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The United Kingdom's oldest university city, Oxford, lies just 50 miles west of London. However, much of Oxford's own city centre is closed to motorised traffic, so visitors should be prepared to use their own two feet, bicycles or one of Oxford's famous open-top sightseeing tour buses to explore the city. Most of Oxford's attractions, apart from its legendary 12th century university, are located on its High Street, known simply as 'the High,' or its pedestrianised shopping boulevard. These two major streets meet at Carfax. This beautiful and historic city boasts a wealth of sightseeing opportunities for visitors to enjoy.
Who to Book With
Several independent car rental establishments stand alongside Enterprise and Budget branches at London Oxford Airport, the city's closest air gateway and home to Europe's largest flight training school. However, as London Oxford Airport is mainly used for private aircraft, most overseas Oxford visitors first fly to the far-larger London Heathrow or Birmingham airports. A large percentage of Oxford car hire companies are located near Ferry Hinksey Road next to the Oatlands Road Recreation Ground. Online booking is accepted at nearly all local firms and is the best way to save money on rentals.
Best Time to go
Each of Oxford's four seasons brings its own unique charms to this university city. Spring flowers begin blooming around April, but May to early July may be the best months to come to Oxford, when the weather becomes warmer but the crowds remain relatively small. July and August are Oxford's hottest and most crowded months. September is another pleasant Oxford month, as most university students do not arrive until October. Even the winters are generally mild and often surprisingly sunny, but visitors should nonetheless bring umbrellas, as rainfall is always a possibility. Oxford car hire and hotel rates are generally consistent throughout the year, but can increase during special events such as the university's famous 'Eights Week,' an exciting May rowing regatta.
Need to Know Essentials
When collecting car hire, the following documents must be shown:
- A UK driving license or International Driving Permit
- A passport or another form of photo identification
- The credit card used to reserve the vehicle
- Printed reservation confirmation
It can take between 50 and 90 minutes to drive the 50 miles along the M40 motorway from London to Oxford. The M40 also proceeds northwest from Oxford towards the West Midlands and Birmingham. The drive to Oxford is relatively easy, but motorists will meet much greater challenges once they enter the city limits.
Wardens and traffic cameras constantly monitor central Oxford's narrow streets for access and parking violations, which are met with heavy fines. Oxford's confusing and circuitous one-way traffic network adds another level of difficulty to city driving. Some Oxford streets, including its pedestrianised shopping boulevard, ban motorised traffic altogether.
The best way to handle driving in Oxford is to park vehicles at any of the city's five Park and Ride stations before boarding bus for the 12-minute journey to the city centre. Park and Ride parking is free, but the city centre bus ride costs £2 per passenger. The Thornhill Park and Ride station is almost always full on weekdays, while the Westgate multi-storey car park is convenient, but expensive.
Oxford is not only conveniently located between Birmingham and London along the M40 motorway, it is also easy to reach by train or bus. Although London Oxford Airport lies fewer than seven miles northwest of the city, most air passengers use either Birmingham or London Heathrow airports. Oxford's main rail station stands at the city's west end, while Gloucester Green is the nearest coach station. Cycling and walking, however, may be the easiest ways to travel around the city centre.
First Great Western tickets to London from Oxford's Botley Road rail station cost around £40 at peak times, but just £20 at all other times. Railcards and advance online booking, however, can bring ticket prices down to as low as £4. The journey between Oxford and London takes about 60 minutes on fast non-stop trains and 90 minutes aboard the trains that stop at Reading, Slough and Didcot Parkway along the way. Cross Country Trains run to Manchester, Southampton and Birmingham. Cross Country Trains and First Great Western tickets to destinations across England can be purchased at Oxford's Botley Road rail station.
Oxford is home to about half a dozen different taxi companies, including 001 Taxis and Radio Taxis Oxford. Passengers can flag down metered taxis on the street or board at taxi stands. Minicabs, on the other hand, must be reserved in advance by telephone. Metered cabs are cheaper for shorter journeys around the city, but minicabs are more affordable for longer distances. Taxis run to London Heathrow Airport for around £60.00 or as far as Southampton for a around £105.00.
Oxford Bus Company, Oxford Tube and Megabus all make regular trips between Oxford's Gloucester Green rail station and London. The Gloucester Green coach station is the best place to buy most bus tickets. Megabus tickets, which can cost as little as £1 during promotions, must be booked in advance online or by telephone. Day return tickets from all three companies cost between £10 and £13, but Megabus tickets can be as cheap as £1 during promotions. The Oxford Bus Company also operates The Airline bus from Oxford to Gatwick and Heathrow airports. X5 buses take about three hours and 20 minutes to travel between Oxford and Cambridge, with a one-way ticket costing around £12.00. The Oxford Bus Company also operates inner-city buses around Oxford, as does Stagecoach. Adult single bus fares within Oxford cost around £1.90, while return fares are £2.10.
The 12th century Oxford University is undoubtedly the city's main attraction, but many of the about 40 different colleges and other buildings making up the world's oldest English speaking university are closed to the general public. Christ Church College, on the other hand, usually welcomes visitors, who can hear choirs perform Evensong at its attached cathedral every day. One of Oxfordshire's most scenic drives is to the Vale of the White Horse district, taking motorists past untouched River Thames stretches, picturesque villages and its hillside namesake chalk horse carving. Historic home admirers will also enjoy touring the nearby Blenheim Palace and Waddesdon Manor.
Blenheim Palace - This is best known as Winston Churchill's birthplace. However, this picturesque Woodstock palace and World Heritage site, just eight miles west of Oxford along the A44, is also filled with fascinating exhibitions and surrounded by stunning landscaped gardens.
Waddesdon Manor - The Rothschild Collection of Art Treasures are displayed within the breathtaking French Renaissance style Waddesdon Manor, located about 40 miles northeast of Oxford. An ornate aviary and sprawling garden surround this National Trust-owned chateau, whose 45 rooms are filled with stunning antiques and artwork.
Mattocks Rose Garden - Late spring and summer are the most ideal times to make the drive to Mattocks Rose Garden in the small Oxfordshire community of Courtenay. The warmest months are when these traditional English roses are most fragrant and in full bloom. Guests can also admire these landscaped rose gardens from the popular on site restaurant.