OXFORDSHIRE

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Oxford Merton CollegeMother to, and probably best known for, the university town of Oxford, Oxfordshire is nevertheless in possession of many other charming attractions. For the history buffs, there are the royal palaces and country homes used by the nobility of the bygone eras, nature trails and supernatural ghost hunts for those who want to be closer to earth, and museums for those who want something a bit more educational.

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Formerly dependent on agriculture grown on its fertile lands, the sector is now nearly fully mechanised and the economy is focused elsewhere – namely to promoting it's dashing physical attributes. Accommodation can be found here at hotels and B&Bs, usually housed in grand old mansions or quaint old-fashioned houses with creeping trellises and stonewashed exterior. Most hotels provide breakfast, and the rest of the meals can be taken at any one of the numerous inns or tea rooms.


Aside from all those, the villages themselves have beautiful architect
ure, dating back to the 17th century and well-preserved. Hearty English food is abundant here, and the people are generally nice.

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                   Points of Interest.  1. Oxford  2. Woodstock  3. Uffington White Horse  4. Henley-on-Thames

 

        
  

   


  

   



King Alfred statueEnduring until modern times, Oxford (pop. 153,500) was also home to Neolithic remnants of past civilisations thought to have made their home there during the Bronze Age. Overlooked during the Roman colonization, the Saxons found much use for it as a trade route between Mercia and Wessex, at that time important trading points in the Saxon territory. Eventually the strategic location of Oxford caught the eye of the scholar-ruler King Alfred (rumoured to have founded the Oxford University), and it became part of the network of fortified burghs, or towns, during his reign. Unfortunately, the Danes successfully burnt Alfred’s practical idea to the ground, and when it came time to decide which Dane would be crowned King of England, the coronation took place in a newly-rebuilt Oxford town.

As time went by, Oxford attracted scholars and clerics from around Europe, becoming a centre for learning, until, once again, it was burnt to the ground. Next came the quarrels of the cousins Empress Maud and King Stephen (some would recognize him from Ellis Peters’ Brother Cadfael novels), which caused the destruction of the Oxford Castle. The next disaster came in the form of the Black Plague, and about a hundred years later, the sweating sickness. Despite a predilection for historical trauma that included the incarceration of academic heretics and burning of  Protestants by the church, and persecution by Oliver Cromwell, Oxford eventually settled down as an industrial town with a large student and immigrant population. This is the good old Oxford we know today.

 


Oxford from the airThe town centre of Oxford (pop. 153,700) is home to the University Church of St Mary the Virgin, a gorgeous spiraling church from which much of the university and college buildings spread outward. Not only does it serve as a good starting point for those who want to visit the hallowed buildings of academia, but the tower also provides a bird’s eye view of Oxford’s breathtaking architecture. Further down are the town’s shopping attractions – Clarendon and Westgate.

Soon to be refurbished, Westgate is sure to fulfill even the most active shopper’s heart. With the refurbishment also comes a newer, better transport system for the whole city, making ease of getting from one location to another much more convenient.
Christ Church

Oxford main attraction – and rightly so – is definitely the architecture. Boasting structures from a multitude of eras, Oxford is chock full of gorgeous structures that have religious significance, from lovingly-kept parish churches to places of worship with spiraling towers. Many of the sacred buildings are integrated into the university grounds – the abovementioned University Church of St Mary the Virgin serves as the official university church, and the church of St Philip and St James is now the Oxford Centre for mission studies. Even the smallest cathedral in England – the beautifully detailed Christ Church, with stained glass by Jonah Window and ceilings by William Orchard – is the official church for Christ Church College.

For history buffs, the churches of St Michael and St Giles will provide hours of reminiscent pleasure. Wonderfully old brickwork buildings, with old-fashioned square towers, St Michael is located at the North Gate of Oxford and is the oldest building on Oxford, while St Giles is a little way down from Clarendon Street in the middle of town.

The university grounds and buildings themselves are worth a visit. Merton College, the oldest college in Oxford, boasts lodgings of stoic English structure, replete with ivy hugging the faded brick façade.

Church interiorThe library of St Edmund’s Hall, is the St Peter-in-the-East church, a building that has had additions until the 16th century since its original foundation in the 12th century, providing an interesting study in religious architecture of different eras in one place.

