Live the English country idyll at this gorgeous riverside cottage for 2-4, on the edge of Blenheim Palace Estate near Oxford”
The dynamic New-York-born leaseholder, who runs a luxury lifestyle company in London, has furnished it with high indulgence. Think hand-restored pieces - from chandeliers to vintage dressers - as well as Zoffany wallpapers, hunting trophies, designer fireplaces and a burgundy slipper bath. A British theme runs throughout, from Jubilee tea towels to superb local goodies in the honesty larder. In the garden, she added a timber summer house - a touch of New England - for afternoon tea or morning massages. And, the excellent in-house directory offers great advice on local activities and eateries, as well as concierge services from luxury hampers to childcare.
- You're in the glorious Heart of England: handsome Woodstock town is on your doorstep, Oxford 20 mins away, yet it's only 1.5 hours from London
- We loved the gardens: rainbows of flowers and shrubs, croquet lawn, private stream banks, sheltered outdoor dining/BBQ area
- Come winter, you'll be heartened to find DVDs and books (including children's titles), open fires, parlour games and in-bathroom underfloor heating
- The small kitchen is beautifully kitted out with Welsh slate worktops, top-spec white goods, an honesty larder - and on our most recent revisit we partook of delicious meals pre-ordered from the in-cottage dining menus
- Privileged seclusion: bring a loved one for a special occasion, bring the kids for family downtime, bring the dog too!
- The rooms are compact (as you would expect), and some might find them dark - but we found it romantic, and perfect for a weekend away à deux (ou trois)
- Both bedrooms have double beds (neither can be twin so fine for 2 couples); if you have 2 children they'd have to share
- You can't walk across the bridge into Blenheim Palace, but have to drive in via Woodstock: understandable, given the entry fee (and the risk of meeting a hunting party)
- In winter the outside porch area can feel damp
- It is on the pricey side - but you'll see why when you get there
Best time to go
Our top tips
To find out what's on in Oxford when you're staying, visit Daily Info, which includes listings for theatre, music, festivals, walking tours, lectures and more. For example, if coming in May, try and make it to Magdalen Bridge for the May Morning singing at dawn (1st May), or head to the Isis Tavern to watch the Summer Eights rowing races (normally last week of May).”
- Boutique Cottage
- 2 double bedrooms
- Self-catering (restaurants a short drive away)
- All ages welcome
- Open all year
- Spa Treatments
- Pet Friendly
- Disabled Access
- Beach Nearby
- Off-street Parking
- Restaurants Nearby
- Air Conditioning
- Guest Lounge
- Daily Maid Service
- Towels & Bedlinen
- Concierge Service
- Cleaning every 4 days
Step through the welly-lined porch into a fun and fanciful sitting room, with peacock-patterned Cole & Son wallpaper, floor-length silk curtains, a deep Chesterfield sofa, Andrew Martin fabrics and a quirky chandelier-in-a-birdcage. The effect is sumptuous and sexy - dark perhaps, but we loved it, especially the wonderful lighting, and the sleek black-framed eco-fire in its burnished silver surround, and the carefully chosen books and games.
Next door, the cosy dining room continues the silvery-gold theme, with studded banquettes for lazy breakfasts, and a deer's head above the gold framed fireplace.
Climb from the kitchen to the first-floor bedrooms - both double-bedded - and the bathroom, with its glorious rolltop bath, separate walk-in shower, and underfloor heating. Both bedrooms are compact but extremely comfy. The master has a queensize bed (superb mattress, warm down duvet) and a gleaming rosewood campaign dresser (whose pull-out chair conceals a hairdryer) and huge matching wardrobe. The second bedroom is simpler, with leafy views from the window seat.
The garden has a lovely timber summer house, filled with light from 4 French windows and a skylight, wrapped around by a sun deck.
- Central heating
- DVD player
- Family friendly
- Honesty larder
- Ipod dock
- Picnic kit
- Safe box
- Satellite TV
- Tumble dryer
- Washing machine
The kitchen - like the rest of the cottage - is small but perfectly equipped with a Siemens dishwasher, Dualit toaster and Nespresso machine; a pro knife block set; masses of crockery and silver cutlery; Welsh slate surfaces with 3 bar stools to perch at. In summer, sit outside on the dining terrace - complete with adjacent barbecue, and a powerful radiant heater to extend the al fresco feeling into the night.
The honesty larder is stocked with lovely goodies at reasonable prices such as pure Chegworth Valley apple juice, 'scrumshus' granola, and Real Basmati Rice Company rice, as well as well-chosen wines. You'll find complimentary fizz (for booking through i-escape) chilling in the fridge, as well as some breakfast staples (tea, coffee, eggs, butter, milk, bacon). You can book their private chef for seasonal gourmet meals, or pre-order from the In-Cottage Dining Menu (we went for chicken pie, berry crumble, pea soup, salads – all top-notch).
For eating out, their info pack contains meticulously researched suggestions in Woodstock (5 mins' drive), Oxford (15 mins) and beyond - from gastropubs to organic cafés to restaurants.
