Often called the ‘City of Dreaming Spires’, Oxford is a truly magical city that’s famous around the world for its prestigious university. From exploring historic cobbled streets and hidden alleyways, to punting on the waters of the Cherwell, the centre of Oxford offers plenty of ways to mix up your time while you’re in town.
But if you’re able to get around by car, you’ll have even more options when it comes to putting your Oxford city break itinerary together. Set among the beautiful countryside of regions like the Cotswolds, Chilterns and North Wessex Downs, you can take your pick from a number of National Trust properties, wildlife parks and even the home of English gin!
To get you started, here are just a handful of our favourite day trips within an hours’ drive of Oxford.
Suitable for: fantastic family days out
How to get there: head west out of Oxford along the A40, pulling off just after Witney and taking a left down Brize Norton Road
Price: £10.95 for adults, £8.75 children off-peak, with reduced price family tickets also available
The UK’s only dedicated crocodile zoo, the spectacular Crocodiles of the World is a family day out like no other. Set among the beautiful countryside that surrounds Brize Norton, this unusual visitor attraction lets you get up close with some of the world’s most fearsome predators, with more than 15 different species to be found in spacious, purpose-built habitats across the site. Scary though they can be, these are truly fascinating creatures, and guests of all ages will love learning about how they live, hunt, and interact. Meanwhile, the park’s meerkats, otters, giant tortoises and kookaburras are likely to give you a friendlier reception!
Suitable for: history lovers
How to get there: take the A34 north out of Oxford before joining the M40 at junction 9, hopping off at junction 11 and passing through Banbury and out along Broughton Road
Price: £10.00 for adults, £6.00 for children and under 4s go free – £6.00 per person if you’d only like to explore the gardens
With a grand house having occupied this site for some 700+ years, there’s certainly history to be explored at the beautiful Broughton Castle. Set among stunning landscaped gardens and surrounded by a moat, this fortified country estate is like something from a fairy tale. If you’re lucky enough to visit on an open day, you’ll have the opportunity to stroll the grounds and battlements before heading inside to marvel at the intricate interiors, including grand vaulted ceilings and elegant tapestries. If you’re looking to experience England of an age gone by, it’s hard to beat Broughton Castle.
Suitable for: animal lovers of all ages
How to get there: journey west out of town along the A40, before taking a right turn at the junction with the A429 close to Northleach and heading into Bourton-on-the-Water
Price: £10.95 for adults, £7.95 for children, with reduced price family tickets also available
Step into the wild and find your wings on a trip to Birdland Park & Gardens. Set among nine acres of magical Cotswolds’ woodland, this special visitor attraction is home to more than 500 species of bird from every corner of the globe. As you move around the site, you’ll learn about these incredible animals’ Jurassic ancestors, as well as how conservation efforts are ensuring these birds still walk and fly among us in years to come. With England’s only breeding group of King Penguins, a whole host of adorable owls and colossally-sized cassowaries, there’s so much to look forward to.
Suitable for: a couples’ day out
How to get there: travel south out of the city along the A4074 until you reach Crowmarsh Gifford, where you’ll turn left along the A4130 and drive on until you reach the village of Bix
Price: £8.00 for adults, £4.00 for children and £20.00 for families
Beautifully situated among the rolling hills of the Chilterns, this elegant 16th-century manor house and its landscaped gardens are a sight to behold. The home of the aristocratic Brunner family for much of its lifetime, the estate remains relatively untouched by modern influences and retains much of its original appearance and atmosphere, including a well-stocked kitchen and cosy living quarters for you to explore. Heading out across the grounds, you’ll also stumble across a 14th century tower and one of few surviving examples of a Tudor donkey wheel, thought to have been in use as recently as the early 20th century!
Suitable for: grown-up groups!
How to get there: go south out of Oxford along the A34 for some 38 miles, before coming off at Whitchurch and taking a left in the village centre to join the B3400 London Road for 3 kilometres
Price: £17.50 per person for the Discovery Experience tour
Nestled away in the calm of the Hampshire countryside, the Bombay Sapphire Distillery is the proud home of one of England’s best loved gin brands. Across a beautiful site that combines age-old farmhouses with ultra-modern architectural flourishes, you’re invited to uncover the secrets of this famous tipple, learning the passion and craft that goes into producing every bottle. With a focus on sustainability and ecology, you’ll see exactly how the gin is made before getting to sample it yourself in the elegant on-site Mill Bar. Just remember to agree who’s going to be the designated driver first (or book a taxi!).
Suitable for: any sunny day!
How to get there: head south west out of Oxford along the A420, before changing for the A419 heading north west at Swindon and coming off to the left at Cerney Wick
Price: varies depending on activity, with a minimum £2.00 per person to access the beach
A stunning stretch of sand in the heart of the landlocked Cotswolds? You’d best believe it! Cotswold Country Park Lake and Beach is a spectacular lagoon offering no end of exciting things to do, whether you’re more likely to be found lazing in the sun or bouncing over the water on the Aquaventure Pods. From kayaking lessons to soaring through the sky on a high ropes course, there’s something here to excite every member of the family.
Found in the northern end of Oxford, just a couple of turns off the network of A roads that connects all these great attractions to the city, Jurys Inn Oxford makes for the perfect base while you explore this part of the world. With cosy, comfortable and stylish rooms matched by facilities like an on-site bar and Marco Pierre White Steakhouse restaurant, there’s nowhere better to recharge the batteries after all these days of adventure.
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