A Harry Potter Tour of Oxford

Calling all Harry Potter fans! Are you still waiting for your Hogwarts acceptance letter? Do you already know what house you’d be sorted into? Well, if your letter hasn’t arrived yet then there’s no need to worry! You can visit Hogwarts right now with one of the many Harry Potter themed tours available in Oxford.

Famous for it’s old university buildings – some dating back as far as 1040 – Oxford was an obvious choice when it came to choosing sets and inspiration for the Harry Potter film series released between 2001 and 2011. So get ready to explore the famous Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry, discover its hidden secrets and walk the same mysterious hallways as Harry, Hermione and Ron, as part of your next stay at Hardwick Parks.

You’ll be shown around by one of Oxford’s many experienced and knowledgeable tour guides who will let you in on the secrets of Oxford University itself as well as special behind-the-scenes knowledge of how the university was used to bring Hogwarts to life.

Christ Church college, located in the heart of the city, was used for many scenes throughout the film series. You might instantly recognise the New College Cloister and its large Oak tree, for example, as it was here that Mad-Eye Moody turned Draco Malfoy into a ferret in “Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire.”

The great hall of Christ Church may also seem familiar, and it should! While not used in the films themselves, the hall (and the staircase leading to it) were used as direct inspiration for the great hall set that is seen on screen.

Down in the Bodleian Library, you can visit the Hogwarts infirmary (and sometimes dance studio), which, to the students and staff of Christ Church college, is known as the Divinity School. True fans of the series may also want to organise access to the Duke Humfrey’s Library. Only accessible on a private tour, the Duke Humfrey’s Library was used as the Hogwarts Library in some scenes – who knows, there may still be some spell books hidden among the dusty tomes.

Once you’ve had your fill of the sights and sounds of Hogwarts, you can pick up a few magical souvenirs from the City of Oxford Visitor Information Centre – it’s not quite Ollivanders, but they do sell wands and owls!

Harry Potter isn’t the only fictional figure whose past you can explore in Oxford. As part of the same tour, you’ll learn about the real Alice from Lewis Carroll’s Alice in Wonderland, learn more about J.R.R. Tolkien’s time at Oxford and explore the mischief of Oscar Wilde among many other notable figures from the world of literature.

If you’re looking for a magical holiday, then why not spend some time at Hardwick Parks this spring? With our central Oxfordshire position, you’re never too far from your next adventure – whether it’s among the mysterious spires of Oxford or among the natural beauty of the bewitching countryside. Book your stay at Hardwick

The Best Places to Visit in the Oxfordshire Cotswolds

The Cotswolds are one of the most stunningly beautiful areas in England. The rolling hills and golden stone has been the inspiration for many a sonnet, sonata and sketch in its time. The Oxfordshire Cotswolds are a must visit area for those with an interest in nature and the beauty that accompanies it. Here are just some of our favourite attractions!

Rousham Gardens

As has already been stated, the Cotswolds are a truly special example of natural wonder; indeed the whole Cotswolds area was named an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty in 1966. That doesn’t mean however, that there aren’t some special examples of man-made beauty too. The Garden’s at Rousham are one such example. The grounds of Rousham house represent the first phase of English landscape design and remain almost unchanged since their initial design by William Kent in the 18th century. While tours of the house at Rousham are open only to pre-booked large groups, the gardens remain open all year round and provide an un-commercialised (there’s no shop or tea-room!) peaceful and relaxing experience.

St Oswald’s Church

For a different kind of beauty, why not pay a visit to the isolated St Oswald’s Church? This 13th century church is located on its own near the tiny village of Swinbrook. In 1904 the church was found to be built on the base of a Roman house or temple. In modern times this small place of worship also features several uncovered Roman mosaics and, nearby, the remains of the medieval village that St Oswald’s once served. The main attraction of St Oswald’s however, is the striking beauty of the lonely church in the dramatic countryside and so is best visited when the weather fits the mood.

Wychwood Brewery

Closer to civilisation, on the border of the Wychwood National Nature Reserve, can be found the town of Witney, home to – not only Hardwick Parks – but also the Wychwood Brewery. This famous brewery has been producing beer since 1983 and is the UK’s largest producer of organic ale. For those interested, Wychwood offer a two-hour tour experience that covers the whole brewing process – from raw ingredients to the finished product. The tour also includes a tasting session and the brewery shop and is an experience unsuitable for children under 12.

Foxholes Nature Reserve

Diving back into the Cotswolds, near the hamlets of Bould and Bruern and north of the Cotswold gateway town of Burford is the Foxholes Nature Reserve. Run by the Berks, Bucks & Oxon Wildlife Trust, this reserve features stunning and atmospheric ancient forestland and is a great place to walk and experience everything British woodland has to offer. During the spring, the woods are carpeted with lush bluebells – certainly a sight to behold.

Burford – The Gateway to the Cotswolds

Burford is the most popular town in the Oxfordshire Cotswolds – so much so that it’s considered the gateway to the Cotswolds from the East and was voted the 6th best place to live in the world by Forbes magazine in 2009.

