Experience Oxfordshire For The Arts
With skylines pierced with spires and domes, rolling hills and idyllic meadows, the entire county of Oxfordshire has a dreamlike quality. Feed your imagination by wandering Oxford’s cobbled streets, or get out into the countryside of the county. Squeeze in a visit to a world-class museum and stroll along Oxford’s pastel-hued High Street, lined with independent boutique shops and galleries. Then, take a trip to Kelmscott Manor – the inspirational country home of William Morris; poet, designer, craftsman, socialist and founding father of the Arts and Crafts movement.
Day 1 – Oxford
Spend the morning in the heart of Oxford, exploring the University of Oxford’s incredible Ashmolean museum – Britain’s first public museum and home to world-famous archaeological artefacts and art collections.
Treat yourself to a lunch near to the Ashmolean. Relax in the elegant Randolph Hotel, an icon of Oxford. The hotel’s Acanthus Restaurant offers outstanding seasonal British cuisine.
Alternatively, make your way north of Oxford city centre, along Banbury Road, to Gee’s Restaurant and Bar. A firm favourite with locals, the Grade II listed Victorian glasshouse is filled with trees and plants – the perfect place to eat simple, expertly cooked Mediterranean food and get inspired!
Refreshed from lunch, journey north along Banbury Road until you reach North Parade Avenue. Criss-crossed with colourful bunting, North Parade is home to galleries and coffee shops, and is the gateway to bohemian Summertown, a neighbourhood of Oxford. Continue walking for around 20mins north along Banbury Road (frequent buses along the road are available to catch) until you reach South Parade. South Parade is dotted with galleries, and is home to a hidden gem – Turrill Sculpture Garden – which can be found within Summertown Library. Spend a quiet afternoon admiring the locally-crafted sculptures within the tranquil garden.
If you find yourself lingering a little longer in Summertown, catch a production of live music, theatre or dance at North Wall Arts Centre. The centre places an emphasis on new and innovative work, offering an alternative to the mainstream. It’s also a public art gallery, and admission is free.
If you’re heading back towards Oxford city centre for the evening, immerse yourself in Oxford’s thriving arts scene with a touch of drama or comedy; the New Theatre features hit musicals and professional productions, or the Old Fire Station is the place to watch incredible independent performances.
The Old Bank Hotel: Standing proud on Oxford’s famous High Street, The Old Bank is an imposing Georgian building perfectly located to explore Oxford University colleges. The bedrooms and corridors of the hotel are all adorned with the owner’s private art collection. You needn’t travel far for dinner; Quod Restaurant on the ground floor of the hotel is a bustling contemporary European restaurant perfect for a leisurely dinner in the heart of Oxford, with a view out towards Radcliffe Square.
The Bath Place Hotel: A huddle of 17th century cottages assembled around a beautiful flagstone courtyard in the centre of Oxford. The family-run hotel nestles between ancient New College, the Bodleian Library and the Sheldonian Theatre, making it the perfect spot to immerse yourself in Oxford life.
The St Margarets Hotel: If you want to stay in Summertown, the St Margarets Hotel will ensure you have a memorable stay. The stylish Victorian building has many beautiful period features and is also within easy walking distance to the centre of Oxford.
Day 2 – Oxford/Kelmscott
Wherever you stay, make time in the morning to wander through Oxford’s historic city centre. Balance on the cobbled Radcliffe Square, see the stunning Bridge of Sighs, and meander along Oxford’s winding High Street, home to small galleries, antiques shops and flamboyant coffee shops.
Stroll down St Aldates and take a right when you reach Christ Church College, along Pembroke Street. Here you’ll find Modern Art Oxford, a leading UK contemporary art space with an international reputation. Their changing exhibitions celebrate the dialogue between modern art and ideas. (The gallery also has an excellent shop and café too!)
When you’ve had your fill of Oxford (if that is ever possible), head west out of the city, to the countryside hamlet of South Leigh. Here you’ll find the Artist Residence hotel, an idyllic English countryside retreat. The hotel is bohemian yet luxurious, with six unique bedrooms nestled under its cosy thatch. Downstairs is Mr Hanbury’s Mason Arms, a welcoming country pub offset by surprising and delightful contemporary artworks. Cosy up to the menu of pub classics and lighter seasonal dishes. If you want to stay a little longer, check into the hotel for the evening!
Continue west to the edges of the Oxfordshire Cotswolds. The rolling countryside and honey-hued Cotswold villages will provide you with endless inspiration, as they did for William Morris; poet, designer, craftsman and founding father of the Arts and Crafts movement. Kelmscott Manor was the country home of William Morris, and is definitely worth a visit. This Grade I listed house was loved by Morris, and is now preserved as it was when he lived there – complete with William Morris textiles. Take an afternoon tea in the lush grounds of the house, before picking up some patterned gifts in their shop.