Is it even the weekend if you haven’t got a country walk and a pub lunch in the diary? We think not. Some counties lend themselves perfectly to this sort of escapade and Oxfordshire is definitely one of them. A sprint from London, you can easily make a day of it, or even a weekend, in order to get your fill of fresh country air and a great meal. We’ve rounded up a clutch of circular walks starting straight from the pub door, as well as a tour around a National Trust property and a climb up to the photogenic Uffington White Horse. An escape to Oxfordshire will leave you feeling wholesome and renewed.
Join the 6.5 miles ‘Step into the Cotswolds’ walk from the door. The route takes you across gently undulating countryside from Chipping Norton, through Salford and Cornwell, and back again. Just ask for details at the bar. Alternatively, try one of the many other walking routes which criss-cross the area, or join the Cotswold Way for long country rambles in either direction. This lovely old pub in the heart of the village is a relaxed place. Walkers, locals with their dogs and lovers of good food will all be happy here in front of a crackling log fire, perusing a seasonal menu of classic pub food. Sit in the garden, pint in hand, or slump in a cosy armchair with a newspaper. Bedrooms, two of them dog friendly, are all a good size and come with a little bottle of port.
This five-mile circular route starts from the door of this 17th-century coaching inn in Asthall. From your delightful setting in the heart of a historic Cotswold village, with the babbling Windrush just a stone’s throw away, you work your way past the church and across two stone bridges to Widford, mostly following the meandering curves of the river, then back through Swinbrook and country fields. Return for good food, sourced locally and freshly cooked in a modern British style, plus an ever-growing choice of gins, a beer menu with craft and world beers, an excellent choice of whiskies and wines by the glass. Upstairs are handsome rooms if you fancy making a weekend of it.
Park up in Letcombe Regis and head south east on Courthill Road. When you come to the A338, cross over and carry on in the same direction, although at this point single lane tarmac will have given way to hard-packed footpath. Follow that until you hop over the B4494 and press on to the monument itself, built in honour of Robert Loyd-Lindsay, 1st Baron Wantage, a soldier, politician and philanthropist who co-founded the British National Society for Aid to the Sick and Wounded in War, which later became the British Red Cross. Once you’ve lingered and taken in the views, reverse the route for an easy return or head further west and add a little distance, coming back to Letcombe Regis via Wanborough Road instead. When you reach the Greyhound, leading Oxfordshire chef, Martin Sherriff, produces locally sourced menus that change with the seasons – whether you go for duck breast, duck fat hash brown, Shropshire Blue custard, blueberry ketchup, red cabbage or twice-baked Leonard Stanley Gloucestershire cheddar soufflé with smoked haddock chowder, this is cooking of a high order and has won plenty of awards. Two-course ‘Midweek Fix’ menus on Wednesdays are a steal, as is the weekday Lunch for Less.
The Swan has details on their website (or ask at the bar) of three gorgeous circular walks from the door. Ranging from 2.5 miles to 6.5 miles, there’s something here to suit everyone’s legs. Visit the romantic medieval church of Widford, set in a meadow, and explore the pretty village of Swinbrook on a short loop. For a slightly longer route, continue through fields and woods for a lovely view of Asthall village and a deeper exploration of the Windrush valley. Back at The Swan, expect open fires, original beams, ancient flags, tasty food, and lovely bedrooms thrown in for good measure, all on the banks of the river Windrush.
You’ll find this place on Sheep Street, of course. The Lamb started life in the 15th century as a simple weaver’s cottage. Now the feel is altogether more luxurious, with a flagstoned old bar, open fires, a grown-up restaurant and bedrooms with gorgeous garden views. Browse the handsome High Street with its medieval, Tudor and Georgian facades, sign up for an excellent guided walk at nearby Lodge Park (National Trust), its grounds designed by Bridgeman, and enjoy any number of circular walks from Burford, taking in Swinbrook and Asthall by the river Windrush and through the valley, before sipping an aperitif or a pint by the magnificent fireplace before tucking into a fine dinner.
Carmen is a freelance writer specialising in travel. She once lived in a bus in north Wales, skipped off to study in Barcelona, and now calls Bristol home. When she’s not tapping away on her laptop, she can be found reading (a lot), lake swimming (a little), and pottering on the allotment with husband and two kiddos. She’s currently dreaming about cold cerveza and torta in Mexico.