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Oxfordshire conjures up images of ethereal "dreaming spires", scholarly pursuits and thatched roofs, but there is much more to the county than one of the world's oldest and most famous universities. The landscape is varied, with the charming villages of the Cotswolds to the north and the rolling vistas of the Chilterns to the south. So plenty of the best places to stay in Oxfordshire aren't in fact near the famous county town at all.
Oxfordshire's scenery is well seen on foot or two wheels - if you're up for a more active Oxfordshire odyssey try the Green Belt Way, a fifty mile circular path around the city of Oxford itself, or the Oxfordshire Way, which stretches from Henley to Bourton on the Water. Even Oxford itself is very cyclist friendly - think of all those cyclists in gowns you see on "Inspector Morse".
If you're here to lap up the history and culture, you'll of course find plenty of that in Oxford, with its graceful architecture. Well-heeled Henley is also worth a look, an elegant, riverside town known for its regatta.
What Not To Miss
- A trip to Oxford wouldn't be complete without visiting the Bodleian Library, Oxford University's main library. Established in 1602 and home to over 12 million items, this is Britain's second-largest library and definitely one of the most beautiful. With stunning interiors and breathtaking architecture, this is a tremendously atmospheric spot.
- Take the whole family on a day out to the Cotswold Wildlife Park, a 160-acre area of parkland boasting more than 260 animal species. Filled with giraffes, zebras, lemurs, lions and more, you can watch the penguins being fed and pet the goats in the farmyard. What's more, there's an adventure playground to help the kids let off some steam.
- Be sure to visit Broughton Castle and enjoy a picnic afterwards in the lovely gardens. This moated and fortified manor house, whose core was built as early as 1306, boasts wonderfully historic interiors as well as a tearoom in which to relax after a tour.
- Wander around Oxford's Covered Market, an indoor bazaar dating back to the 1770's and home to a number of artisan grocers, boutique shops and bustling cafés.
The best places to stay in Oxfordshire provide a good base from which to explore, and don't forget to make sure that Blenheim Palace in Woodstock is on your radar with its beautiful gardens by Capability Brown or Wallingford Castle dating back to the medieval period.
- The Randolph is an Oxford institution. The building, in the centre of town, is Gothic revival, but with a fashionable vibe, and the baronial restaurant is a 'place to go' for locals as well as visitors. It has a spa, antiques, family suites, free wifi and a great wine list. Plus, it's the best (and only) place to stay in Oxford if you're looking for five stars.
- Clad gracefully in wisteria, The Old Parsonage looks like a country house that has been deposited bang in the centre of Oxford. It offers elegant rooms and great food.
- Malmaison Oxford has become well-known for the previous inhabitants of the building - prisoners. Yes, this now quirky and contemporary hotel was once a castle and a prison; it still has the heavy doors, with their telltale dents, and barred windows to prove it.
- If you're happy with spires and traditional sandstone outside contasting with something a bit more contemporary inside, book a room at the Old Bank Hotel.
Oxfordshire is a great base for exploring the Cotswolds - here's our pick of the best spots:
- Located in the picturesque Burford, The Lamb Inn is a charming 14th century inn with a 2 AA Rosette restaurant and Michelin recommended bar. The seventeen rooms are all individually decorated with traditional colours, often complemented by antique furniture.
- Burford House occupies a 17th century building in the heart of Burford with comfortable, elegant interiors and a good restaurant specialising in locally sourced produce.
- Or you could check out the Old Swan and Minster Mill, an excellent gastropub with simple but luxurious accommodation.
- The Manoir aux Quat' Saisons is Raymond Blanc's famous and fabulous establishment where the rooms are as elegant and pleasing as the two Michelin-starred food. Give yourself the ultimate treat and book a cookery course on site.
- The Feathers is within spitting distance of Blenheim Palace. Come here for the delicious award-winning food served in the restaurant where the emphasis is on modern English cuisine from locally sourced produce.
- The Bell is an intimate 9 room property in the village of Hampton Poyle. Offering tasteful accommodation with plenty of egyptian cotton and monsoon showers, it's also wonderfully located to enjoy some of the best walks and bike rides in the region.
