Why not take a break with the family and visit one of the top attractions within easy reach of Oxford? We have selected some great places to visit, ranging from wildlife parks to grand stately homes.


The Park opened to the public for the first time, with fine weather and admission prices of five shillings for adults (25p) and two shillings for children (10p!). This was the culmination of a huge effort over the previous year by the park’s founder, John Heyworth, and his team — Brian Sinfield (the park’s first curator) and Les Scott (head gardener until 1999), and not forgetting a large bank loan taken out by Mr Heyworth.

Visitors arrived to find some 12 mammal species (including wallabies, tapirs and llamas), 62 bird species (including some of our Chilean flamingos which are still living in the lake area) and 20 species of reptiles and amphibians.

Although on a shoestring budget, great care was taken to make use of the beautiful natural features of the house and surrounding parkland with its many fine specimen trees and the Walled Garden had been brought back from being an overgrown wilderness.

The park developed steadily as visitor numbers grew. A reptile house was added in 1971, rhinos and zebras arrived in 1972 and the park’s popular narrow gauge railway opened in 1975. The following year, one of the UK’s first insect and butterfly houses opened to visitors here.

The 1980s saw the arrival of leopards, tigers and fruit bats and the opening of the Tropical House in the Walled Garden. Just as importantly, this decide saw the complete re-roofing of the listed Victorian manor house at the centre of the park, saving this beautiful building for future generations to enjoy.

Highlights of the 1990s included the arrival of Asiatic lions (replacing the Bengal tigers, which died of old age in 1996) and the rebuilding of many of the Park’s original enclosures such as the walk-through bird aviary in the Walled Garden.

The next decade has seen this process continue, with the addition of new enclosures such as the walk-through lemur exhibit, ‘Madagascar’ and the wolves.

New greenhouses have been part of a major push since 2000 to develop the Park not just for those who love animals but for those who love gardens and horticulture too.

In the 40 years since the Park opened, some 12.5 million visitors have enabled the park to grow into one of the UK’s major and most respected zoological collections, with gardens that give equal interest and pleasure.

The Cotswold Wildlife Park opens its doors at 10.00am every day, with last admission at 4.30pm.

For more information and ticket details call: 01993 823006 or visit the park’s website: www.cotswoldwildlifepark.co.uk


Children aged between two and 12 can enjoy more than 50 rides, live shows and model workshops set in 150 acres of grounds. Join the crew at Legoland Windsor as they set up camp in Pirates Landing. Try out your swashbuckling, seafaring skills at the Pirate Training Camp, an interactive adventure play area with so much to explore. And climb aboard for a breathtaking ride on the Jolly Rocker, which swings to an incredible 18 metres high! Then set sail for a soaking and follow the pirates on a hunt for treasure on the “explosively” enhanced Pirate Falls Dynamite Drench. With new interactive water cannons, it’s one adventure that’s bound to go with a splash! There is also a new pirate-themed live action show for 2010, the first in the park’s history, featuring death-defying acrobatics and swashbuckling swordplay — the Pirates of Skeleton Bay is an adventure for the whole family. Among the special events at legoland this year is The Festival of Imagination on June 5-6.

Call: 08705 040404 or visit the website: www.legoland.co.uk

GULLIVERS, Milton Keynes

A theme park designed for families with children between the age of two and 13. The park has exciting rides, attractions, shows and its resident characters, Gully and Gilly Mouse. Gully Town is an indoor play area with plenty to explore. There are special events throughout the summer.

Call: 01925 444888 or visit the website: www.gulliversfun.co.uk to find out more.

BIRDLAND, Bourton-on-the-Water

Home to 130 species of birds and the only group of king penquins in England, Birdland has tropical, desert and toucan houses where all the family can see birds from around the world. Children particularly love watching the penguins being fed. Summer events include reptile awareness and birds of prey encounter days

Call: 01451 820480 or visit the website: www.birdland.co.uk


A drive-through safari and theme park where you can view some of the rarest animals in the world including white lions, cheetah, white tigers, elephants and Cape Buffalo. Summer events include World Oceans Weekend (June 6-7), Art Weekend (June 13-14), Safari Treasure Hunt (June 27-28) and Summer Nights (August 1-31) where visitors can take an evening safari and watch a sealion show.

Call: 01299 402114 or visit the website: www.wmsp.co.uk


At the UK’s largest tropical butterfly paradise visitors can discover many colourful insects. The farm’s largest butterfly is the silver morpho from El Salvador in Central America which measures about seven inches across. During the summer families will have the chance to see new arrivals and talk to staff about the lives of these fascinating creatures.

Call: 01789 299288 or visit the website: www.butterflyfarm.co.uk


Step back in time and see steam trains from the golden age of the Great Western Railway,. Here, you can ride behind one of the giants of steam and view a typical branch line, complete with station, signal box and a level crossing. Summer events include Father’s Day steaming (June 21), Broad Gauge steam days (June 27-28, July 25-28).

For operating times, call: 01235 817200 or visit the website: www.didcotrailwaycentre.org.uk


Take a seven mile trip on the Icknield Line, which passes along the foot of the picturesque Chilterns. Steam and diesel locamotives will be in steam on many weekends during the summer. Summer events include Wild Life On the Move train ride with Chilterns Conservation Board volunteers the chance to observe and identify wildlife as you travel by train. Other events include a Diesel Gala Weekend (June 27-28), Senior Citizens day (July 19), 20th anniversary events on every Saturday in August (when the Autotrailer will be in operation), Annual Gala Day (August 2), Teddy Bear Days (August 30-31).

