Your Guide to
Oxford and Woodstock
“Dreaming spires and literary legends”
Forever immortalised as a city of ‘dreaming spires’ in Matthew Arnold’s poem Thyrsis, Oxford is an enchanting city to visit. Follow in the footsteps of history as you explore the atmospheric universities, historic buildings, museums, and medieval streets. These all provided memorable inspiration for literary greats such as C. S. Lewis, J.R.R Tolkien and Lewis Carroll, to name but a few.
Whilst renowned across the globe for its history and scholarly accolades, Oxford is also a very modern city. Within its old buildings and hidden lanes, you’ll find a wealth of diverse dining, shopping and entertainment venues. Outwardly, Oxford may be cloaked in tradition. Delve a little deeper and you’ll also find a city that is fully embracing the 21st century.
Just eight miles away lies the equally enchanting town of Woodstock with its regal UNESCO World Heritage Site – Blenheim Palace. This 300-year-old palace is the birthplace of Sir Winston Churchill and a fascinating place to explore. Afterwards, discover the thriving creativity that is alive and well in Woodstock as you delve into the myriad art galleries, jewellery designers and antique emporiums.
We hope you enjoy your stay in this much-loved part of the Cotswolds. To help you plan your days we’ve put together a collection of our favourite experiences so you can make the most of your time with our Oxford and Woodstock Guide.
Arguably the most impressive of the Oxford colleges. Christ Church has a long and impressive list of alumni including Lewis Carroll and 13 Prime Ministers. The college has appeared in the Harry Potter films and is most recognisable as the grand stairwell at Hogwarts. It’s definitely worth a visit, but can be extremely busy.
Alongside its part in the Harry Potter films (it’s home to the tree where Mad-Eye Moody turns Draco into a ferret), New College has a stunning garden and a world-renowned choir. The chapel is home to some exceptional art including an original El Greco, which is occasionally lent out to the Ashmolean.
Explore 1,000 years of history at Oxford Castle and Prison. Join a knowledgeable guide for a walk through time. Climb St George’s Tower for wonderful panoramic views of Oxford, descend underground into the murk of the candle-lit crypt, and learn what life was like for prisoners in the jail, which sits at the heart of the castle.
Standing in the very centre of Oxford, this is the spiritual heart of the oldest university in Great Britain. Adjacent to the Radcliffe Camera, the church is free to enter. However, there is a small charge if you want to climb the tower which dates to 1280. There are 127 medieval steps but the view over Oxford from the top is well worth the effort.
Enjoy this most traditional of Oxford experiences. Depart from the Cherwell Boathouse under your own steam and float gently down the tranquil River Cherwell, through beautiful countryside, for a very special experience. Alternatively, if you would prefer to let someone else steer your boat, then leave from Magdalen Bridge Boathouse and sit back and relax with a chauffeured punt.
Founded in July 1621, this is the oldest botanic garden in the UK and was the birthplace of botanical sciences at the university. The gardens today are an oasis in the heart of Oxford and house more than 5,000 different plant species. It’s one of the most diverse gardens in the world.
Birthplace of Sir Winston Churchill, the 300-year-old Palace is home to the 12th Duke of Marlborough and his family. It also houses one of the most important and extensive art collections in Europe. Portraits, tapestries and sculptures are among the many treasures on display in the opulent rooms of the Palace, which is listed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
Saint Martin’s Church in the village of Bladon is the final resting place of Sir Winston Churchill and other members of the Churchill family. Visitors from around the world travel to see his grave in a corner of the churchyard and the stained-glass window that was installed in the church in 2015 to commemorate the 50th anniversary of his death.
The original sawmill and workshop of the Blenheim Palace estate, the Grade II-listed Combe Mill is a working industrial museum that gives an insight into life at the mill in Victorian times. The Riverside tearoom is open every Wednesday and there is a picnic area by the River Evenlode.
