Oxfordshire is home to a large part of the Cotswolds, which extend from the north and west of Oxford into the neighbouring counties of Gloucestershire and Warwickshire. The designated Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty is most famous for its charming honey-coloured villages, in which time seems to have stood still.
The fine Georgian town of Woodstock, just north of Oxford, is already part of the Cotswolds and the home of Blenheim Palace. On the other side of the estate lies Bladon, where Sir Winston Churchill is buried at the St. Martin’s Church.
Further north, Great Tew is one of the most charming villages of the Cotswolds, full of thatched ironstone cottages. Not far lies Chipping Norton, a bustling market town occupying the highest point of Oxfordshire. Like many of the Cotswold towns, Chipping Norton grew to wealth with the wool trade, and up to today its Bliss Tweed Mill is a major landmark. Closeby you can also find the mysterious Rollright Stones, a megalithic stone circle. Legend has it that it is impossible to count the stones, and that whoever can count them three times and always reach the same number will have their heart’s desire fulfilled. You can also enjoy historic listed buildings including almshouses, church and Town Hall, along with a great selection of independent shops, centuries-old pubs, eateries and accommodation.
To the west of Oxford lies the attractive market town of Witney with the impressive St Mary the Virgin church. Once prosperous through the woollen trade, today’s Witney is a bustling market with a fantastic shopping offer and a vibrant local community. Cogges Manor Farm and the Wychwood Brewery can be found here, and nearby Eynsham Hall and North Leigh, which features a Roman Villa, notable for a nearly complete mosaic floor.
West of Witney lies Minster Lovell, a charming village with the extensive ruins of Minster Lovell Hall, a 15th century manor house. Continuing west, you can find Burford, the gem of all the Oxfordshire Cotswold villages. With its attractive Tudor and Georgian houses neatly lined up on a slope and green fields rising behind, it is justifiably known as one of the most picturesque towns in England. Burford is well worth a day trip, combined with a gentle walk of the surrounding pretty area to the tiny St Oswalds Church at Widford, which contains two Roman mosaics and several 14th century wall paintings. Just a few miles from Burford lies the Cotswold Wildlife Park, one of Britain’s best zoos.
Further to the south is the village of Bampton, which has risen to fame with the popular TV series Downton Abbey – the Bampton provided the backdrop for Downton Village and the church, and many places here will look familiar to fans of the series. On the very edge of the county, you can find the quiet village of Kelmscott, where pre-Raphaelite artist William Morris had his beloved summer home Kelmscott Manor.