Tuesday, 18 February 2020

24 Hours In Oxford With Kids

A few weeks ago, we were invited for a stay at the Marlborough Arms - a charming 15th century coaching inn nestled in the quaint Oxfordshire village of Woodstock.

When we arrived after a 3 hour journey, we were greeted by the friendly face of a young woman on reception who welcomed us and made us feel immediately at home in the elegant but homely surroundings of the Marlborough Arms.

We were shown to our room - or rather, our rooms - as due to our family size we were actually allocated two seperate bedrooms which could be used together. At first I was a little unsure about this due to the young ages of the children but there was an outside door which could be locked from the inside to ensure that nobody else could access the bedrooms, and we kept the inside doors open all night to ensure we could hear the children if they woke - so it actually worked out really well as it meant we were able to watch television in our room without disturbing them while they slept.

Our double bedroom was clean and comfortable, and although the decor was rather kitsch - it worked well for the atmosphere of the historic inn. There was plenty of storage space, and we had everything we needed for a comfortable nights stay.

The bathroom, I have to say, was huge and the power shower was wonderfully luxurious.

As for the children's bedroom, this consisted of twin beds which we pushed together and a smaller bathroom with a bathtub - again it was comfortable, clean and the children slept really well.

In the morning we headed downstairs for breakfast, where we were seated and served by a lovely gentleman who looked after us well and made us feel very welcome., bringing over toast and coffee for us straight away.

There was a selection of buffet items available, ranging from muffins and pastries to cheeses and cold cuts as well as some lovely fruit juices. But we decided to order from the menu - the choices were far more impressive than I've ever found at any chain hotel that's for sure. Jon and two of the children went for the Hot English Breakfast which they all thoroughly enjoyed, and Noah chose the Egg & Soldiers which was a great option for little ones.

I'm personally not a fan of breakfast foods, so I often struggle at hotels to find anything I like but I noticed there was smashed avocado on toast with a poached egg on the menu and decided to give that a try - I was so glad I did as it was absolutely delicious, by far the best hotel breakfast I've had in recent years.

After our breakfast, we decided to head out to explore the local area and make the most of our time in this part of the country which none of us had visited before.

Just a short drive from Oxford and within easy walking distance of Blenheim palace, Woodstock is a small village full of Olde English charm and provides the perfect setting for a quiet break. There's even a small museum, although this was unfortunately closed on the day we visited.

We took a leisurely stroll along the village streets, passing some stocks and some topiary animals much to the children's delight!

We then decided to take a look at the Blenheim Palace gardens. We didn't fancy paying the entry fee to the palace as we felt the children wouldn't really enjoy it and there were other things we wanted to squeeze in that day, so instead we did some googling and found that you can actually enter the palace gardens for free using a public footpath. So following the directions we found online, that's what we did.

It was a lovely place for a little stroll, and we took the chance to say hello to the ducks and snap some nice Autumnal photographs.

While I'm on the subject of Woodstock, I should also mention that when we arrived the previous evening - we headed to a little pub opposite the Marlborough Arms named The Kings Arms for dinner.

The children had mini beef burgers which they devoured, Jon chose the Roast Beef and I went for the Fish & Chips with minted peas - all of our meals were delicious, so I highly recommend a visit there if you're in the area.

After a few hours exploring Woodstock, we decided to go to do some sightseeing in the wider Oxford area - first up was a visit to the infamous art installation The Headington Shark!

Located at 2 New High Street, Headington - the shark is a giant sculpture which was commissioned by the former owner of the house, local radio presenter Bill Heine as a commentary on the dropping of the atomic bomb on Nagasaki (It was erected on the 41st Anniversary). He said of the sculpture:  "The shark was to express someone feeling totally impotent and ripping a hole in their roof out of a sense of impotence and anger and desperation... It is saying something about CNDnuclear powerChernobyl and Nagasaki".

The Headington Shark was the subject of local uproar at the time, and the house is now owned by Heine's son who runs it as an Air BnB.

Although the history and meaning of the Headington Shark was lost on the children, it was a great opportunity to discuss modern art and they enjoyed having
a go at guessing what they thought the artist had in mind when designing it. And they - of course - were amused and 
delighted by the vision of a giant shark sticking out of the roof of an ordinary looking house - I highly recommend a visit
here if your children are shark fans too!

After our flying visit to see the shark, we headed in to Oxford centre itself. After a little wander around, we found ourselves at Oxford University Natural History Museum which - although quite small compared to the Natural History Museum in Liverpool that the children are used to - was a fun and educational way to spend a couple of hours. 

My kids adore museums and so they were delighted to see the Dinosaur bones, the animals and the crystals on display here. They were very pleased that so many of the artefacts clearly stated when they were free to touch them, too. 

The museum is free to visit, and is a great way to pass a couple of hours.

All in all, we had a lovely time exploring Oxford and it's encouraged us to try to visit more new cities and do some more exploring in the new year.

Where would you recommend we visit next?!

If you fancy a trip to Oxford, take a look at The Marlborough Arms - it really is an ideal base for exploring the area.

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