Oxfordshire is well-known for its wide-open spaces, historic sites, and its honeycomb-coloured stone villages which form part of the world-famous Cotswolds. It’s an affluent county blanketed in lush rolling countryside, beckoning to be explored. So, if you’re looking for interesting but inexpensive things to do in the heart of Britain, here are 12 cultural date ideas that won’t cost a penny.
1. Step into Wonderland
If you want to go on a date to an unusual date location, head to Whychwood Wild Garden. Several waterfalls, ponds, tranquil streams and sleepy canals will transport you through a fantastical wild landscape where nature is allowed to dictate where the path leads. Huge trees, three centuries old, provide a grand canopy and are guaranteed to captivate the imagination. Here’s a chance to write your own story. Will it have a happy ending?
2. Be Your Own Lord and Lady of Downton Abbey
Sitting on almost 11’500 acres, Bampton’s St Mary’s Church used to be the biggest in Oxfordshire. Its intricate herringbone masonry on the tower is the church’s only clue to its age, since it’s a hallmark of Anglo-Saxon architecture. Nowadays, St Mary’s church and the local area are famed for often being featured in Downton Abbey, a popular television show. This would make a great date location for fans.
3. An Archaeological Date at a Palace
Dating back to the 12th century, Bishop’s Palace in Witney is a great place for both serious and hobbyist archaeologists. Called a palace because it was by far the grandest structure of its type, Bishop’s Palace was really just a manor house, but a magnificent one.
4. Picnic at a Wildflower Meadow
One of the largest nature reserves in Oxfordshire, Chimney Meadows is a tranquil landscape splashed by the colour of wildflowers. The serene calls of rare birds sing out across the river as waders feed in the shallows. Watch out for a flash of bright orange and blue as kingfishers silently whiz past.
5. Discover a Lost Village in a Tiny Museum
- 22nd March 2015, Churchill, Oxfordshire
The staff at the Churchill & Sarsden Heritage Centre think their museum might be the smallest in Oxfordshire. It is also the site of the lost village of Churchill. In 1684, fire ravaged the village and sealed its fate. Now, this once-forgotten place has been made immortal through impressive interpretation and oil paintings, providing a sentimental journey and a warming date experience.
6. Cycle Around a Country Park
Set in 50 acres of stunning British countryside, Kilkenny Lane Country Park has perfect pathways for a gentle cycle around the grounds. Look out for a few unexpected sights, including a totem pole and a willow igloo.
7. Explore the Ruins of an Abandoned Manor House
Built by one of the wealthiest British men of the 15th century, Minster Lovell Hall was once a grand manor house belonging to several notable owners with ties to royalty. Abandoned and later demolished, the hall’s remnants sit by the picturesque River Windrush. An excellent place to get to know a bit more about that special someone.
8. Head Over Heels at Rollright Stones
A date to Rollright stones could score you brownie points. This large circular pattern made by a dozen or so knotted slabs of stone is enough to rival Stonehenge. Spanning the Bronze and Neolithic Age, the stones are said to represent a monarch and his courtiers whose demise came when they were petrified by a witch.
9. Romance at a Roman Villa
Overlooking the Evenlode Valley, North Leigh Roman Villa’s most captivating feature is its beautiful mosaic floor. It’s almost intact, and you can look at the intricate detailing from a special viewing window. This could be your first chance to get close to your date.
10. Visit a Rural Museum
A trip to the quaint village of Filkins is a nice day out in itself, but when you know its history, it’s even better. Visit the Swinford Museum and relive a forgotten time when crafts and agriculture played a pivotal roll in this tight-knit rural community.
11. Blow Your Mind with 11 Galleries at Woodstock
If a rural museum doesn’t quite hit the spot, try the Oxfordshire Museum. Spread over an impressive 11 galleries, this beautiful 18th-century stately home houses a permanent collection of the county’s finest works of art. If you and your date don’t find a piece here that you both love, then perhaps it’s time to look for someone else who shares your good taste.
12. A Wildlife Walk at Foxholes
Although Foxholes Nature Reserve undoubtedly looks her best in springtime when bluebells decorate the woodland, anytime is a good time to take a wildlife walk. Go hand in hand through the specially marked trail, winding through the reserve and past the badger way-markers, which provide a good clue about a few of the reserve’s illusive inhabitants.
Image Source: Whychwood Wild Garden via wychwoodwildgarden.org.uk; Church of St Mary via deviantart.com; Bishop’s Palace via geograph.org.uk; Chimney Meadows via wildlifetrusts.org; Churchill & Sarsden Heritage Centre via churchillheritage.org.uk; Kilkenny Lane Country Park via geograph.org.uk; Minster Lovell Hall via english-heritage.org.uk; Rollright Stones via english-heritage.org.uk; North Leigh Roman Villa via english-heritage.org.uk; Swinford Museum via geograph.org.uk; Oxfordshire Museum via oxfordshire.gov.uk; Foxholes Nature Reserve via experiencechippingnorton.com.
Featured photo credit: Unknown via english-heritage.org.uk