Banbury to Oxford
Enjoy an Oxfordshire meander to the City of Dreaming Spires
Follow the route - Banbury to Oxford
> From Banbury head east along the A422. After 2 miles (3km) turn left on to the B4525, then to the unclassified road to Sulgrave.
The old manor in this attractive stone village was the home of ancestors of George Washington from 1539 to 1659, having been bought by Lawrence Washington, wool merchant and twice Mayor of Northampton. Not to be missed is the family coat of arms with its stars and stripes carved above the entrance porch, and the most treasured possession inside is an original oil painting of George Washington.
Places to stay near Banbury and Sulgrave
> Take the unclassified road through Helmdon, heading south to Brackley to join the A43, then shortly right on to the B4031 to Aynho.
This limestone village contains apricot trees from which, legend has it, fruit was paid as a toll to the Cartwrights, Lords of the Manor. They lived in the mansion in Aynhoe Park, and there are several memorials to them, including a Victorian marble cross in the church.
Places to stay near Aynho
> From Aynho go west along the B4031 for 3 miles (5km) to Deddington.
Dominating this village, which is built out of the honey-coloured local stone, is the church, with each of its eight pinnacles topped with gilded vanes. Adjacent Castle House was formerly the rectory, and parts of the building date from the 14th century. The area has many links with the days of the Civil War, and Charles I is believed to have slept at the 16th-century Castle Farm nearby.
Places to stay near Deddington
> Drive southwards for 5 miles (8km) along the A4260 and then left on to an unclassified road to Steeple Aston.
Visiting Steeple Aston
Steeple Aston is an eye-catching village. The village inn, Hopcroft’s Holt, had associations with Claude Duval, a French highwayman who worked in these parts. Just beyond Steeple Aston is the Jacobean mansion of Rousham House, built by Sir Robert Dormer in 1635 and still owned by the same family. William Kent improved the house in the 18th century by adding the wings and stable block. In the magnificent garden, the complete Kent layout has survived. There is a fine herd of rare Longhorn cattle in the park, and you should be sure not to miss the walled garden.
Places to stay near Steeple Aston
> Another unclassified road leads south on to the B4030 in turn leading to the A4095 for the 9 miles (14km) to Bicester.
Little can be seen of the Roman town at Alchester, to the south of Bicester, but excavations show that people lived here from about the middle of the 1st century AD until the late Roman period. Bicester’s church has elements of a 13th-century building, and there was once a 12th-century priory nearby.
Places to stay near Bicester
> Take the A41 following the line of an old Roman road and then the B4011 towards Thame before turning sharp right to Boarstall.
This tiny hamlet is the location of Boarstall Tower, an amazing stone gatehouse which was originally part of a massive fortified house. It dates from the 14th century and is now looked after by the National Trust, who also own Boarstall Duck Decoy. This 18th-century decoy is in 13 acres (5 hectares) of natural old woodland. Attractions include a small exhibition hall, nature trail and bird hide.
Places to stay near Boarstall
> Take unclassified roads via Horton-cum-Studley along the edge of Otmoor to Oxford.
Oxford is both an inspiring (or perhaps, to some, an overwhelming) citywide temple of learning and a place with long associations with privilege and elitism. Some 27 UK prime ministers have studied at Oxford, including David Cameron and Theresa May. It looks like a film set, and there’s an inescapable atmosphere of wizened oldness. It also gets really busy with tourists, so judge the time of your visit carefully.
Both Oxford’s glories and its bad points make the handsome home of one of the world’s best and oldest universities one of the most deeply English places in existence. The country’s essence seeps from the walls. Heritage and pomp intermingle here with student Rag Weeks and the minutiae of daily life in a cosmopolitan setting. Oxford is simultaneously a mildly bizarre and eccentric anachronism and a modern city getting on with its business.