Founded in 1683, the Ashmolean is the University of Oxford’s Museum of art and archaeology. Its world-famous collections cover a vast spectrum of artefacts from Egyptian mummies to outstanding, contemporary art. Keep an eye on the website for various exhibitions throughout the year.
Enjoy a behind-the-scenes tour of one of the oldest working libraries in the world. As well as visiting the Divinity School, Duke Humfrey’s Library, Convocation House and Chancellors Court, you will also get to see the remarkable Radcliffe Camera. This is one of Oxford’s most distinctive buildings and is usually only accessible to members of the university or Bodleian card holders.
Modern Art Oxford is a leading contemporary art space that showcases exhibitions and artist commissions, and aims to be accessible to the widest possible audience. Entrance to both the galleries and exhibitions is free although you are required to book your entrance time ahead of schedule.
Founded in 1884, the Pitt Rivers Museum of Anthropology and Archaeology is much-loved and unlike any other museum. Housed within an atmospheric building, it is a collection of more than 500,000 objects, photographs and manuscripts from around the world. These collections are of exceptional range and depth and uniquely are organised not by time, geography or culture, but by type.
Established in 2002, this large independent gallery specialises in contemporary paintings and original prints, sculpture, ceramics and jewellery created by UK and international artists. Over 300 artworks are on display at any one time, with exhibitions changing every six to eight weeks.
Fancy trying your hand at code breaking, sitting in a D-Day glider or standing in a Great War trench? A must for keen historians, the Soldiers of Oxfordshire Museum (SOFO) is dedicated to military history and tells the stories of local people involved in conflicts throughout history via engaging and immersive experiences.
Find no fewer than 12 established and experienced antique dealers, many of whom are members of the prestigious Cotswolds Art and Antique Dealers Association and the British Antique Dealers Association, under one roof in a 15th-century building in the heart of Woodstock. A treasure trove for collectors or those looking for a unique memento to take home.
This is the UK’s largest artist open-studio and pop-up exhibition event. It showcases a huge range of creativity including painting, photography, textile, sculpture, jewellery, ceramics and glass, through pop-up galleries, gardens, ships and more. You’ll get to meet the inspiring artists in a variety of unique spaces.
The Oxford Literary Festival is a feast for the literary senses with a wide range of authors and speakers from across the globe. Events take place around the city, many of which sell out well in advance.
A highlight of the equestrian sporting calendar, this world-class international event attracts visitors from far and wide each year. In addition to the renowned eventing displays, enjoy shopping, delicious food and drink, and children’s entertainment all set against a backdrop of the spectacular Blenheim Palace.
Usually held over the August bank holiday weekend, this free-to-attend festival takes place in Woodstock’s town square and offers fun for all the family. The event runs from 1pm to 10pm with musicians and bands performing to crowds fuelled by the festival’s plentiful food and drink offerings.
Perfect for: tapas, sharing platters
Arbequina is a simply furbished, bohemian tapas bar offering sharing dishes from Spain and beyond. Dine at the long steel counter and watch the chefs at work or in the first-floor dining room, which suits larger parties. It’s much-loved by the locals and has a fun and sociable atmosphere. Pre-booking is recommended – no under-12s in the restaurant after 4.30 pm.
Perfect for: special occasions, lunch, dinner
Tucked away in the pretty Oxfordshire countryside, this two Michelin-starred restaurant is where French flair sits shoulder to shoulder with English heritage. Legendary chef-patron Raymond Blanc’s vision has created a very special place that is regarded as one of the finest restaurants in Great Britain. Pre-booking well in advance is essential.
Perfect for: lunch, dinner
This cosy French restaurant was opened back in 1996 as a place for people to enjoy traditional French food, skillfully prepared in a relaxed, warm environment. The menus follow the seasons but there’s also a list of signature dishes as determined by their loyal customers. The wine list is excellent and well-priced. Pre-booking is recommended.
