While Oxford is admittedly one of the most beautiful cities in the country, as anyone who has had to fight their way through tourists just to feel sad in the library will know, it is by no means the be-all and end-all of what the South of England has to offer. While you’re down here, you might as well do a bit of exploring. Here are a few places worth a visit in reasonable distance from Oxford, complete with mediocre advice on how to get there.
Who could resist the allure of crushing crowds and horrifically inconvenient distances between attractions? Most of London’s main sights are drastically overpriced, such as Madame Tussauds and the London Dungeons. My advice would be to buy an all-day tube pass for £12.60 and zip around the tube stops that boast the most fantastic sights, which you can enjoy for free from the ground. Although the ride on the London eye is stunning, it’s also hideously expensive. There is a lovely, surprisingly quiet park just next to it which if you stray from the jam-packed main road you can relax and daydream in. As for food, Camden’s street market is not to be missed. A fantastic array of colourful food from a wide variety of countries and cultures makes for a nose-tingling display of deliciousness. Unlike the majority of central London eateries, pricing is more than decent. The Oxford Tube runs 24 hours a day, and goes from Gloucester Green and the High Street. If you book online with Megabus it costs around £9 for a return to Victoria, but if you buy tickets when you board there is a fixed fee of £14. London makes for a relatively pricey day trip, but if you do it right you’ll minimize costs while still attaining maximum Instagram-worthy snaps.
Cheltenham is known primarily for its racing, secondarily for Cheltenham College, which featured in the original St. Trinian’s movie. Unfortunately, racing is what I am going to confine myself to in this article. The unreliable 853 bus runs from St. Giles to Cheltenham, from where the nationally-renown racecourse is only a short taxi-ride away. The races are a great excuse to get dressed up and drink beer and champagne before midday. The energizing scent of the fresh turf and the adrenaline-inspiring pounding hooves make for a glorious escape from the surreal dreaming spires. The day could be pretty cheap, if you were able to resist the money-sucking betting machines, but you’d be missing the point if you could. Most students generally have no respect or understanding for money anyway, as we get regular free money from the government. At least, I’m pretty sure that’s how it works.
Bourton is an idyllic idealism of the British village, almost so postcard-perfect it could be a painting of itself. Wandering through its quiet waterways and exploring the hedged backstreets, one could picture oneself more clearly to be a character in Downton Abbey than all the other times one has attempted to imagine oneself as a character in Downton Abbey. The stunning miniature village is almost unnecessary when walking over the real-life tiny bridges and Cotswold stone cottages is just as satisfying – although its still worth a visit, as is the Dragonfly maze. This is a high-hedged, richly green maze to fulfill all your childhood dreams, complete with a magical mystery to uncover at the centre. The many picture-book cafes, pint-glass marked pubs, and seaside-salted fish and chip shops mean no one will want for good food. The only drawback of Bourton, which ironically is also its biggest selling point, is its nichêness: it’s difficult to get there. Your best bet is to get the earliest bus to Cheltenham and hop on the 801 to Bourton from there. As with all three of these spots, if you manage to make it there, you’ll most definitely enjoy yourself.