- Chef on request
- Coffee / tea making
- Coffee maker
- Family friendly
- Food blender
- Full kitchen
- Hob or stove
- Meal delivery service
- Shopping service
- Honesty larder
- The cottage itself is a beautiful spot for whiling away a long weekend, with lovely gardens, books, games, convivial meals and perhaps sunbathing, pampering or fishing
- The detailed info pack groans with suggestions for exploring the area from walks to stately homes. Blenheim Palace is a must: gilded state halls, impressive artworks, and the room where Winston Churchill was born, and 2,000 acres of 'Capability' Brown landscaped parkland, including a huge lake and formal gardens
- Stroll through handsome Woodstock for honey-stoned houses, art galleries, an unexpectedly interesting free museum (child-friendly) - and a fantastic deli
- The world-famous city of Oxford is also on your doorstep (20 mins): stunning colleges, riverside meadows, ivory-towered backstreets and truly astounding museums
- Charlbury or Burford are 2 quintessentially Cotswold towns packed with old-world charm (20 mins), a little farther are the tiny idyllic 'Slaughter' hamlets
- The atmospherically crumbling ruins of Minster Lovell Hall (15 mins) are perfect for picnics and rambles with the dog, and wild swimming if it's sunny
- Browse cut-price designer outlets at Bicester Village (30 mins)
- An appetising range of DVDs to enjoy of an evening (you can also stream them to the second bedroom upstairs)
Activities on site or nearby include:
- Historical sites
- Horse riding
- Hot air ballooning
- Museums / galleries
- Plantlife / flora
- Private guided tours
- Shopping / markets
This is a great place to come with a younger children: we think 5-10 is the ideal age range, so they can enjoy the riverside garden and the surrounding woods, as well as the children's activities at Blenheim Palace (which were a great hit during our revisit) and further afield. Parents of toddlers should be aware that the garden slopes down to a small river - though there is a safe enclosed garden opposite the dining terrace, so you can keep an eye while relaxing with a drink or meal. There's a bath as well as a separate shower in the bathroom with its cosseting under-floor heating. Teenagers might find the location a bit too quiet. There's a really useful information directory detailing everything you could possibly need, places to visit, shopping and groceries.
Babies (0-1 years), Children (4-12 years)
Family friendly accommodation:
The smaller second bedroom (double only, not a twin) has perfectly chosen books and toys on the shelves (how did they know our son loved Roald Dahl?). He, by the way, slept like a log until 9am, thanks to the total silence and the blackout of the drapes
CRB-checked babysitters can be booked for you
- High chair
- Maclaren stroller
- Baby monitor
- Bottle warmer
- Safety gates
Remember baby and child equipment may be limited or need pre-booking
Kids Activities on site:
- Kids' DVDs, and some books and toys
- Romping around the garden
Kids Activities nearby:
- Blenheim Palace has family-friendly activities, including a maze and a butterfly house in the Pleasure Gardens, craft workshops (ceramic dog-painting was a real hit with our 5 year old), and a miniature train which shuttles you there from the main palace. Workshops are often laid-on during school holidays. The almost-car-free lanes are great for scootering or cycling. See the Blenheim Palace website for more
- Cotswolds Wildlife Park (30 minutes' drive) has a superb range of birdlife, mammals including giraffe and lion, petting zoo, and a great playground in the woods
- RSPB Otmoor has easy paths beside flooded meadows, expect waterfowl, lapwing, heron and reed bunting
- The Pitt River Museum in Oxford has brilliantly quirky exhibits
- Walk around Roman Villa in North Leigh
- The Leys in Witney (15 minutes) has an excellent adventure playground and seasonal paddling pool, tennis courts, skate park and seasonal crazy golf
- WhizzKids (Thame) has indoor and outdoor play areas
Families Should Know:
Apart from the proximity of the river (the garden is fenced off), you should be aware that the house has not been child-proofed with socket protectors, drawer locks etc. Keep small fry away from the fireplaces when lighting them. Also, mobile coverage on some networks is patchy - though there is a landline which you can use
- Hospital: 20 minutes
- Shops: 5 minutes
Blenheim Cottage is set at the end of a private forest track, overlooking a small river on the edge of Blenheim Palace Estate (home to the Duke of Marlborough). It is 500m from the village of Long Hanborough (which has a few shops), 4km from Woodstock (which has a wider range of shops and restaurants), and 15km from the city of Oxford.
London Heathrow (85km) is your best bet if arriving from overseas. There is also a small airfield outside Oxford (just 6km away) which receives a few domestic/shorthaul flights - or private flights if you're feeling flush. Click on the links below for a list of airlines serving these airports.
It's certainly easiest to arrive by car, as the cottage is at the end of a forest track, not really within walking distance of shops and restaurants (apart from one hotel about 500m / 10 mins' walk away). The cottage has a covered garage, and the track is passable for all but the lowest-slung sports cars. Approximate driving time from London is 1.5 hours, likewise Birmingham or Bristol. See our car rental recommendations.
The nearest train station is Hanborough (less than 1km away), which is connected to London Paddington by hourly direct trains (journey time approx 1h15). It is easy to stay overnight and be in London in time for work the following day (as we found on our revisit). Taxis can be arranged from the station if you really want to visit without a car.
Excellent detailed directions will be sent to you when you book through i-escape.com.
More on getting to the UK and getting around
- London Heathrow 85.0 km LHR
- Oxford Airport 6.0 km OXF
- Beach 150.0 km
- Shops 1.0 km
- Restaurant 1.0 km