Ballard The most famous attraction of Oxford is Christ Church Cathedral and College. The college was founded by Cardinal Wolsey. The cathedral was built in the 12th century. Don’t miss the chancel vault ceiling. Allow at least two hours for visitng both.

The Ashmolean Museum dates from 1683 when it was a private collection of natural and man-made objects. The Victorians separated the two collections, putting the natural objects into a newly created museum, Oxford Museum of Natural History. The Ashmolean acquired archaeological items and grew to include the art collection of the university. A few other Oxford museums are the History of Science Museum, Museum of Modern Art, Pitt Rivers Museum, and University Museum.

Bodleian library in Oxford by Barbara Ballard The Bodleian Library, the UK’s second largest, is another of the town’s famous institutions. It is, like the university, not in one building but in I0 in various locations in the city. The oldest part and the one of most interest to visitors are the buildings (dating from 1488) around Radcliffe Square. Books in the library may only be used on site. The rooms are accessed by tour only. Other Oxford attractions include the 13th century Carfax tower (climb to the top for city views) and the Botanic gardens.

Oxford Castle by Barbara Ballard Also in the city is Oxford Castle, shown by tours. It’s a grim place, once serving as a royal palace, then later as a prison. It was built by a Norman baron in 1071. A hotel and restaurant have been built within part of the prison.

Blenheim Palace by Barbara Ballard Probably the county’s most famous historic home, Blenheim Palace, is located in Woodstock. It was the birthplace of Sir Winston Churchill, built 1705-1722 for the first Duke of Marlborough as a thank you from Queen Anne for his victory at the Battle of Blenheim in 1704. The house was designed in the baroque style, and although austere from the exterior, has lavish interior state rooms. A five room Churchill Exhibition gives the details of his life. Collections include paintings, furniture, bronzes, and the Marlborough Victories tapestries. ‘Capability’ Brown did the landscaping for the estate—park, gardens, and lake. There are new Pleasure Gardens, a playground, and a tiny train ride.

Broughton Castle gardens by Barbara Ballard Other Oxfordshire historic homes include baroque Ardington House, a family home and Broughton Castle, another family home on an island surrounded by a moat. Much of the original medieval manor remains. Plaster ceilings, panelling, civil war arms, and fireplaces are highlights. There are gardens and a 14th century church.

Buscot House by Barbara Ballard Buscot Park is home to an 18th century Palladian house with important paintings and furniture. There is a water garden and a walled garden. Chastleton House is one of the country’s best preserved Jacobean houses, dating from 1607. It has been continuously occupied by the same family, and its contents reflect that. Fawley Court was designed by Christopher Wren in 1684 and decorated by Grinling Gibbons. There are military objects, paintings, and arms and armour in the museum.

Greys Court has evolved over a number of centuries. Of interest in the grounds is an ice house, well-house, Tudor donkey wheel, and a maze. Kinston Bagpuize House is another family home. Built in the 1660s and remodeled in the 1700s, it has a staircase and panelled rooms. There are gardens, woodlands, and walks.

Mapledurham is a late 16th century Elizabethan home. It still has its original plaster ceilings, oak staircase, private chapel and paintings. The watermill dates from the 15th century. Milton Manor House is a brick home designed by Inigo Jones. The Gothick library and Catholic chapel are the special rooms to visit. There is a walled garden, woodland walk, and lakes.

Rousham House’s claim to fame is its almost unaltered garden from the early 1700s. Stonor has been lived in by the same family for over 800 years. It sits in a wooded valley and a deer park. Rare furniture and artwork, a 12th century chapel, hillside gardens, and an exhibition on St Edmund Campion make up a visit.

River and Rowing Museum courtesy the museum The riverside town of of Henley-on-Thames is famous for its yearly rowing regatta. The River and Rowing Museum in the town celebrates the past, the present, and the future of the river Thames, the history of the town, and the international sport of rowing. It’s a great museum with an excellent self-serve restaurant where you can enjoy a lunch beside the river. Day trains go from London.

Shilton in the Cotswolds by Barbara Ballard Chipping Norton, Witney, Woodstock, and Burford are Cotswold towns. Woodstock’s museum, the Oxfordshire, has galleries on Roman Oxfordshire, Woodstock, and other permanent displays. Witney was famous for its blankets. West End is one of its well-preserved streets. Witney has a district museum with town information. Woodstock offers an 18th century town hall, a museum housed in a 17th century house, and a church with a Norman doorway. Nearby Bladon village is the final resting place of Sir Winston Churchill.

