Monthly Archives: June 2013

Driving into Oxford: Don’t do it!

There is something very important you need to know about Oxford if you are making the trip using an automobile – Oxford hates cars.

This is despite the fact William Morris, a weird little guy who later became Lord Nuffield, established his multi-gazillionaire empire here in what All About Oxford sometimes playfully calls The City of Screaming Squires.

Why, even the now famous Mini is still made within the so-called city limits.

Here is a bit of practical advice for you motorists coming to our city. Unless you have a working GPS , don’t bother coming into the centre of town. There are five Park & Ride areas on the ring road – details can be found here

The Randolph Hotel ***** Our score ***

Randolph HotelI must declare an interest here. I’ve stayed in the Randolph and I was far from impressed by the hotel. I haven’t been in there for a few years but one particular feature of the place really did my brain in: the Morse Bar. In general, avoid any bar in Oxford with pics of Morse or his sidekick, Lewis.

The bar is, as you’d expect from a place like this, not the cheapest place on the block, but what’s really irritating is that the place is dotted with pictures of John Thaw, who played the egregious Wagner loving detective in the long running TV series. Nothing against John Thaw – a fab actor and veteran, for example, of The Sweeney – but y’now.

The Randolph, in my opinion, peddles a “vision” of Oxford which is bogus. Yes, it isn’t too far from the railway station and even closer to Gloucester Green bus station. When I stayed there, it was in a tiny room way up in the building. The service was indifferent and its so-called renowned “Morse Bar” deserves to be consigned to the trash can of old repeated TV stories. For some reason, neither Morse nor Lewis were ever filmed in Blackberry Leys or Barton.

Expect to pay £200+ for a double room for two adults, and expect to pay £15 for a breakfast, although if you scuttle out of the hotel, skipping the breakfast, you can go to the St Giles café, just a little way away, and get a wonderful breakfast for half the price. If you’ve got a car, expect to pay £30 a night to have it parked on site.

On the bright side, it’s just opposite the wonderful Ashmolean Museum and just up from where English kings Richard I and John I were born. If you’ve got the money, well like Las Vegas maybe you should go there once. But I will never stay there again — Mike Magee

Visiting Oxford by coach from London

Two coach services run from central London to Oxford – they are called the Oxford Tube and the X90. Both offer free wi-fi. Both also have toilets on board. Journey time from London to Oxford is around 100 minutes. There is also a service to Oxford from Gatwick and London Heathrow airports, the Airline, a night and day service, details of which you can find here. Like the two other coach services, this bus offers free wi-fi and has a toilet onboard.

Note that if you buy a return ticket on the Oxford Tube you can’t travel back on the X90, and vice versa.

Both services start from Victoria but take different routes along the way.

Oxford Tube
Oxford TubeThis  double decker bus runs 24 hours a day. There are various ticket options, including discounts for students (you have to show your student card) and for people aged over 60.

undergroundThe Oxford Tube bus starts at Victoria Station and stops at Marble Arch,  Shepherd’s Bush, Notting Hill, Hillingdon, the very weird Lewknor Turn and then along the M40 and the A40 to Oxford.  The Shepherd’s Bush Oxford Tube bus stop is actually nearer to Holland Park tube station. You can find a London Tube map here.

There are several stops in Oxford: Thornhill Park & Ride;  Gladstone Road; HeadingtonOxford Brookes University;  St Clement’sHigh StreetSt Aldate’s and the final stop, Gloucester Green. It’s always wise to check the Oxford Tube web site because sometimes stops along the way from Victoria to Hillingdon are suspended.

If it’s a fine day and there’s room on the top deck, grab a seat there. You’re very likely to see several Red Kites flying over the escarpment as you head down the hill to Oxford.

The X90, run by the Oxford Bus Company, does not run 24 hours a day. You can view the timetable at its website, here. Unlike the Oxford Tube, it does not stop at the frankly weird Lewknor Turn, and once you reach Hillingdon, on the outskirts of London, it does not stop again until it reaches Baker Street.  That shaves quite some time off the journey, because the X90 avoids Shepherd’s Bush and Notting Hill Gate.

Oxford Stops
If you’re visiting Oxford for the day, the best stops to get off are on the High Street or St Aldate’s. The latter is close to Christ Church College.

Visiting Oxford by train

There are fast trains from Paddington Station in London to Oxford that run every half hour or so during the day, stopping at Slough and Reading. You can use this Network Rail journey planner to find the times. The trip takes about an hour.  When you get off the train and leave the station you’ll be faced with the somewhat gruesome facade of the Saïd Business School. This is part of the University of Oxford but unless you’re into being an entrepreneur or getting an MBA, this place is of little interest.

It is only a short walk – 10 minutes or so – from the railway station to the heart of Oxford. Unless you’re disabled or weighed down with heavy luggage, you don’t need to take one of the many buses that stop outside the station.

Walk across the pedestrian crossing at the station – there’s a big statue of an ox over there, turn right and when you reach the corner of the Saïd Business School, turn left.

Following this route will take you to a good starting point to explore Oxford further.

All about Oxford

This blog is intended to be a useful guide for visitors to the city of Oxford, exploring the highways, the byways, the walks and handy tips that will make your stay that much more pleasant and informative.