Chris and I have just returned from a fabulous New Year weekend away in Oxfordshire where we stayed in a hotel close to the edge of the Cotswolds. The main purpose of the trip was to celebrate New Years Eve with a group of friends however we made the most of our time in this scenic part of middle England by exploring a couple of the towns and the countryside nearby.
We began by meeting our friends at lunchtime on New Years Eve in a pub in Chipping Norton which we had chosen as it seemed a charming town with characteristic Cotswold-typical honey coloured buildings and quaint market square.
Things didn’t quite go to plan… firstly we all found it difficult to park and secondly with it being New Years Eve, most of the pubs were not serving lunch and especially not for 7 people walking in off the street! After traipsing around in and out of pubs we gave up and made our way to our hotel. Lesson learned: book a NYE pub lunch in advance and preferably one in a village with plenty of parking!
We drove for 20 minutes or so to the Holt Hotel, our new year getaway venue. Fortunately our rooms were all ready so we were able to check in before spending the rest of the afternoon relaxing in the bar until it was time to get ready for the evening.
We had booked a New Years Eve package directly with The Holt Hotel which included two nights bed and breakfast and their NYE party. We all enjoyed a brilliant evening with Prosecco and canapés, a 3 course meal and a disco to welcome the start of 2022.
Following the fun and festivities of NYE we were keen to get some fresh air with a short walk and some local exploring on New Years Day.
Blenheim Palace is a huge 300 year old stately home with extensive grounds and only a 10 minute drive from the hotel. We found we could park for free nearby in the village of Woodstock and walk for a few minutes to enter the grounds without having to pay to visit the house. We walked for 5 miles around the estate past the trees and lakes and ending up at the house.
There was a festive vibe with Christmas songs blaring from a loud speaker and a number of attractions for kids. Having found we could enter the courtyard without paying for an entrance ticket we enjoyed a hot drink and snack while sitting outside in the mild winter air. Today happened to be the warmest new years’ day on record with temperatures reaching 16 degrees in London.
Having the opportunity to visit the courtyard and see Blenheim Palace was a great finish to end our walk.
From Blenheim Palace we walked back through Woodstock to the cars. Woodstock is a pretty village and by now in the twilight was twinkling with Christmas lights.
As we made our way through Woodstock we looked at some of the menu’s of the many historic pubs and restaurants in search of an evening meal option but unfortunately being New Years Day most closed at 5 pm. So again, we drove back to the Holt Hotel and had our evening meal in there.
The following day, having checked out of the Holt we drove for 10 minutes and parked near Kirtlington Quarry, a geological nature reserve and trail.
We walked for another 5 miles today, 2nd January, through the quarry with its jurassic limestones and along the Oxford Canal path.
It has just started to rain as we returned to the cars and we ended our trip with a drink and snack in The Bell Inn in a village called Lower Heyford.
We found a short hotel break with some of our lovely friends to be the perfect way to welcome 2022! We could all enjoy ourselves throughout the evening with nobody having to drive on New Years Eve and we found a couple of great options to explore the local area with the grandeur of Blenheim Palace and then finishing off with the local nature walk.