Perfect for: breakfast, lunch, afternoon tea, dinner
Quod is a bit of an Oxford tradition and is a smart, bistro-style restaurant set in a former bank. With a full menu that covers every dining option from breakfast through to dinner and everything in between, this is a buzzing, lively spot for a meal.
Perfect for: casual meals, well-kept beer
The Bear is worthy of a visit simply for its standing in Oxford history alone. Serving Oxford scholars since 1242, this tiny pub (seats just two dozen inside) offers a warm welcome and a great selection of real ales.
Perfect for: coffee, breakfast, lunch and everything in between
The Covered Market harks from the 18th century and is the place to go for everything from cookies and pies to fabulous cheese, fresh fish and the tiniest of wine cellars.
Perfect for: pub classics, Sunday roast, drinks, lunch
The Turf Tavern, or ‘the Turf’ is an Oxford institution, hidden away from the everyday view – take St Helen’s Passage under the Bridge of Sighs, follow the narrow twists and turns, until suddenly the pub comes into sight. It’s filled with character, oddly shaped rooms and tiny staircases, and is definitely atmospheric!
Perfect for: riverside drinks and dining
Just a short drive from the centre of Oxford, the Victoria (or Vicky) Arms sits on the banks of the River Cherwell and is a beautiful riverside pub full of history. The building dates back to the 17th century and once played host to Oliver Cromwell. Meals are hearty, seasonal elevated pub classics and in the summer months you can expect plenty of street food inspiration.
Perfect for: delicious sweet treats
Rome-born founder Lewis introduced Woodstock to the delights of authentic Italian gelato in 2020, with ice cream and sorbet flavours inspired by both Italian classics and local ingredients and desserts. Enjoy a scoop or two as you stroll and buy a tub to take home for the freezer.
Perfect for: lunch, dinner
Enjoy a taste of Italy in the heart of Woodstock at Brothertons Brasserie where chef Giovanni recreates the dishes of his homeland. Fresh homemade pastas and pizzas are served alongside locally produced meat and vegetables, offering the very best of both worlds.
Perfect for: brunch, lunch and deli dishes
Treat yourself to brunch, lunch or afternoon tea and cake in the café before stocking up on a tempting array of sweet and savoury goodies from the delicatessen to take home with you. As its name suggests, Hampers also offers ready-made and bespoke gift hampers that are filled with quality produce sourced from the British Isles and around the world.
Perfect for: lunch, dinner and superb Sunday roasts
A firm favourite with Sir Winston Churchill, The Killingworth Castle comes highly recommended by Michelin and was awarded a three-star ‘organic’ rating by The Soil Association. Enjoy a set two or three-course lunch menu or linger over a five or seven-course tasting menu in the evening, which can be accompanied by a wine flight.
Perfect for: drinks, bar snacks
After a bracing countryside walk, the dog-friendly Star Inn extends a warm welcome to visitors and their four-legged friends and serves a menu of comforting pub classics with vegetarian options. It also hosts a weekly quiz night on Thursdays.
Perfect for: breakfast, cosy pub lunches, dinner
With its rustic wooden beams, exposed stonework and large fireplace, The Woodstock Arms is the epitome of a quintessential country pub and serves classic fare in quaint and cosy surroundings, with the added benefit of a lovely courtyard for al fresco dining during the summer months.
Did you know?
Winston Churchill was born in Blenheim Palace and his grave is at St Martin’s Church in Bladon.
Shop till you drop at Bicester Village, a designer outlet shopping experience with more than 160 luxury designer boutiques. Explore British and international brands from around the globe and refresh with a choice of dining options. Access is easy with plenty of parking and a quick, direct train service from Oxford.
These eight acres of beautifully landscaped gardens were made famous by Beatrix Havergal, who established a School of Horticulture for Ladies here between 1932 and 1971. Areas to explore include the Formal Garden, Mary Rose Garden, Waterlily Canal and the Long Colour Garden.
