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Bordering six counties, Oxfordshire finds itself in the heart of the southern English landscape. As a county with a relatively low population, it enjoys large areas of open, rural countryside, including a share of three Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty. But the towns and city of Oxford also all hold an abundance of charm which make Oxfordshire a popular visitor destination. With plenty to see and do, this evergreen county always delivers.

Days out in Oxfordshire

Oxfordshire is so full of history and architecture, there’s certainly no shortage of days out and things to do. The county town and cathedral city of Oxford, together with historic towns including Banbury, Bicester, Witney, and Abingdon, all offer the history and heritage Oxfordshire is famous for – and never fail to inspire.

Alongside its world-famous colleges, there’s plenty to explore in Oxford including, the Museum of Natural History featuring the Oxford dinosaurs and the iconic remains of the infamous Dodo, the quirky Pitt Rivers Museum with extraordinary artefacts from all over the world, and the stunning architecture of the University’s Bodleian Library.

But Oxfordshire is also home to a host of charming market towns in the surrounding countryside that can undoubtedly give Oxford a run for its money – and make for an excellent day trip.

Among the narrow streets of Banbury old town, look out for Banbury Cross and the Fine Lady statue. And the Banbury Museum and Gallery feature plenty of displays and activities together with events and exhibitions. But among the stunning 17th-century townhouses and half-timbered buildings in historic Bicester, you’ll find perfect retail therapy in the Bicester Village outlet.

Touted as one of the best places to live in the UK, the town of Witney is well worth a visit. The market square and the 17th-century Butter Cross is quintessentially English, while the Town Hall stands out thanks to its Cotswold stone brickwork. Be sure to visit the Wychwood Brewery for a tour and a tipple, and Cogges, a working farmstead in 15-acres of grounds.

And, on the border with Berkshire, Henley-on-Thames is a characterful town made famous by the Royal Regatta that shows off the best in competitive rowing. But the town itself has plenty of scenic walks where you can soak up the history and the atmosphere. And don’t miss a walk along the Thames Path to explore the river and surrounding countryside.

But if you want a break from the towns and discover the real outdoors, why not take advantage of the county’s share of three Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty? Take your pick from the stunning Cotswolds, North Wessex Downs, or Chiltern Hills. Or explore further into the countryside along one of Oxfordshire’s famous walking or cycling trails, including the Oxfordshire Way.

Topography, geology, and climate

Across its landscape, Oxfordshire features a mix of arable farmland and open countryside. While they both benefit greatly from its diverse range of land qualities and fertile soil types, it also makes for healthy plants and flowers in gardens across the county.

The north of the county features base-rich loam and clay in the north and northeast and lime-rich loam in the northwest. But there are also areas of free-draining, lime-rich loam and slightly acidic, heavier loam and clay. Central areas are largely medium fertility, with seasonally wet, slightly acid, base-rich loam and clay.

Southern areas that makeup part of the North Wessex Downs and the Chiltern Hills are predominantly high fertility, loam and clay with pockets of lime-rich soils over the underlying chalk or limestone.

Oxfordshire weather shares many characteristics with its neighbours and is largely mild and temperate across the year. Winter temperatures largely average at around 3ºC (37ºF) across the winter months, while warmer temperatures and hotter spells peak in summer, averaging around 21ºC (70ºF). Annual rainfall across the county varies seasonally but averages around 660mm (26”)

Oxfordshire’s parks and gardens

Among Oxfordshire’s scenic landscape, you’ll find plenty of parks and gardens to enjoy, from the formal gardens to woodland arboreta and everything in between. Our suggestions will only scratch the surface, but whether you’re a seasoned horticulturist, an occasional gardener, or just looking for a relaxing family day out, there’s something for everyone.

North Oxfordshire

One of England’s largest houses and a UNESCO World Heritage Site, Blenheim Palace in Woodstock, features a famed English landscape garden designed by Lancelot ‘Capability’ Brown. A fine collection of formal gardens covering 150-acres, the peaceful secret garden, Italian garden, beautiful rose garden, and stunning terrace borders give you plenty to take in. And the surrounding parklands show off some of Brown’s trademark features, including the Great Lake.

Near Banbury, Broughton Grange Gardens offer a fine collection of gardens and arboretum covering over 400-acres. At the heart of the extensively developed gardens is a three-terraced walled garden filled with topiary and Mediterranean borders, a water feature, and bright displays of flowering perennials. The gardens also include a fountain garden, parterre and rose garden, and terraces and borders, and a series of woodland gardens. The 80-acre arboretum contains some exceptional specimens.

Also near Banbury, the Thenford Gardens and Arboretum covers around 70-acres giving you plenty to discover. The extensive area has been renovated, restored, and reimagined over the last 40 years and now contains over 3,000 trees and shrubs. Its formal gardens include beautiful herbaceous borders, a water garden, sculpture garden, rose garden, and an alpine trough garden. There’s also an avenue of mature yew trees, while its lakes and medieval fishponds are a haven for wildlife.

South Oxfordshire

Surrounding its 18th-century house, the extensive pleasure grounds of Buscot Park, near Faringdon, are a cornucopia of flowering plants, mixed shrubs, and magnificent trees. Not short on interest in any area, the gardens contain a Four Seasons garden, providing colour and texture throughout the year. And the Harold Peto-designed Water garden features enclosed lawns and sheltered seating and links to the Big Lake in the surrounding parkland. There are also a series of broad woodland avenues with pathways leading you through the grounds.

For a real hidden jewel in the south Oxfordshire countryside, the Waterperry Gardens, near Wheatley are exceptional 8-acres of ornamental gardens. You’ll find a Formal garden based on Tudor knot designs, the Mary Rose Garden, filled with shrubs, borders, and roses, and a stunning herbaceous border giving extensive colour throughout the year. With pathways and walks leading you around the gardens, and to the arboretum and meadow beyond, there’s plenty to discover.

In the heart of historic Oxford, the University of Oxford Botanic Garden is Britain’s oldest botanic garden with an amazing range of indoor and outdoor plants. A collection of seven glasshouses are home to a wide variety of exotic flora, with wet, humid, and arid species on display. The Walled Garden is home to a diverse collection of flowering plants from around the world, as well as a magnificent collection of over 2,000 species of Euphorbia. The lower Garden features collections from the Mediterranean, gin borders and stunning herbaceous borders.