Oxfordshire

Rolling hills, areas of outstanding natural beauty and pretty villages are only half the story of Oxfordshire. Take a trip to Oxford, the city of spires, to discover the fascinating architecture, history and the cosmopolitan atmosphere of one England’s finest cities.

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Oxfordshire Overview

Welcome to Oxfordshire

Oxfordshire is a rural landlocked county in the south west of England bordered by Warwickshire, Northamptonshire, Buckinghamshire, Berkshire, Wiltshire and Gloucestershire.

Oxfordshire has a population of around 700,000 people and thousands of visitors a year. The county town is the city of Oxford with other important towns at Banbury, Abingdon, Bicester and Witney.

The stunning landscape of Oxfordshire includes the rolling hills of the Cotswolds, the wooded hills of the Chilterns and the open hills of the North Wessex Downs. The landscape is dotted with yellow stone cottages and chocolate box villages. The River Thames flows through Oxfordshire, spilling over onto the surrounding flood plains and is tracked by the Thames Path National Trail.


History

Oxfordshire’s history was largely agricultural but the wool trade of the 13th century brought wealth to the region, particularly in areas such as the Cotswolds.

The formation of Morris Motors in 1912 brought engineering to the county and the Cowley plant still makes the Mini, though agriculture retains its importance to the regional economy.
Oxford University was founded in 1096 and later grew into the world famous institution that we know today.

Tourism is a significant part of the county’s economy, the academic centre attracting huge numbers of visitors each year to the famous spires of learning and study, and to the wider areas of the Cotswolds.


Places to Visit in Oxfordshire

Oxfordshire has a wide variety of number of days out for all the family including Banbury Museum, Cotswold Wildlife Park – the largest privately owned animal collection in the UK and the River & Rowing Museum at Henley-on-Thames. Other attractions include the Cowley Mini plant, Oxford Bus Museum, Didcot Railway Centre – Museum of the Great Western Railway and the Chinnor & Princes Railway which runs along the foot of the Chilterns. If you are looking for gardens, then a lot of the stately homes will be of interest, whilst other gardens include the attractive Waterperry Gardens, Stonor Park Gardens and the diverse collection at Oxford University Botanic Gardens. For those looking to escape and relax Oxfordshire’s Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty are real delight – you can explore the rolling hills and delightful villages and find some great spots for refreshments.

Of course, when in Oxfordshire a visit to the spires city of Oxford is essential. The architecture of the university buildings is spectacular – see Bodleian Library – the second largest in the UK, the magnificent Radcliffe Camera and the Sheldonian Theatre.

Elsewhere you can discover Hertford Bridge – the Bridge of Sighs, the historic covered market, Tom Tower designed by Christopher Wren and Oxford Castle, often overshadowed by the university buildings, is well worth a visit.

Oxfordshire has a large number of stately homes open to the public to visit. Where better to start than the stunning Blenheim Palace; ornate rooms, expansive grounds with a huge lake, a miniature railway and the highlight of Fair Rosamund’s Well make it a great place to visit. The Palace is also used as a venue to host events throughout the year – art and crafts, jousting and horse trials all take place here. Kingston Bagpuize House dates back to the 17th century, enjoy a tour of the house but the real highlight are the gardens where you can take in the terrace walk and displays of colour. Milton Manor House is an 18th century house with an impressive library, whilst outside you can enjoy the gardens including the lakes and woodland walks. Elsewhere in Oxfordshire you will find Mapledurham House, set alongside banks of the River Thames the estate dates back to the Doomsday Book. Inside is a stunning curved Tudor staircase whilst outside you will find a working water mill – the only one on the Thames. Greys Court, Cotswold Manor House, Chastleton House, Ardinglton House, Buscot Park and Broughton Castle are amongst other stately homes in the county – you really are spoilt for choice!
Old Father Thames passes between lovely towns and villages including Abingdon, Wallingford and Henley.

Oxfordshire’s famous names include Edward the Confessor, actor Hugh Laurie, designer Stephen Hawking, chef Rick Stein, former tennis player Tim Henman and former Prime Minister Winston Churchill.

Oxfordshire has a large range of annual events including St. Giles Fair, the Oxford Literary Festival, the Cowley Road Carnival, the May Morning, the Oxfordshire Shakespeare Festival, Blenheim Horse Trials and a series of rowing regattas – Torpids, The Christ Church regatta and Summer Eights.

The county’s famous food includes Oxford Skate – sausages, Banbury Cakes, New College Pudding – which dates from the 17th century, Frank Cooper’s Marmalade and Oxford Bishop – a drink of which will soon warm you up!


Getting There

Oxfordshire is readily accessible by road – the M40 links to the M25 for visitors from London and the South, whilst the A34 links to the M4 and the A40 to the M5.

By rail, Oxford is just an hour from both London – Paddington Station and Birmingham and there are links from the South West, Bristol and South Wales.



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