So after we've ______'d the Cotswold sheep, then what?
January 31, 2008 9:38 AM   Subscribe

We will be spending one week in a rented cottage in Brize Norton, UK this coming May before heading over to ATP. We'll be close to Oxford, which is covered nicely online and in travel books, but are looking for additional activities and adventures that may be off the beaten path.

Do you know of any online resources for locating cool things in that general area? Do you have any recommendations as for things to do or avoid?

It seems like most of the village-type online resources are of the 'not updated very often' variety for obvious reasons. This makes planning tricky, though. Since this is the Cotswolds, a lot of travel sites handwave and say "it's all good." We'd hate to find out we missed something super-awesome on our way back.

My wife and I are in our late twenties, will have a car, and have a penchant for: Old Things (ancient, medieval), Haunted Things, Pub Things, Bookish Things, Charming Things, and so on.

Bonus points for telling us the best location to try for a short ramble followed by a nice picnic lunch.
posted by robocop is bleeding to Travel & Transportation (11 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
Um. Say hello to the entire RAF while you're there.
posted by methylsalicylate at 9:53 AM on January 31, 2008

Am on a deadline so just a couple of things that first enter my head:

1. It's just over an hour's drive south to Watership Down. Lots of rambles, picnic spots and pub lunches to be had.

2. About 1h20 to Stonehenge.

(That RAC Route Planner is great to get a very accurate map and car journey time.)
posted by ceri richard at 10:01 AM on January 31, 2008

Think about Winchester, about an hour from Oxford
posted by A189Nut at 10:16 AM on January 31, 2008

Look at the National Trust website. The National Trust is a major landowner as well as keeper of historic properties. I'd particularly recommend Waddesdon Manor and Stowe Landscape Gardens.

Are you hiring a car? Public transport is more complicated in the provinces than in London.
posted by boudicca at 10:25 AM on January 31, 2008

Bourton On The Water is THE picturesque olde worlde English country village and google maps tells me its 15 miles from Brize Norton, UK... though be warned it gets very busy, especially at the weekends, from day-trippers, coach parties etc so get there early.
posted by fearfulsymmetry at 10:26 AM on January 31, 2008

I used to drive past Brize to work, for a while, and th eguidebooks are right. You really, if you like old stuff and pubs, can't go wrong.

Try Burford: which has lots of good pubs and the like and many. many old buildings.

Also: Bibury (totally awesome road from Burford to Bibury if you're a hooligan, too. All twisty and lovely). There is a fairly famous thing there called Arlignton Row which always has people looking at them - lovely old houses.

If you keep driving from Burford through Bibury, you'll get to Cheltenham, which really isn't far and basically anything in a 20 mile radius of Cheltenham fits all those bills. I've spent a fair few days just driving with no direction and looking at stuff (I lived in Stroud for 2 years) and never got bored of the place.

Also, ditto any National Trust property.

There is also a lot more to see in Oxford than you realise, too. Use the Park And Ride and get into the centre like that if it is a busy day (ie, A Day). Ones I would recommend:

The Covered Market and from there walk along Cornmarket Street (south) and down to the bridge over the Thames, where you can cut through the University gardens across to the High street again and walk past all the truly marvellous university buildings there and cut back to cover the area around New College, Radcliffe Square and that general area. You could waste a day wandering the centre of Oxford in a half mile or so of the covered market and not get bored.

There are some lovely University Parks gardens if (from the short cut I mentioned earlier) you continue walking over the High street and end up at Parks Road at the far end of St Giles. All public access, all gorgeous. Most guide books will cover this, but if you want, mefimail me and I will attempt a sketch of some more accurate directions. I grew up just down the road from Oxford and spent most of my free time there.

For a relaxed, natural beauty break, it is hard to beat that area. I love Oxford and all that area of the country
posted by Brockles at 10:44 AM on January 31, 2008

Great Coxwell Tithe Barn and Kelmscott Manor would make a good day out (bearing in mind that Kelmscott is only open on Wednesdays and occasional Saturdays). Great Coxwell may not sound particularly special, but trust me, it's wonderful; William Morris called it 'the finest piece of architecture in England'.

Blenheim Palace is another unmissable architectural experience; probably best visited on a Sunday when you can avoid the guided tour and walk round the house at your own pace. Some people, including me, think that Blenheim is more exciting outside than inside, so if it's a sunny day you might prefer to save money by buying a ticket for the park and grounds without going into the house.

Lots of good National Trust properties. Chastleton is lovely, and could be rolled in with the Rollright Stones and Great Tew (which might meet your requirements for a short ramble followed by a nice lunch). Further afield, there's Claydon House, where my favourite exhibit is the mummified orange given by Florence Nightingale to a wounded soldier in the Crimea.

Parking in Oxford can be a nightmare. If you're visiting on a weekday, don't even bother trying to park in the centre of town; leave the car in the Park and Ride and then take the bus. If you're visiting on a Sunday, you may be able to find a parking space in Parks Road if you arrive early. Don't miss the dodo in the Natural History Museum, and the Pitt Rivers Museum.

You may prefer to avoid the most famous Cotswold beauty spots (Broadway, Bourton and the like) as they can get very crowded in summer. Burford is nice, though, and a good place to stop for coffee or a pub lunch; and Chipping Campden has the newly opened Court Barn Museum if you're interested in the Arts & Crafts movement, and nearby Hidcote if you like gardens.
posted by verstegan at 3:43 PM on January 31, 2008

We spent several weeks there renting a cottage from the National Trust (Lock Cottage) on the Buscot weir and lock of the Thames. Assuming you have a car I suggest you set out for a morning and decide to get lost. Drive aimlessly around the countryside doing your best to take random turns. Any of the preceding suggestions are excellent but do try and get lost and just enjoy the countryside and villages. Best wishes
posted by rmhsinc at 4:35 PM on January 31, 2008

Seconding Stonehenge, we stopped there last year on the way to and from ATP Minehead, there are some quite nice rambly looking fields beyond the (free) carpark, so if you've got time you might enjoy that (although the weather wasn't brilliant last year, and we pretty much just ate our sandwiches and got back in the car!).
posted by featherboa at 4:46 AM on February 1, 2008

Response by poster: Great ideas all, thanks!
posted by robocop is bleeding at 11:15 AM on February 4, 2008

Oxford has two "navigations" of contrasting character; the River Thames & the Oxford Canal. They meet both in Oxford itself & again just outside (Duke's Cut). You can have a pleasant walk around the Godstow Lock area (the Trout Inn is here, quaint, picturesque, & like the rest of Oxford, rip-off expensive- still worth a visit though) on the Thames, & access the Canal at bridge 235. Prepare yourself with a map of the area as it is "off the beaten track", & some decent boots as it may well be muddy.

It is also an area that inspired Philip Pulman (His Dark Materials).,GGFB:2007-45,GGFB:en&hl=en&tab=wl

The terminus of the canal is at Oxford Basin & is in walking distance of Oxford Centre. Even a 10 minute walk down the canal will be interesting & get you to a lock linking Thames & Canal. There is a footpath/ towpath that you can follow to the River. It goes under the Railway, don't forget to duck! Any research you do in advance will add to your visit, especially historical. These waterways are part of a 3000mile network which reach to all four points of the compass.

If you get a taste for the waterways, try Googling "Thames & Severn Canal" & "Gloucester & Sharpness Canal".
posted by vulch at 5:58 AM on February 5, 2008

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