Not to be missed is the beautiful Magdalen College, with its fair stonework and cloistered surrounding, giving the area a secluded feel, separate from much if modern Oxford.

Oxford too is home and resting place to one of Magdalen’s most famous members – C. S. Lewis. The creator of Narnia lived at The Kilns in the eastern suburb of Oxford. Now renamed Lewis Close, the house is refurbished and cared for by the C. S. Lewis Foundation, allowing tours occasionally by appointment. Lewis’ final resting place at the Holy Trinity Church, walking distance from The Kilns, and open to visitor’s on summer weekends.

 

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Hotels 

   


To compare Oxford hotel prices that are available right now simply enter your dates into the search box at the left. The world's major hotel booking services will compete to give you the best price.

 

Or directly contact one of our listings below.

Victoria House Hotel [29 George Street, +44 1865727400, £85].  Situated opposite Oxford’s New Theatre, and within walking distance of the Oxford Playhouse, the Sheldonian Theatre, the Bodleian Library and Christ Church, the hotel’s location in the centre of town is well worth it if you are willing to pay for convenience.

Isis Guest House [45 - 53 Iffley Road, +44 1865 613700, £37 - £45 per person].  This cosy place is ten minutes away from Oxford centre, and provides both standard and en-suite options with the rooms. A hearty English breakfast is provided for all guests.

 

Whitehouse View Guesthouse [9 Whitehouse Road, Grandpont, +44 1865 721626, from £40 ].  Located in a lovely building about ten minutes from the centre of Oxford,  Whitehouse provides en suite facilities, wireless internet connections and is child-friendly.

Cornerways Guest House [282 Abingdon Road, +44 1865 240135, £60 per person]
Cornerways is located near a bus stop, providing easy transport to the town centre. It has en suite rooms, WiFi and a choice of English, continental or vegetarian breakfast.

Acorn Guest House [260 Iffley Road, +44 1865 247998, £30-£35 per person].  This large Edwardian brick house is just off the road from High Street and other historic locations. Most bedrooms are en suite, and WiFi is provided, and the Guest House has two resident dogs.

Browns Guest House [281 Iffley Road, +44 1865 246822, from £45 per room].  Oxford High Street is ten minutes away from Browns, a large Victorian house. Most bedrooms are en suite, and breakfast is provided.

 

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Blenheim PalaceStarting out as a royal forest that saw the courting of fair Rosamund by Henry II, to a humble coach stop, Woodstock (pop. 2,924) eventually became a royal retiring location for the Dukes of Marlborough. Although it had once thrived as a glove manufacturing centre, the economy of Woodstock is now mainly in the hands of tourists who come to see the royal lodgings. The small scenic town provides much to see in terms of architecture, with several famous buildings and a charming village history. Located somewhat north of prestigious Oxford, the town of Woodstock is divided by the River Glyme into the New and the Old. Many of the lovely buildings in the centre of the township were built in the 17th century, lending a stoic quaintness to the overall village.

Blenheim Palace GardensThe major attraction of Woodtsock is the Blenheim Palace. This gorgeously overdone structure stretches the term 'countryhouse' with it's luxuriously baroque exterior, and perhaps this excess should be expected, as the palace was designed by the playwright and architect Sir John Vanbrugh, known for his support of women's rights and offensive forward thinking in the 16th century. It is surrounded by an amazing landscape garden that is home to such grandiose vanity as a whale-sized bridge and Column of Victory. Dogged by controversy and inadequate funding even during it's construction, the palace now stands as a memory of former opulence.

Another historic location is the house of Geoffrey Chaucer. The author, poet and philosopher whom many thank for giving credit to the English language as a literary language owned a large square house along Park Lane (also called Chaucer's Lane), with an accompanying servant's cottage to it's right. The house itself can be easily viewed by avid literature fans, but it is sadly a private residence and does not admit visitors.

