Mollie’s staycation guide

BICESTER VILLAGE

24 miles from Mollie’s Oxford

This designer outlet is home to over 160 boutiques and offering big-name brands (from Agents Provocateur and Armani to Soho Home and Versace) and savings of up to 60% off high-street prices all year round.

Mollie’s guests are offered an exclusive shopping passport giving a 10% discount on selected retail outlets. Or explore our ‘Mid-week at Mollie’s’ deal – an exclusive 10%-off VIP Pass. Ask at reception for more details.

UNIVERSITY OF OXFORD

14 miles from Mollie’s Oxfordshire

A collection of 38 historic collegiate buildings scattered around the city make up the ‘dreaming spires’ of Oxford: Corpus Christi, Magdalen, Oriel, Queens, Trinity and the magnificent must-do Christ Church (College, Great Hall and Cathedral) are among the many that are open to the public.

Balliol, Exeter, the Radcliffe Camera (Science Library) and 14th century New College are covered by Oxford Walking Tours – five tours a day, on the hour, every day.

PITT RIVERS MUSEUM

14 miles from Mollie’s Oxfordshire

This quirky museum of curiosities was founded in 1884 when General Augustus Pitt Rivers gifted his unique collection of global stuff to the University.

With an emphasis on anthropology and archaeology, expect the unusual. Seal-intestine clothing, Ainu hunting quivers, a Tanzanian canoe, Fijian tooth necklaces, an Icelandic bread stamp and Andean shrunken heads, are among 500,000 objects, all crammed into glass cabinets in the lofty galleries of a Grade I listed building.

OXFORD GHOST TOURS

Never mind the dreaming spires, according to the guides at the Oxford Ghost Tours, the city is ‘a place of nightmares…stalked by morbid phantoms of the past’.

Walking the city’s streets after dark, the two-hour tours are a cauldron of spooky tales, horrible histories, humour and discovery, covering parts of the city you might not otherwise see.

OXFORD PRISON & CASTLE

13.5 miles from Mollie’s Oxfordshire

Murderers, hangmen, highwaymen and insurgents are among the unfortunates who have passed through the gates of this venerable institution – celebrating its 950th birthday in 2021. Some of them are still here: the prison is one of Britain’s most haunted buildings.

Guides in period costume bring the place to life on tours of the 18th century cells, the candlelit crypt and the Debtors’ Tower, meeting some of the prison’s former inmates on the way.

CHIMNEY MEADOWS NATURE RESERVE

5.4 miles from Mollie’s Oxfordshire

The Berks, Bucks and Oxon Wildlife Trust’s largest nature reserve is set on the riverbanks of the Upper Thames where acres of wildflower meadows and winter wetlands, a refuge for wading birds (curlews, herons, little egrets). Look out for brown hares, holly blue butterflies, goldfinches and kingfishers.

The reserve is open all year round, access is via a network of footpaths (the Thames Path National Trail passes through) and entry is free. Don’t forget your wellies.

BADBURY HILL AND FOREST

6.9 miles from Mollie’s Oxfordshire

Take a hike through Badbury Forest to the summit of Badbury Hill where the relics of an iron age fort offer dreamy views over the Thames Valley.

Search for Badbury on the National Trust’s website – for a downloadable tree-spotting guide plus tips on ‘forest bathing’: turn off electronic devices, engage your senses, take it slow…

OXFORD CITY CENTRE

14 miles from Mollie’s Oxford

There is so much to see in this beguiling city and much of the action packed into a few photogenic streets on either side of the High Street. Among a long list of must-dos are the University’s 400-year-old Bodleian Library (Hogwarts Infirmary in Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone), the neo-Gothic Museum of Natural History, the Covered Market, the Hertford Bridge (Oxford’s answer to Venice’s Bridge of Sighs) and the medieval Carfax Tower (for great views over the city).

OXFORD'S WATERWAYS

14 miles from Mollie’s Oxfordshire

The 200-year-old Oxford Canal – one of the oldest in Britain – meets the River Thames and its tributaries here in the heart of the city, offering miles of scenic riverbank, tow-path walks and a host of watery activities.

Look out for the college boathouses on ‘the Isis’ – where the college rowing crews race each other in the city’s two annual regattas, take a punt on the River Cherwell, a Thames boat trip with Oxford River Cruises or catch a misty Port Meadow sunset.

ASHMOLEAN MUSEUM

14 miles from Mollie’s Oxfordshire

The world’s first university museum, the Ashmolean is a grand affair, all columns and pilasters, and home to fabulous collection of art and archaeology – Anglo-Saxon artefacts, drawings by Raphael, Minoan art and one of the finest collections of Egyptian sculpture outside Cairo.

OXFORD BOTANIC GARDEN & ARBORETUM

18.8 miles from Mollie’s Oxfordshire

The University’s Botanic Garden is the oldest in the country (founded in 1621, it’s celebrating a 400-year anniversary). A 20-minute walk from central Oxford, the garden displays over 5000 plant species, some of them houses in glasshouses.

On the edge of the city, its woodland sister, Harcourt Arboretum, is a leafy paradise of rare trees, founded in 1835 by Archbishop Vernon Harcourt and offering 130 acres of meadows, bluebell woods, walled gardens and an Acer Grove – a blaze of colour in the autumn.

BLENHEIM PALACE

20 miles from Mollie’s Oxford

A World Heritage Site, this vast, fancy pile, designed by John Vanbrugh in 1722, is billed as ‘Britain’s Greatest Palace’ – and what a wonder it is.

Home to the Dukes of Marlborough, with 2000 acres of parkland and 187 rooms, there’s a lot to see. Start with the gilded state rooms, followed by Upstairs (the room where Winston Churchill was born), Downstairs (the kitchen – still in use), stables, walks, walled gardens and a new family-friendly Autumn Tree Trail.