- The Trout At Tadpole Bridge boasts an intimate atmosphere in a secluded setting, backing onto the River Thames. This classic country inn features 6 smartly decorated rooms and an AA rosette winning restaurant - what more could you ask for?
- Set in an historic country house with an ivy-clad exterior façade, The Manor, Oxfordshire is a dreamy spot. Come here for elegant rooms with traditional interiors and roaring log fires in common areas. With lovely gardens and a fine dining restaurant, it's the ideal country retreat.
For great value
- Miller of Mansfield in Goring on Thames is a traditional, ivy-covered inn in a charming village setting. The restaurant and bar have won awards, the 15 rooms and suites suites have been individually designed and it overlooks the river. What's more, rooms start from just £80 per night.
For something else!
- The Crazy Bear Hotel is a total one-off. Eclectic and eccentric, this converted coaching inn just outside Oxford is ideal for a surprise weekend away.
For An Apartment Or Cottage
- If you think a self-catering option would best suit your needs then check out the wide variety available online with our partner, booking.com.
- With a temperate maritime climate year round, there's never exactly a bad time to visit Oxfordshire. The weather's at its nicest however during the summer, with the average temperature reaching 16°C in July and August.
- That said, this is peak season and so expect Oxford itself to be mobbed with tourists and prices to be higher. So, it may be a good option to visit later on in the Autumn; when the surrounding countryside turns a series of beautiful colours and there's a quieter atmosphere.
- International visitors should either fly into London Heathrow or Birmingham Airport. From Heathrow you can take the train, which serves a number of destinations in Oxfordshire, whilst Birmingham Airport also has its own train station.
- For car hire prices, we recommend you visit our online partner Holiday Autos.
Still not sure which to book?
- Browse through our list of all the best places to stay in Oxfordshire.
- Expand your search to look through the best places to stay in neighbouring Gloucestershire or Wiltshire.
- Or, contact one of our friendly Gurus for advice.
Best Hotels in Oxfordshire
Miller of Mansfield 15 rooms from $117Goring on Thames, Oxfordshire
Traditional ivy-covered inn in village setting. Acclaimed restaurant, bar, individually designed suites, Overlooking the river.Romantic - Good for couples.Great walks - Good for walkers.Recommended by - I Escape, Sawdays
The Lamb Inn 17 rooms from $163Burford
This 18th century inn is more than just another Cotswolds B&B. Curl up with a book next to an open fire or explore the rose scented gardens. Rooms are spacious with antique oak furniture and colourful fabric. Bathrooms have original wood floors. An award winning restaurant serves seasonal cuisine.Great walks - Combine a walk through this typical Cotswolds town with a traditional cream tea.Sights nearby - The university town of Oxford is 20 miles away and well worth a visit.Four poster beds - For romantics.Birdwatching - Good birding near the hotel.Recommended by - Frommers, Good Hotel Guide, Johansens
The Bell 9 rooms from $169Oxfordshire
Set in the pretty rural village of Hampton Poyle a boutique hotel, pub and restaurant. The nine rooms offer egyptian cotton bed linen, large beds, luxury toiletries and bathrooms with monsoon showers or roll-top baths. The restaurant specialises in pizza and fish. A great country escape.Great walks - Walking in the Cotswolds provides a wealth of choices with gentle strolls, hilly hikes and a variety of circular walksSights nearby - Visit the historic UNESCO world heritage Blenheim PalaceFull of characterRecommended by - Good Hotel Guide
The Trout at Tadpole Bridge 6 rooms from $169Faringdon, Oxfordshire
The Trout at Tadpole Bridge is a welcoming Inn, backing on to a rural section of the Thames with its own private mooring. Six comfortable rooms, "classic country" in style, located around a pretty courtyard away from the bustle. The AA rosette restaurant steals the show. A wonderful country treat.Great walks - For an afternoon stroll there is Buscot Park and Gardens; for serious ramblers the Thames Path is on your doorstep.Sights nearby - The famous Blenheim Palace and William Morris' Kelmscott Manor are both nearby.Sailing - The hotel has its own river and private mooring for guests.Views - Some of the rooms have lovely river viewsRecommended by - Sawdays, Good Hotel Guide
Old Swan and Minster Mill 16 rooms from $202Witney, The Cotswolds
Renovated old mill in 60 acres of woodland and orchards. Traditional charm, period features. Antiques and modern comfort. Dining room with gastro pub. Riverside gardens fishing.5* Luxury - Very high service standards.SpaGreat walks - Good for walkers.Fishing - Excellent fishing nearby.Recommended by - Johansens, Sawdays
The Manor, Oxfordshire 25 rooms from $215Bicester, Oxfordshire
Elegant and historic country house hotel just a stone's throw from Bicester Village. Twenty five well appointed and elegant rooms feature stylish, traditional furnishings. Dinner is served in the stunning wood panelled Baron's Hall and the gardens are beautiful. Perfect for a romantic break.Sights nearby - Within easy reach of Oxford, Blenheim Palace and the Cotwolds villages.Swimming Pool - Outdoor heated pool, open during summer months.