Burford by Barbara Ballard Burford was an important wool town from the 14th to the 17th centuries and its High Street reflects that in its architecture. It’s set up to handle the tourist trade with a number of interesting shops and a great deli. Be sure to visit the church down a side street. The west doorway and central part of the tower are Norman.

Chipping Norton was also at the centre of the wool trade. It was a meeting place for merchants and traders, and many of its buildings date from that time. The wool church is one of the Cotswold’s best. Chipping Norton’s museum is strictly local.

Minster Lovell cottage by Barbara Ballard Of Oxfordshire’s Cotswolds villages, Minster Lovell, near Burford, is of particular interest. The long main street is home to historic houses, and the nearby hall, dovecote, and church make this a scenic and typical English country village.

Banbury, Bicester, and Wallingford are market towns. Charlbury’s museum has displays of traditional tools and industry.

Oxfordshire Attractions

For opening times and full details of attractions see the Attractions section of our website.

Abingdon County Hall Museum
Old County Hall, Market Place, Abingdon
Tel. 0 1235 523 703

Ardington House (HHA)
Ardington, 2 miles east of Wantage
Tel. 0 1235 821 566
Web: Ardington House

Ashmolean Museum
Beaumont Street, Oxford
Tel. 0 1865 278 000
Web: Ashmolean Museum

Banbury Museum
Castlekey Shopping Centre
Spiceball Park Rd, Banbury
Tel. 0 1295 259 855

Blenheim Palace (HHA)
Tel. 0 1993 811 091
Web: Blenheim Palace

Bodleian Library
Broad Street, Oxford
Tel: 0 1865 277 224 for general enquiries; 01865 277158 for Central Bodleian site; to book a tour phone 01865 277224
For photos and full details see our article at Bodleian Library
Web: Bodleian Library

Broughton Castle
South-west of Banbury Cross
Tel. 0 1295 276 070
Web: Broughton Castle

Buscot Park (NT)
Between Lechlade and Faringdon, on the A417
Tel. 0 845 345 3387 (infoline)

Charlbury Museum
Margaret St, Charlbury
Tel. 0 1608 810 060

Chastleton House (NT)
Chastleton, near Moreton-in-Marsh off A436
Tel. 0 1608 674 355

Charlbury Museum
Margaret St
Tel. 01608 810060
Open: May to Oct, Sun and BH, 2.30-4.30pm

Chipping Norton Museum
Westgate Centre, High St
Tel. 0 1608 643 779

Christ Church Cathedral
Oxford, off St Aldates
On south side of Christ Church College
Tel. 0 1865 276 150; for behind the scenes tour book ahead at 0 1865 276 492
For full details and photos see our article at Christ Church Cathedral and College
Web: Christ Church Cathedral

Cogges Manor Farm
Cogges Manor, Church Lane, Witney
Tel. 0 1993 772 602
Open: see website for full details as not given for the entire year
Historic farmyard; working farm; 13th century manor house; cooking demonstrations on weekends and BH; Victorian rural life portrayed; play area; farm machinery; farm animals; walled garden;
café; shop; parking
Web: Cogges Manor Farm

Cotswold Wildlife Park and Gardens
Two miles south of Burford, on the A361
Tel. 0 1993 823 006
Web: Cotswold Wildlife Park and Gardens

Didcot Railway Centre
Didcot Parkway railway station, Didcot
Tel. 0 1235 817 200
Web: Didcot Railway Centre

Fawley Court House and Museum
One mile north of Henley-on-Thames
Tel. 0 1491 57491

Greys Court (NT)
Rotherfield Greys, 3 miles west of Henley-on-Thames
Tel. 0 1494 755 564 (infoline); 0 1491 628 529

Kingston Bagpuize House (HHA)
Kingston Bagpuize, near Abingdon
Tel. 0 1865 820 259

Mapledurham House and Watermill
Mapledurham, 4.5 miles from Reading
Tel. 0 1189 723 350
Web: Mapledurham House

Minster Lovell Hall and Dovecote (EH)
On edge of village of Minster Lovell near town of Witney
Tel. 023 9258 1059
For photos and story of the village see our article Minster Lovell