See this beautiful city as the locals and students do, on two wheels. Take a guided tour and discover the hidden gems of Oxford with someone who knows the city like the back of their hand. Suitable for all ages and abilities, you can explore the ancient city streets or head out along the river into the countryside.
The village of Bampton doubles as the fictional village of Downton in Downton Abbey, so if you’re a fan of the hit television series you’re in for a treat. Follow in the footsteps of the famous Crawley family with the ‘Downton Abbey Mile’ map to see some of the locations and buildings that have featured in the hit show.
Built by Baron Ferdinand de Rothschild in 1874, Waddesdon Manor is managed by the Rothschild Foundation on behalf of the National Trust. The glorious gardens are home to ornate fountains, statues and an aviary of rare and exotic birds, and there’s a marked trail through the woodland where you’ll also find an adventure playground.
A visit to Heythrop Zoological Gardens is a truly unique experience. They are not open to the public on a day-to-day basis, their exclusive and meaningful animal experiences are by appointment only. Exclusive visits include a guided tour with one of their highly experienced trainers. The animal encounters give one-on-one interaction with the animal of your choice.
Waterperry Gardens held gardening courses called Dig for Victory Demonstrations on the last Saturday of the month during WWII
Divided into six zones, including Huff and Puff, Enchanted Walk and Fairy Dell, Fairytale Farm has something to keep the whole family entertained. With animals including pigs, goats, ponies, lambs, chickens, rabbits and alpacas, as well as an adventure playground, Fairytale Farm has enough to do to keep children occupied for hours. What’s more, because they’re having so much fun, it won’t feel like learning at all!
Explore the world of storytelling through immersive exhibitions, events, workshops and gallery spaces. The activities are interactive, multi-sensory and designed for families to enjoy the experience together.
Set on the edge of Oxford, the Shotover Country Park covers 289 acres and is a wonderful blend of hidden valleys, diverse habitats; it’s also a haven for wildlife. There are footpaths to explore and fabulous views from the top of Shotover Hill.
Millets Farm Falconry is a wonderful place for young and old to learn more about magnificent birds of prey. With more than 70 birds of prey, there are several daily events including young bird, keeper talks and flying demonstrations.
Give little tired legs a rest and explore the charms of Oxford from the top deck of a bright red, open top double-decker bus. Tickets are valid for 24 or 48 hours, there is a commentary aimed at younger passengers, and you can hop on and off 20 stops around the city
Set on the Daylesford organic farm, Bamford Spa offers a holistic approach to relaxation and healing. A range of treatments use both modern and ancient techniques to fully relax the body and let the mind quiet. Classes are available and you can purchase access to The Spring Wet Spa.
Thy Spa focuses on traditional Thai treatments including Thai massage. There are also a range of beauty treatments and packages including full and half days.
Experience weightlessness as you float away at the Oxford Floatation Centre. Floating in body-temperature water will ease you into a relaxed and peaceful state of mind. It’s also proven to improve sleep, alleviate stress and help with anxiety and fear. Combine this with time in the Infrared Sauna for the ultimate experience.
The new wellness centre at the Randolph features five treatment rooms and a wet area that includes a steam room, ice room, sauna and a Jacuzzi.
Selling founder Denise Leicester’s award-winning natural organic skincare products created in barns surrounded by rolling Cotswold hills, and offering a range of spa treatments, Ila Spa is a haven of peace and tranquillity where self-care is at the heart of everything it does.
Maeve O’Donnell has over 30 years of experience as a healthcare practitioner and offers both acupuncture and massage treatments at her clinic in nearby Stonesfield. She also offers home visits within a 15-mile radius.
Choose how you want to spend your time by booking either a spa day, a treatment or add on use of the pool facilities. This space only allows eight users at a time making it a truly relaxing experience.
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Please Note: Information correct at time of publishing. Please check the destination/attraction direct website before visiting to confirm opening hours and visitor details.