Oxfordshire is a haven for the driving enthusiast. With everything from leafy lanes to twisting city streets, it is a county of thatched villages, rolling hills and unrivalled vistas. And there are plenty of places for a choice stop-off, whether you want to relax in the Cotswolds, shop at Bicester Village or take in the dreaming spires.
But, despite the wealth of driving roads across the county, one single stretch from Cheltenham to Burford all too frequently steals the spotlight. But there’s more to Oxfordshire than the A40 — as we were keen to explore…
And what better car to tour in than McLaren’s 720S? Before a long day touring the region, we’d recommend taking a break at Bicester Village — where you can enjoy breakfasts from smoked haddock kedgeree at Café Wolseley to crumpets with honey and cream cheese at the Farmshop Restaurant and Cafe.
Next, head to The Apartment, a VIP space you’ll have access to when you book a personal shopping apartment. Shop around for some suitably automotive accessories, starting at Ermenegildo Zegna — whose iconic Pelletessuta driving shoes promise to tame even the most ferocious supercar. Go on to dunhill to pick up a shearling driving jacket, before rounding your morning off with a new racing-inspired timepiece from Breitling.
And then, after picking up your bags at The Apartment, choose one of these three ideal stretches of driving roads we’ve mapped out, and set on your way…
Take a spin through the centre to appreciate the architecture
Oxford is a city of dreaming spires and plate glass windows. New builds sit pretty in the centre of ancient streets, and centuries-old chimneys soar reflected in sweeping walls of windows and steel. So, even if you’re not at the wheel of a supercar, there’s much to see in the centre.
In the city’s Jericho neighbourhood, the Blavatnik School of Government spins heads and expectations — a stunning new addition to Oxford’s historic skyline, and the brainchild of internationally renowned architects Herzog & de Meuron.
And, while weekends may be a little hectic in the city, leisurely weekday drives will take you past iconic buildings including the Sheldonian Theatre, Radcliffe Camera and the scores of storied structures that make up the university.
Follow the river to see Oxfordshire at its best
Home of the Thames, Oxfordshire offers the savvy driver the chance to skirt this grand river before it makes it big in London. We’d recommend you start just north of the Chiltern Hills, winding your way past Watlington and Wallingford before skirting up through some of the most quaintly named towns and villages this side of Brightwell Upperton.
Follow the banks of the river past Thrupp Lake and Sandford-on-Thames, before parking up and exploring the bends and wends of the city centre river on foot. Have a punt at punting, the quintessentially English river-going pursuit, and take a seat at The Head of the River pub at Folly Bridge, where you’ll enjoy dishes from blackened salmon with avocado, to beer-battered fish and chips.
Drive across the county to discover Oxford’s majestic gardens
From the eastern fringes of the Cotswolds to the city centre, Oxfordshire is renowned across the country for its beautiful, manicured gardens. A tour of these outdoor paradises is a must-do drive if you’re visiting the region, and we’ve picked out five of the best for your list.
Begin in Buscot Park, near Lechdale, where the extensive 18th century estate will lead you seamlessly to your next stop of Kelmscott Manor Gardens, the inspirational home of William Morris. Next, take the leisurely A420 to Kingston Bagpuize House, the gardens of which were created by Miss Raphael after her 1939 travels to China and Japan.
From there, head to the city centre, where Oxford University’s Botanic Gardens house the most compact-yet-diverse collection of plants in the world, before heading north to Woodstock — where the sweeping vistas of Blenheim Palace will cap off your green-fingered getaway.
And, when you’re done soaking up the sunshine in Oxfordshire’s finest outdoor spaces, why not return to Bicester Village to enjoy a meal from another of the destinations delectable eateries? That, or do a little more shopping…
Want more Oxfordshire drives? See what happened when we crossed the Cotswolds in a Bentley Continental GT…