Call: 01844 35353 or visit the website: www.cpra.co.uk


Home to one of the largest collections of railway memorabilia in the UK. Visitors can take a train ride and view exhibitions in the reconstructed Rewley Road Station from Oxford. Special events include a historic commercial vehicle rally (june 14), Day Out with Thomas (July 3-5 July), and an Anniversary Gala (August 29-31).

Call: 01296 655720 or visit the website: www.bucksrailcentre.org


Take a nostagic train ride on the scenic line in the Cotswolds. A 20-mile round trip from Toddington to Cheltenham racecourse brings back memories of the great days of steam. Summer events include a real steam and real ale event (June 6-7), a transport nostalgia day (June 14), and a diesel spectacular (July 10-12). The GWR runs on most days throughout August.

Call: 01242 621405 or visit the website: www.gwr.com

HORSE-DRAWN CRUISES on the Kennet and Avon Canal, Berkshire

Sit back and enjoy the canalside countryside while enjoying the delights of a bygone era. Summer trips on horse-drawn and motor-powered boat trips leave Kintbury, near Hungerford and Newbury from Easter to October. Trips range from an hour-an-a-half to three hours in duration

For more details, call: 01488 658 866 or visit the website: www.kennet-horse-boat.co.uk


Named as a World Heritage Site in 1987, the palace is home to the 11th Duke of Marlborough and was the birthplace of Sir Winston Churchill. Blenheim is set in parkland which was landscaped by Capability Brown in the 1760s. Summer events: Blenheim Triathlon (June 6-7), Shakespeare in the Park - As You Like It (June 15-21), Festival for Heroes (June 20, Porsche Club GB Festival (July 11-12), Battle Proms Evening Picnic Concert (July 18), Jousting Tournament (August 7-9) and Classic Car and Motorcycle Show (August 31-31).

Call: 08700 602080 or visit the website: www.blenheimpalace.com


A National Trust property, this 17th-century mansion contains an outstanding collection of English and continental Old Master paintings and porcelain. It has terraced flower borders and, water gardens and a national collection of asters. For this summer the house has launched of a 1930s art deco-style holiday cottage and the the borders are being returned to how they looked in the 1930s

Call: 01295 670266 or visit the website: www.nationaltrust.org.uk

SULGRAVE MANOR, near Banbury

A fine example of a modest manor house built in Shakespeare’s time which was home to the ancestors of George Washington. Guided tours include the great hall, kitchen and bedchamber. Summer events Independence Day Celebration (july 4-5) Sulgrave in Stiches ( August 16-28), an exhibition of embroidery, patchwork and quilting on a garden theme.

Call: 01295 760205 or visit the website: www.sulgravemanor.org


One of England’s finest medieval castles is home to a £1m battle experience. The Dream of Battle is set within the ancient castle walls - where you can also visit the dungeon and climb the mighty towers. The castle offers a programme of activities every day throughout the summer including jousting, archery, falconry and combat shows daily.See two mediaeval machines of war as the Trebuchet will once again be shooting twice daily and new for 2009 there will be the Ballista, an authentic recreation of one of the biggest and most deadly military machines of all time.

Call: 0870 442 2000 or visit the website: www.warwick-castle.co.uk

WADDESDON MANOR, Buckinghamshire

A grand house built in the style of a 16th-century French chateau for the Rothchild family. Waddesdon has a world-famous collection of French furniture and decorative arts.

Summer events MAD about Waddesdon, a celebration of visual and performing arts, (June 27-28), Rare and Unusual Plant Fair and Rothschild Wine Day (June 12)

Call: 01296 653226, or visit the website: www.waddesdon.org


One of the first great English landscape gardens , this National Trust property has more than 40 monuments, temples and secret corners, along with ornamental lakes, wooded valleys and spectacular views. Summer event Shakespeare at Stowe (August 1), an evening of theatre set against the background of the Temple of Venus. A perfect evening out - bring a picnic!.

Call: 01494 755568 or visit the website: www.nationaltrust.org

PENDON MUSEUM, Long Wittenham, near Abingdon

Pendon aims to recapture in detailed miniature scenes the beauty of the English countryside as it used to be around 1930. The museum is building an extensive model of the Vale of the White Horse.Summer event:: The late Guy Williams Tribute Weekend (August 29-31), one of this country's leading model locomotive builders. and a founders of museum.

Call: 01865 407365, or visit the website: www.pendonmuseum.com


Explore 30 historic building, saved from demolition and moved piece by piece to this countryside setting. Summer events: Join in on the Farm (June 6-7), Medieval Cooking and Weaponry (June 13-14), Traditional Toys and Games (June 20), Heavy Horse Show (June 21) Meet the Napoleonic Soldiers (June 27-28), Classic Vehicles Show (July 25-26), Hand on Holidays for children (throughout August).

Call: 01494 871117 or visit the website: www.coam.org.uk

OXFORD BUS MUSEUM, Long Hanborough, near Woodstock

Home to a historic display of buses, the museum also has the Morris Motors Museum, telling the story of how cars and commercial vehicles were produced at the Cowley works. Summer event: Fathers’ Day (June 21)

Call: 01993 883617 or visit the website: www.oxfordbusmuseum.com