Oxfordshhire MuseumThe cheerful Oxfordshire Museum is located in the centre of Woodstock. A large, pale pink building known as Fletcher's House, with a shock of fuschia creepers clinging thickly to one facade, it houses a collection of local artwork, popular culture, history and wildlife. Its archaelogy section has a Dinosaur park with a full-size replica of a Megalosaurus for the dinolovers. With new exhibits ranging from Marvel Superheroes to Steel Sculptures in the lovely gardens, it's surprising that admission is free.

On a side note, Woodstock and its surroundings have been used quite regularly as a filming location, playing host to Hamlet, The Avengers and Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade. The river that splits Woodstock is also a source of interest – for those who like to enjoy the landscape during their holidays, the Glyme Valley Way is a natural footpath that follows the river's course, beginning at Woodstock and ending at Chipping Norton.

Hotels
The
Blenheim Tea Rooms and Guest House
[17 Park Street, +44 1993 813814, £50 for single occupancy].  The Guest House has been featured in various film and tv programmes, no doubt because of it's incredibly English-village aura. True to its name, light lunches and scrumptious cream teas are served at the tea room, and every bedroom has basic shower and wireless facilities.

The Laurels [40 Hensington Road, +44 1993 812583 ]   Situated at a lovely brick house of victorian design, charmingly furnished in typical english fashion, with wrought-iron beds and comfortable bedding. The perfect place for the health-conscious, The Laurels upholds a non-smoking policy and provides a vegetarian alternative in its breakfast menu.

Bear Hotel [Park Street, +44 1993 811124].  A cozy old hotel that has seen royalty and celebrity as guests, the Bear Hotel is a place of old-fashioned warmth and hospitality. Newly refurbished, it is disabled- and gay-friendly.

Woodstock's Own B&B
[59 Oxford Street, +44 1993 810040].   A B&B with a cafe of it's own, Woodstock's Own is situated a few minutes away from the heart of the town. The rooms are comfortable and have an en suite bathroom, and each room is furnished in a clean, homely style.

 

 


Uffington White HorseDating back to the late Bronze Age, this outline of a white horse has spawned many a theory on its origins. Some say it is the representation of the steed St George rode to slay the dragon at  nearby Dragon Hill – or even the dragon itself, or perhaps a memorial by King Alfred's men after the Battle of Ashdown. The generally accepted explanation is that the white chalk scoured deep into the hillside is a representation of the Celtic horse goddess Epona, worshiped by the local Belgae tribe. Dating back to the late Bronze Age, the Horse in slightly more modern times was paid tribute to during a festival every seven years that began with the ritual scouring of the outlines, and became a celebration that included cheese rolling and wrestling. Now the caretaking of this ancient site is the responsibility of English Heritage

 



Henley rowing boatsThis wistful town (pop. 10,700) , situated by the river Thames, is a lovely spot to put up your feet and take a break. Passed through history as a reward to those who were loyal to the crown,and greatly affected by the Black Death, Hensley nevertheless prospered in the 18th century in manufacturing and trading, as well as its location as a port. The modern town has a railway station that leads to Paddington in London, and its riverbank aura has led it to be feature location for the filming of Midsomer Murders several times.

As one of the most widely known rowing events, Henley's hosting of the annual Royal Regatta began in 1839. The races take place over a period of five days, with events ranging from those for student crews, to women's single sculler events. Much like the races at Ascot, the Regatta holds a special place in the social calendars of the royalty and upper class, with royal patronage beginning in 1851.

Henley museumHenley is also home to the River and Rowing Museum, the building itself designed by the modernist hand of architect David Chipperfield and winning design awards. The oakwood walls and use of glass allow an unadulterated view of the riverside location. Exhibitions on everything from rowing uniforms, the Wind in the Willows, art collections, and the interactive Schwarzenbach International Rowing Gallery provide hours of interested perusal for visitors.

For the more outdoorsy tourist, Henley is home to a variety of farmer's markets, both local and continental. The markets, believed to have been in existence since 1269, takes place on Thursdays and is located at the Market Place in the centre of Henley.

Henley-on-Thames bridgeThe lovely Henley Bridge, built over the river Thames, is also worth a look. A stone bridge with five arches, it was built to replace a wooden bridge in existence before 1786. The central arch of the bridge is home to sculptures of Isis and Tamesis (for which Thames is named) by the English sculptress and globetrotter Anne Seymour Damer.