North Leigh Roman Villa
Two miles north of North Leigh, Oxfordshire
10 miles west of Oxford off the A4095

Oxford Bus Museum
Station Yard, Long Hanborough, Witney
On A4095, OX29 8LA
Tel. 0 1993 883 617 (museum opening hours only) or 0 1296 337 622 (at other times)
For more information and photos see our feature at Oxford Bus Museum
Web: Oxford Bus Museum

Oxford Castle/Old Prison
44 Castle St
Tel. 0 1865 201 657 (general enquiries) or 0 1865 260 666 (to book a tour)
Open: daily; castle and prison tours from 10am; last tour at 4.20pm
Shown by tour only; once a royal palace, but later served as a prison; built by a Norman baron in 1071; hotel and restaurant within part of the old prison
Web: Oxford Castle

Oxford Museum of the History of Science
Broad Street, Oxford
Tel. 0 1865 277 280
Web: Oxford Museum of the History of Science

Oxford University Natural History Museum
Parks Road, off Broad St, central Oxford
Tel. 0 1865 272 950
Web: Oxford University Natural History Museum

Oxfordshire Museum
Fletchers House, Park St, Woodstock
Tel. 0 1993 811 456

Pitt Rivers Museum
Parks Road, Oxford
Tel. 0 1865 270 927
Web: Pitt Rivers Museum

River and Rowing Museum
Mill Meadows, Henley-on-Thames
Tel. 0 1491 415 600
For photos and more information see our article River and Rowing Museum
Web: River and Rowing Museum

Rollright Stones
Near villages of Little Rollright and Long Compton
near Chipping Norton, off minor road between A44 and A3400

Rousham House and Garden
Near Steeple Aston, Bicester
Tel. 0 1869 347 110
Web: Rousham House and Garden

Stonor House (HHA)
North-west of Henley-on-Thames
Tel. 0 1491 638 587
Web: Stoner

University of Oxford Botanic Gardens
Rose Lane, east end of High St, Oxford
Tel. 0 1865 286 690
Web: University Botanic Gardens

Waterperry Ornamental Gardens
Near Wheatley, OX33 1JZ
Tel. office: 0 1844 339 254; garden shop: 0 1844 339 226
Web: Waterperry Ornamental Gardens

Witney and District Museum
Gloucester Court Mews, High St, Witney
Tel. 0 1993 775 915
Web: Witney and District Museum

Oxfordshire Tourist Information Centres

25 Bridge Street, Abingdon
Tel. 0 1235 522 711

Spiceball Park Road, Banbury
Tel. 0 1295 259 855

Unit 6A, Pingle Drive, Bicester
Tel. 0 1869 369 055

The Brewery, Sheep St, Burford
Tel. 0 1993 823 558

Cherwell Valley
Motorway Service Area, J10/M40 Northampton Road
Ardley, Bicester
Tel. 0 1869 345 888

Chipping Norton
The Guildhall, Chipping Norton
Tel. 0 1608 644 379

The Car Park, Station Road, Didcot
Tel. 0 1235 813 243

7a Market Place, Faringdon
Tel. 0 1367 242 191

King's Arms Barn, Kings Road, Henley-on-Thames
Tel. 01491 578034

The Old School, Gloucester Green, Oxford
Tel. 0 1865 726 871

Market House, North Street, Thame
Tel. 0 1844 212 834

Town Hall, Market Place, Wallingford
Tel. 0 1491 826 972

Vale and Downland Museum , 19 Church St, Wantage
Tel. 0 1235 760 176

51A Market Square, Witney
Tel. 0 1993 775 802

Oxfordshire Museum, Part St, Woodstock
Tel. 0 1993 813 276

Insider Tip: Try to avoid at all costs driving into Oxford. Stay outside the town at Abbey Guest House at Abingdon. Just across the street is a bus that takes you into the city in 15 minutes. You can also travel from London to Oxford by train.

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Some of our Oxfordshire Articles
River and Rowing Museum
Minster Lovell
Christ Church College and Cathedral
Bodleian Library
Rousham House and Garden
Oxford Bus Museum
Burford Parish Church St John
Blenheim Palace
Other England Articles

Stay at Abbey Guest House,
perfect for Oxford visits

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