Experience Oxfordshire For The Great Outdoors
From idyllic meadows and rolling hills to sprawling palace estates and beautiful Cotswold villages, Oxfordshire is a hot spot for outdoor pursuits. Make sure you leave time to explore the hidden outdoor treasures in and around Oxford, offering leafy sanctuaries from the bustling city. This 3 day itinerary will then lead you through the tranquil North Oxfordshire countryside, then west to the Oxfordshire Cotswolds – an area with a wealth of natural beauty. Get ready for some fresh air, and discover Oxfordshire’s countryside character in The Great Outdoors.
Day 1 – Oxford
Start your day in the fresh air at Waterperry Gardens. A 20 minute drive east of Oxford, Waterperry is nestled in Oxfordshire countryside. The gardens feature a spectacular 200 foot herbaceous border along with rose and formal gardens, as well as a riverside walk.
If you have time, drive 20 minutes around Oxford to the University of Oxford’s Harcourt Arboretum – 140 acres of tranquil British woodland, open wildflower meadows and trees from around the world. Visitors can also meet their pigs, peacocks and sheep or catch a glimpse of deer, hare or red kites.
In Oxford, enjoy lunch at the Folly Restaurant, Oxford’s unique riverside restaurant beside the River Thames. The restaurant provides excellently cooked dishes crafted from the freshest seasonal ingredients.
After your lunch, take the opportunity to discover Oxford’s special riverside habitats with a river cruise. Departing from the jetty outside the Folly Restaurant, Oxford River Cruises offers a range of luxury boat trips, sightseeing tours and picnic cruises along the Thames.
Salter’s Steamers, on the other side of the Folly Bridge, also offer cruises along the Thames, and have done for almost 150 years. During the summer their scheduled trips can take you between Oxford and locations such as Reading, Henley and Windsor.
After your afternoon exploring the river, stretch your legs on land with a stroll around Oxford Botanic Garden – an oasis of green in the city centre. The UK’s oldest botanic garden, founded in 1621 as a physic garden, Oxford Botanic Garden features a formal walled garden, exotic plants in glasshouses and lush herbaceous borders.
Take a moonlit walk around central Oxford and see the historic University buildings from a different perspective. Stroll along the winding lanes often used as shortcuts by students dashing to classes.
The Randolph: The Randolph Hotel is an iconic 5-star hotel in Oxford and offers luxurious accommodation, delicious food and a sensuous spa haven in the heart of this world-famous University City. Located in Oxford’s city centre, their hotel is a landmark building with elegance and charm aplenty. Guests will love the Acanthus Restaurant, serving mouth-watering seasonal dishes prepared by their highly skilled chefs.
Courtyard by Marriott Oxford City Centre: For a stay just minutes away from Westgate, Courtyard by Marriott Oxford City Centre offer castle views from a spacious roof terrace. It’s a great base to explore Oxford, with comfortable rooms and a welcoming restaurant.
Day 2 – Banbury/Woodstock
An optional bolt-on to your itinerary is a walk along the Oxford Canal from Oxford to Banbury, which would take approximately 2 days, taking in the picturesque scenery of the Cherwell Valley.
If you prefer to drive, make Rousham House, beside the Oxford Canal and a 25 minute drive from central Oxford, your first stop. Rousham House is a Jacobean country house with wonderful gardens to visit. The gardens were landscaped by William Kent in the early 18th century and represent the first phase of English landscape design. Many of the features created in the 18th century are still there today.
Inspired by the stunning gardens of Rousham House, drive 10 minutes north to Nicholsons Garden Design, Landscaping and Nursery. Explore Nicholsons’ 22-acre plant nursery to find more inspiration for your great outdoors.
In addition to Nicholsons’ huge range of trees and plants to buy, you’ll find a Yurt Café hidden amongst the greenery. The Yurt is a world away from traditional garden centre tearooms. Enjoy coffee and cake or a seasonal lunch.
Refreshed from your visit to Nicholsons, journey south to Blenheim Palace, near Woodstock. Home to the 12th Duke of Marlborough and the birthplace of Sir Winston Churchill, Blenheim Palace is a UNESCO World Heritage Site boasting magnificent Baroque architecture, 2,000 acres of landscaped parkland and stunning formal gardens. Visitors can explore Blenheim Palace’s vast landscape by taking one of many recommended Park walks or free trails to see a wide variety of wildlife.
Heythrop Park Resort: 20 minutes from Woodstock is Heythrop Park Resort. Set amid a 440-acre estate of stunning scenery, Heythrop Park Resort also offers golfing and a soothing health club. An original 18th century manor house merged with a stylish, contemporary building, the hotel bridges age-old decadence and contemporary style.
Eynsham Hall: Situated amongst 3,000 acres of rolling parkland, Eynsham Hall near Witney is a boutique country house which offers stately charm without the stuffiness. Conveniently located on the edge of Oxfordshire and the Cotswolds, Eynsham Hall makes the perfect base for those who want to stay and explore the gorgeous countryside, as well as being a 15 minute drive from Blenheim Palace. Eynsham Hall offers a range of accommodation options to suite all tastes, budgets and purposes.
Day 3 – Cotswolds
In the morning, wander through 56 acres of wild gardens, paths and streams and marvel at stunning views across the Evenlode Valley and beyond at Batsford Arboretum. Enjoy colourful seasonal flowers, escape the heat under the tree canopy in summer, and browse the Garden Centre to pick up expert gardening tips.
You’ll find fabulous lunches, afternoon teas and cakes in Batsford Arboretum’s Garden Terrace Café where you can soak up the sun from the wooden deck.
Alternatively, venture further into the Cotswolds to find lunch in a quaint Cotswolds village, such as Moreton-in-Marsh, Chipping Campden or Stow-on-the-Wold.
If you’re a family with younger children, spend an afternoon in the beautiful Oxfordshire Cotswolds, visiting the historic grounds at Cogges Manor Farm. With over 1,000 years of history, Cogges is a 13th century manor house and farm with over 15 acres of grounds, walled garden, picnic orchard and moated islands. Children love to feed the farm animals, and there is also an adventure play island, sandpit and soft play area.
If you’d prefer to make the most of your time to explore the Cotswolds, pre-book a guided Cotswolds tour to see as much of the rolling hills as possible in one afternoon.
Minster Mill: Surrounded by 65 acres of glorious gardens, wildflower meadows and peaceful woodland, Minster Mill is set on the banks of the River Windrush in the picture-perfect Oxfordshire village of Minster Lovell. The 38 luxurious rooms and suites are dressed in sleek, streamlined ‘Skandi’ style with contemporary lighting and fittings, mid-century furniture and individually designed bathrooms. The hotel is a great base to explore the Cotswolds.
StayCotswold: For a self-catered stay, StayCotswold has a fantastic range of cottages, barns and family homes to hire. Their wide portfolio of luxury self-catering properties can cater for couples looking for a romantic bolthole, to larger family or friends groups looking to get together in Oxfordshire. From secluded rural locations, to village and town properties the StayCotswold portfolio has something for everyone.
Day 4 – Ridgeway
An optional bolt-on to your itinerary is to explore the Ridgeway Trail in the south of Oxfordshire. The Ridgeway itinerary can be done in 3 days walking, or in 2 days by car. Travel south from the Cotswolds to Faringdon to begin the trail.