BOUTIQUE HOTELS IN OXFORDSHIRE
Oxfordshire has much to offer, from its fabulous architecture and wealth of museums to the rolling countryside of the Cotswolds. With the historic town of Oxford and the Cotswolds in its midst, it’s no wonder that Oxfordshire is such a popular choice for visitors. Stay at the Old Swan & Minster Mill
in the pretty Cotswold village of Minster Lovell, the first Chic Retreats recommended boutique hotel in Oxfordshire. There are rooms to suit all tastes: the Old Swan is a traditional countryside inn while Minster Mill is far more contemporary. Whichever you opt for in this Oxfordshire boutique hotel, you’ll want to eat in The Swan’s dining room and, depending on the season, either cosy up around the log fire in the bar or make the most of relaxing outside in the glorious gardens. For lunch, tuck into doorstep rare roast Oxfordshire beef sandwiches or a ploughmans salad; for dinner, dishes include baked gruyere cheese and baby onion tart and hearty Oxfordshire farm steak and hobgoblin ale pie. The picture postcard setting on the banks of the River Windrush really can’t be beaten and this is one of the best boutique hotels in Oxfordshire.
The city of Oxford is a major attraction and a visit could consist of peeking inside some of the 38 colleges that make up Oxford University. The most famous colleges are Christ Church (its Great Hall inspired Hogwarts Hall in the Harry Potter movies) and Magdalen but others include St Hilda’s which overlooks the river, St Edmund Hall with an atmospheric crypt and Brasenose, which has impressive gardens. The Bodleian Library is the largest university library in the UK and medieval Divinity School is a masterpiece of gothic architecture. Oxford also has two excellent museums: The Pitt Rivers museum which houses archaeology and anthropology and the Ashmolean Museum which has, among other things, the world’s largest collection of Raphael drawings, the most important collection of pre-Dynastic Egyptian material in Europe and modern Chinese art. If the weather is good, hire a boat from Salter’s Steamers or Cherwell Boathouse and take a slow punt along the river.
Shoppers looking for bargains should make a beeline for Bicester Village (guests of the Old Swan receive VIP pass), a designer shopping outlet on the edge of Bicester village with all kinds of labels from Anya Hindmarch to Jaeger. Blenheim Palace, one of the finest 18th-century baroque houses in the country, is another key point on the Oxfordshire map. As well as the house itself, there are 2000 acres of ‘Capability Brown' parkland and formal gardens, a butterfly house, giant maze and adventureplayground for children. Young ones might also like the Cotswold Wildlife Park or Didcot Railway Centre with its collection of steam engines, coaches and wagons (there are often special themed days with Thomas the Tank Engine, so enquire in advance about these).
You’ll come across plenty of market towns and villages, many of them with their own pubs. If you’re nearby, try The Royal Oak at Ramsden (Thursday is fixed-price steak night) or The Nut Tree in Murcot which has a Michelin-starred restaurant serving up dishes such as slow roasted belly of pork followed by hot cherry soufflé.