Hunting for the perfect weekend getaway from London can feel like a mammoth task. Here at Humphreys of Henley, your English countryside concierge, we want to give you two smashing ideas we know you will love… both have romance, both have luxury holiday options, and both are just an hour and a half from central London.
We present to you Oxford and Cambridge!
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Famous as one of England’s great university towns, Oxford is about halfway between the Cotswolds and the Chilterns which makes it the perfect base for luxury English countryside holidays. If you are on a limited timeline though, you might not want to travel too far from town. In this case we have a plan of what you won’t want to miss!
Let’s say you arrive Friday evening at your hotel. We recommend something elegant, like the Old Bank Hotel in Oxford’s high street. Make sure you book ‘The Room with a View’, so that you can sip your morning coffee overlooking the cobbled streets and historic architecture of the University Church of St Mary the Virgin, opposite.
From this central location you are in prime position to make Saturday your own, exploring the streets, maybe taking in a walking tour, or the famous Oxford university campuses famous for its art, politics and culture programmes. You can even go punting!
Let Sunday be something different though, something you haven’t tried before. We recommend an amazing champagne hot air balloon ride across Oxfordshire countryside and afternoon tea for two on the river, as you softly cruise by boat to see the sights by water.
Oxford has several Michelin starred restaurants very close to town, so weekends are definitely for dining out in style.
If you’d like to hear some of our other ideas for a trip to Oxford, read our article called, How to get the best out of your trip to 3 of England's famous castles. In this article we talk more about some of the sights Oxford has to offer and of course Blenheim Palace.
Also a famous English university town, Cambridge is a beautifully historic location halfway between London and Norfolk. More known for its science links
with alumni including the great Sir Stephen Hawking and Sir Isaac Newton, Cambridge University is well worth a visit and we highly recommend a walking
If you are pressed for time and you want an idea of where to explore on a weekend luxury holiday, then we suggest a simple itinerary.
If you plan to arrive on a Friday evening we highly suggest picking a hotel with convenient central links… something like Hotel du Vin, where a large suite comes with roll top baths and an 8ft bed, or the cinema room, with your own private mini cinema experience.
On Saturday morning, after breakfast, you will have the perfect opportunity to take in a walking tour of the university’s campus, from there in the afternoon you have just a short walk to either the Fitzwilliam Museum, or the Sedgwick Museum where you can feast on their collections of anthropology and palaeontology. If you have time, then we recommend a chauffeured punt along the river for late afternoon relaxation.
If a Sunday in Oxford is all about trying something different, then Cambridge can match it! Why not try a romantic helicopter tour of Cambridge and the surrounding countryside in the morning and follow that up with tea for two on a river cruise.
In the evenings why not dine in style and try somewhere like Midsummer House, the two Michelin starred restaurant whose Chief Patron is none other than Daniel Clifford. Their eight-course tasting menu is designed to delight the palate with the very best of seasonal English produce!
One of the biggest questions we get is when is best to visit during the year and, honestly, both can be enjoyed all year round, but if you wish to take to the air as part of your luxury holiday experience, then we recommend the late summer months.
If you prefer the solace of a good book, rather than adventure by air, then both towns have a literary festival which would prove a great alternative weekend option and a rare opportunity to meet your favourite authors. Oxford’s literary festival is usually late March, early April and Cambridge’s literary festival is just a week or so later in mid-April.
If you are looking to incorporate the famous Oxbridge Boat Race into your trip, then late March is usually the best time to visit the UK. The race is held in south west London on a Sunday, contrary to popular belief that it is held in one of the two university towns. With this in mind we’d recommend Sunday evening to stay at somewhere like the magnificent Belmond Hotel in Chelsea and to book a table at Adam Handling’s restaurant.