Malmaison Oxford 95 rooms from $233Oxford (3 New Road)
Fantastically modern interiors and stunning atrium in this atmospheric castle and former prison. Sleep in converted cells with original fittings and Gothic colours. New, airier rooms are also available in the additional buildings. Good brasserie food and a smart neon-lit cocktail bar.City Style - Modern hotel in the heart of historic OxfordLocal markets - Oxford Covered MarketSights nearby - Bridge of SighsGreat walks - Good for walkers.Recommended by - Frommers, Good Hotel Guide, Kiwi Collection
Old Parsonage Hotel 35 rooms from $254Oxford
A luxury boutique hotel in a wonderfully old building. The rooms have simple contemporary design. Bathrooms are pleasingly indulgent. A small but well stocked library is awaiting academics. The restaurant is excellent. Highly recommended.Writing a novel - This recently refurbished masterpiece was once home to Oscar Wilde, sit in the luxurious library and draw inspiration.Great walks - Book a guided walking tours of the city and University Colleges.Sights nearby - Visit any one of the 38 University Colleges.Full of characterRecommended by - Tablet, Frommers, Good Hotel Guide, Sawdays
Old Bank Hotel 42 rooms from $254Oxford
Sophisticated hotel with buzzing restaurant and bar. Tudor interiors updated with chic styling and large beds. Discreet and laid back luxury and perfectly positioned for sights. Contemporary art on the walls. An ideal city stay.Local exploring - Neighbouring some of the oldest Oxford colleges and within walking distance of shops, theatre and the city’s Botanical Gardens.City Style - Georgian alcoves, wood-paneled walls and large sash windows meet bold modern art and understated elegant interiors.Sights nearby - Plenty of sights to see nearby, the hotel is opposite St Mary’s Church, and neighbouring University and Merton.Great walks - Riverside and meadow walks from the hotel or walking tours with a guide.Recommended by - Tablet, Frommers, Good Hotel Guide
Crazy Bear Hotel 16 rooms from $259Stadhampton, Oxfordshire
Eclectic, eccentric – a one off converted coaching inn. Think padded leather walls, silver beds, copper free standing baths. A London red bus sits decoratively in the garden. The two restaurants serve traditional British or Thai food. Best for wacky weekends away.Romantic Break - In room freestanding baths and intimate dining areas make for a romatic weekend away.Fishing - Fly fishing is organised by the hotel both for events or just a day out.Great walks - Explore the 80 acres of parklands with rare bread farm and woods.Full of character
The Randolph 151 rooms from $268Oxford
Robustly elegant, quintessentially English and extremely comfortable, The Macdonald Randolph Hotel is perfectly situated on the corner of Beaumont Street and St Giles, within easy walking distance of enough historic sites to satiate the appetite of the most culturally hungry traveller.Great walks - Oxford's size makes it a wonderful city to explore on foot, wander the streets and soak up the history.SpaFour poster beds - For romantics.Recommended by - Frommers, Good Hotel Guide
Le Manoir aux Quat’ Saisons 32 rooms from $671Great Milton, Oxfordshire
Raymond Blanc hotel and restaurant. Beautiful country manor. Extensive gardens, acclaimed restaurant, luxurious rooms.Cooking classes - Raymond Blanc's cookery schoolGourmetFoodiesRomantic - Good for couples.Recommended by - Tablet, Good Hotel Guide, Kiwi Collection, Relais & Chateaux, Michelin Travel