Oxfordshire

Oxfordshire is a county in the Southwest of England in the Cotswolds and is of course the home of the city of Oxford, one of the most important cultural centers in all of England.  While Oxford is its largest draw to tourists, the county also boasts a number of other attractions including some lovely historical market towns, the stately and majestic Blenheim Palace, and gorgeous gardens like the Harcourt Arboretum, Rousham House, and Waterperry Garden.  When you’re planning to visit Oxfordshire, make sure to book at least a few days in Oxford, but don’t neglect the surrounding countryside.

Oxford has a population of around 165,000 and is known as the “city of dreaming spires.”  This term was coined by the poet Matthew Arnold, and describes the gorgeous architecture of Oxford University.  Oxford University is itself a major draw, and not just to students.  It is the oldest university in the English-speaking world, and is well known not just for its beautiful buildings but also for the museums and libraries on campus.  Other attractions include the Ashmolean Museum, the Bodleian Library, Modern Art Oxford, the Oxford Botanic Garden, the Sheldonian Theatre, and St. Mary The Virgin Church.  Nature reserves and parks throughout the town offer a tranquil reprieve from the urban bustle.  Oxford is also renowned for its restaurants and shopping.

If you enjoy literature and history, you’ll be intrigued to know that numerous authors have hailed from Oxford, many of them renowned for their imaginative and metaphysical works.  Just a few of Oxford’s current and past resident writers include J.R.R. Tolkien, Oscar Wilde, Charles Williams, Philip Pullman, C.S. Lewis, T.E. Lawrence, and Lewis Carroll.  You’ve also probably seen Oxford featured in a number of films including X-Men: First Class, Tomorrow Never Dies, and Harry Potter.

Outside the city of Oxford, one of the most impressive buildings you can see is the Blenheim Palace.  This is considered to be one of the best examples of Baroque architecture in England.  It was given to John Churchill by Queen Anne as thanks for winning the Battle of Blenheim in 1704 against the French.  The 11th Duke of Marlborough lives there now, but tours are offered to the public through the house and grounds.

What else should you do before you leave the county?  Set aside some time to walk the historically charming streets of Oxfordshire’s market towns, including Faringdon, Henley on Thames, Witney, Watlington, and Chipping Norton.  You’ll see thatched roofs, cobbled streets, and lovely churches which date back centuries or more.  Also make some time to visit the beautiful gardens in the region, and check out the animals at the Cotswold Wildlife Park.  You can also ride a real steam train at the Didcot Railway Centre!  It only costs a few pounds to ride, and children can ride for less.  Make sure to place reservations in advance for your lodgings.  Bed-and-breakfast establishments, luxury hotels, and other beautiful and relaxing accommodations can help you to experience the atmosphere of Oxfordshire—one of England’s most popular and exciting destinations!

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