EXPLORE THE CITY OF SPIRES
As guests at The Bear in Woodstock, you couldn’t be better placed to enjoy the best of all worlds and you're in a prime position to venture afield.
Use the hotel as a base to explore the beautiful Oxfordshire countryside, dip into the honey-coloured world of the Cotswolds and discover one of our greatest cities – Oxford.
The oldest university in the English-speaking world. It isn’t a campus university located on one site; part of its charm is that it’s made up of lots of different buildings – academic departments, colleges, halls, libraries – dotted around the city centre.
You’ll spot tantalising glimpses of elegant buildings in pristine gardens through tiny panels in old oak doors, but many colleges are open to visitors during the day so you can gain access to the world behind the wall.
Many scenes from the Harry Potter films have been shot in and around the colleges and Phillip Pullman’s ‘His Dark Materials` trilogy and prequels were set in Oxford, with the city playing a starring role as itself in the TV adaptation.
Some are free to visit, while others charge a fee and opening times vary so do check in advance or at the porter’s lodge daily.
History and Culture
Many of Oxford’s most impressive museums are free so pick your favourites and make time for a visit. Here are just a few to add to your shortlist:
The Ashmolean is the University of Oxford’s museum of art and archaeology, founded in 1683. Its world-famous collections range from Egyptian mummies to contemporary art, telling human stories across cultures and across time.
Pitt Rivers Museum is renowned for anthropology and world archaeology, the museum was founded in 1884 following a gift to the university from General Pitt-Rivers. A special feature of the Pitt Rivers Museum is the arrangement of the collection according to type rather than by area of origin, allowing visitors to see the development of similar items from different eras side by side.
The Museum of History of Science was built in 1683 and is the world's oldest surviving purpose-built museum, famous for its collection of scientific instruments from the Middle Ages through to the 19th century.
The Oxford University Museum of Natural History holds a collection of natural history specimens and archives that are internationally significant. It is also a respected events, research and teaching centre, focusing on the sciences of the natural environment.
The Bodleian Library is the main research library of the University of Oxford, one of the oldest and most important libraries in Europe. Since the Press Licencing Act in 1662, it has been entitled to receive a free copy of all books printed in the UK. The Bodleian is particularly rich in Oriental manuscripts and collections of English local history. Entry to the exhibitions is free, or you can take a guided tour.
Oxford Castle was constructed on this site in 1071 re-using earlier Saxon defences and has had a presence ever since, including acting as the Royal capital during the Civil War. Most of the castle was destroyed by the Civil War, and the remaining buildings became Oxford’s local prison. Today, hospitality of a different type is flourishing, with a hotel and restaurants on site, alongside the heritage centre.
Out and about in the city
The clue is in the name: Oxford grew up at the conjunction of two rivers – the Thames and the Cherwell - where a ford was built for oxen crossing the Thames.
The historic centre of Oxford is compact and easily explored on foot. For a good overview of some key sights, you can book an open bus or walking tour of the city and there are themed tours too, for fans of Phillip Pullman, Inspector Morse and the like. In fact, there’s a tour available for everything that Oxford’s famous for.
Travelling by boat is one of the loveliest ways to get a true flavour of Oxford and there are numerous options. Choose to hop on a steamer for a river cruise with Oxford River Cruises, hire a rowing boat, or take a punt – either literally, propelling yourself along, or by opting for more a relaxed experience and booking a guided punt with someone who’s mastered the art! For your best option, see Oxford Punting or Cherwell Punting.
The Oxford Canal Heritage Trail explores a canal which arrived in Oxford at the end of the 18th century and was home to a bustling community set around the ironworks and wharves.
The self-guided 3-mile trail takes you along the towpath where you’ll see some of the canal’s historic past, as well as today’s thriving residential boating community.
The University of Oxford Botanic Garden is the oldest botanic garden in Great Britain and one of the oldest scientific gardens in the world, and is home to over 5,000 different plant species, making it one of the most diverse yet compact collections of plants in the world.
The Covered Market dates from the late 1700s when stalls were moved off the main streets and into one central area. You’ll find a treasure trove of artisan goods including local crafts, leatherware, jewellery and unique clothing, as well as fresh food and flowers.
Getting to Oxford
Take a bus. Both Stagecoach Oxford and the Oxford Bus Company operate a regular service that leaves from Woodstock and takes you right into Oxford city centre.
The journey takes around 30 mins, it’s cheap and it’s direct. If you choose to drive, parking is limited and you’ll need to navigate the one-way system, which can be time-consuming. If you prefer a totally stress-free day, we’re happy to arrange a taxi to collect you from the hotel and we’ll book your return journey too.
If you haven’t already planned your day, drop into the Visitor Information Centre on Broad Street when you arrive.