With a few days of soaring temperatures and wall-to-wall blue skies, it’s a great time to enjoy the great outdoors with friends and family – before the hibernating begins. We asked our readers to tell us about the best places to enjoy the sun in Oxfordshire and here’s what they had to say. Not surprisingly, it includes punting on the Cherwell and enjoying the capability brown gardens at Blenheim. Here are some of the best places to enjoy the sun in Oxfordshire. Enjoy!
Harcourt Arboretum, in the village of Nuneham Courtenay, has been part of the University of Oxford since 1947. Its 130 acres has the best collection of trees in Oxfordshire, including some of the oldest redwoods in Britain.
Seasonal highlights include wildflower meadows, rhododendrons, and bluebell woods. There is a charge to visit the arboretum. Bring a picnic and enjoy a day in nature! There’s lots of space to run around and exciting habitats to explore. Ask at the ticket office to borrow a trail, spotter sheet or Explorer Backpack.
The National Trust’s Greys Court is a Tudor country house and garden near Henley-on-Thames in Oxfordshire. This 16th-century mansion boasts beautiful walled gardens and an expansive estate, perfect for walking and enjoying the views of the rolling Chiltern Hills.
There are loads of places to picnic at Grey’s Court during the summer months and plenty of activities to keep the kids learning and exploring. Grey’s court is approximately 45 minutes (25 miles) drive from Oxford city centre.
Criss-crossed with trails, the rolling countryside of West Oxfordshire is ideal for walking and picnics. Pack a hamper, pick a trail, find a quiet spot to lay down the rug, and enjoy a traditional picnic in the quintessentially English countryside. Alternatively, why not take a stroll around one of the many picturesque English villages in the region. The National Trust’s Buscot and Coleshill Estates is nearby.
Surrounded by fields, woodland, water meadow, working farms and parkland, explore the area around Buscot riverside along the Thames path and across fields and countryside. The Coleshill orange walk is ideal for ramblers with its abundance of wildlife to spot and its passage through two picturesque working farms, whereas the Coleshill brown walk is a gentle woodland stroll that is perfect for wildlife spotting all year and bluebells in late spring. And the Lechlade Walk from Buscot village to Lechlade and back follow brown way markers and is along the River Thames.
This large area of tranquil pasture in the heart of the busy city of Oxford, owned and maintained by Christ Church – a college of the university. It’s enclosed by the Rivers Cherwell and Isis (the Thames is known as the Isis whilst flowing through the city) and is home to the college boathouses where rowing teams gather to train and compete.
The Meadow is open to the public until dusk each day and provides opportunities for picnics and river walks. The college recently opened the new ‘Longhorn Café’, a temporary take-away coffee shop in the visitor centre.
Home to the 12th Duke of Marlborough and his family and the birthplace of Sir Winston Churchill, Blenheim Palace is a masterpiece of Baroque architecture. It was built as a gift to John Churchill, 1st Duke of Marlborough, from Queen Anne and a grateful nation, in thanks for his victory at the Battle of Blenheim on 13 August 1704.
This picture-perfect British stately home sits among more than 2000 acres of extraordinary landscaped Parkland and Formal Gardens, which makes it one of the favourite places to enjoy the sun in Oxfordshire. What’s more, there’s always plenty to see and do, least of all the recently unveiled Gilded Cage by Chinese artist Ai Weiwei. And look out for the major solo exhibition by Tino Sehgal, which will be the first exhibition at Blenheim, specifically designed for the park and gardens.
Another firm favourite place for enjoying the sun in Oxford is Port Meadow – one of the largest open spaces to the north of the city. With the River Thames flowing through the heart of the meadow, the flood plains are home to many species of cattle, horses and wildfowl.
With unrestricted access, Port Meadow is an enjoyable place for picnics, leisurely walks, and a bit of wild swimming. For picnics, consider the Thames Path side on the opposite river bank, away from the grazing ponies and cattle.
Shotover Country Park in Headington is another great picnic spot for nature lovers and mini adventurers alike. Due to its diverse habitats, most of the park is a Site of Specific Interest, making it perfect for exploring and dog walking.
Shotover Country Park offers everyone a chance to enjoy a place of beauty and history right on the edge of Oxford. There are spectacular views of south Oxfordshire the top of Shotover Hill – it’s well worth the walk. Shotover is open to everyone to enjoy throughout the year free of charge and is ideal for a summer picnic.
Half an hour out of central Oxford to the west of Witney, the picturesque ruins of Minster Lovell Hall, a 15th century Oxfordshire manor house, provides an impressive backdrop to a lazy summer afternoon.
Lying beautiful in a rural setting beside the River Windrush, enjoy a picnic by the river and admire the fish that can be seen clearly in the crystal clear waters. Or take a walk through the meadows by the river. From the Hall, take the footpath through the gate as though you are going to view the dovecote.
Farmoor Reservoir is a man-made reservoir situated five miles west of Oxford. Split into two lakes, it covers an area of 400 acres in the heart of the Oxfordshire countryside surrounded by beautiful countryside with woodland views and the River Thames nearby.
There are plenty of activities to do around the reservoir. Activities include countryside walks, birdwatching and trout fly-fishing. But it’s the sailing and windsurfing that has been the biggest draw – as Oxfordshire is a land-locked county. Oxford Sailing Club, based at the reservoir, runs regular racing and training events for dinghy and windsurfing. The reservoir is well connected, just a few minutes drive from the A40 and A34. We’ve a handy guide to Farmoor here.
With over 260 different animal species in 160 acres of parkland and gardens, Cotswold Wildlife Park & Gardens is one of Oxfordshire’s top attractions and one of the most beautiful wildlife parks in the country. The superb mix of animals and landscaped parkland and gardens is appealing to all ages, making it another firm favourite for enjoying the sun in Oxfordshire.
Located 2 miles south of Burford, visitors can enjoy a picnic and explore the adventure playground. There’s also a cafeteria, which serves hot and cold meals throughout the year. However, some other activities like feeding the animals and riding on the narrow-gauge train remain closed.