Steeped in history, Burford has barely changed since Georgian times – a period in which the town was an important coach stop on the journey between Oxford and the West Country. The high street at Burford is considered one of the finest in the Cotswolds, sloping down to a bridge crossing the River Windrush while golden Cotswold stone buildings look on.

Hardwick Parks makes a great home base from which to explore the Oxfordshire Cotswolds, being just a short drive away. Book today and guarantee an incredible 2018 holiday!

The Best Museums in Oxford for a Rainy Day

With autumn fast approaching and the weather on the down turn, it might be less inviting to take in the natural beauty of Oxfordshire – but that doesn’t mean there’s nothing to do!

Oxford, just a short distance from Hardwick Parks, is considered one of the centres of learning in the UK. With the first University being established in the city in 1096 it has a reputation for knowledge and information. This being the case it is of no surprise that Oxford is home to some of the best museums in the country – and many of them are free!

Ashmolean Museum of Art and Archaeology

The Ashmolean is a traditional sort of museum, featuring art and historical artefacts from around the world. The museum was founded in 1683 and features several world famous exhibitions; ranging from ancient Egyptian mummies to contemporary modern art – with some of the oldest pieces dating back to 8000BC!

Other exhibits include one of the greatest collections of Raphael drawings in existence, the most important collection of Egyptian sculpture and ceramics outside Cairo, Anglo-Saxon treasures, and the foremost collection of modern Chinese paintings in the Western world.

Best of all, the Ashmolean has no entry fee, meaning you can see all of these wonders of history for free!

The Pitt Rivers Museum

Stepping into the Pitt Rivers Museum feels a bit like stepping into the office of an eccentric history professor. This archaeological and anthropological museum is packed to the rafters with strange and unusual findings from all over the world – with many originally donated by Pitt Rivers himself in 1884.

The museum describes some of its displays as being “visible storage” but this controlled mess is part of the charm! These over-filled display cases marked with hand written note cards – many of which written by the museums first curator – give the Pitt Rivers museum a unique atmosphere. An atmosphere only bolstered by the beautiful galleried building in which the museum resides.

Modern Art Oxford

Modern Art Oxford, located in the centre of the city, is a great place to tap into your artistic and experimental streak. This world-renowned modern art gallery was founded 50 years ago and features a wide collection of contemporary and experimental art. If you’re worried that modern art might not be your thing then Modern Art Oxford is free to enter – making it a risk free endeavour! The gallery aims to make this rather challenging type of art accessible and enjoyable by all and by the end of your visit you might just have a whole new appreciation for the weirder side of art!

The Story Museum

The Story Museum is aimed at families with children and those with limitless imaginations! This unique museum aims to create a strange wonderland-like experience and gives you the opportunity to explore atmospheric spaces and create your own story of wizards, witches and wild things that unfolds throughout your visit.

The Story Museum hosts events for all ages: author workshops, family story tours, talks, performances and more.

These are just some of our favourite museums in Oxford, but there’s plenty more to learn, explore and do – no matter the weather! All of these museums are just a short journey from the comfort of Hardwick Parks – making it a great hub for your next Oxfordshire adventure.

Family Days out in Oxfordshire

From period dramas to playforts to crocodiles, there’s something to keep the whole family entertained in Oxfordshire this summer. To help make your visit that little bit easier to plan we thought we’d share two of our favourite family days out in Oxfordshire.

Cogges Manor Farm is set among 15 acres of beautiful grounds and consists of the manor house itself as well as several farm buildings, a walled garden, orchard and even a moat! The farm is considered a UK heritage site and features a wide range of things to do and places to explore.

On arrival you may find that you recognise parts of Cogges Manor Farm, especially if you’re a fan of the period drama Downton Abbey, as Cogges was used as the set for Yew Tree Farm. For a limited time, you can learn more about the farm’s place in the series through a display in the sitting room and you can even try on period-inspired clothes in the parlour. You can also explore some behind the scenes features through tablets found in the manor house and even go on Downton Abbey inspired historical tours!

t’s not all about period drama of course. There’s plenty more for everyone at Cogges Manor Farm. The farm features a wide range of animals for you to meet and feed, including pygmy goats, rabbits, guinea pigs and a miniature Shetland pony to name but a few! You can also explore the sheep fields as part of the on-site “welly walk” and go searching for badger setts in the manor grounds.

For kids there is the Cooges Castle; a wooden playfort with swings, wobbly bridges and even a zipwire and, for under 5s, there’s the minicogges soft play area. There’s also a great opportunity for the kids to get out and explore nature. The island and moat area offers a great opportunity for den making while the wooded grounds are filled with badger setts, bats and other wildlife to search for.

Alternatively, if goats and pony’s aren’t quite your thing, then why not visit the residents of the Crocodiles of the World zoo? Crocodiles of the World is the UK’s only dedicated crocodile and alligator zoo. Starting as a personal collection, the Zoo now offers you the chance to get up close and personal with some of the rarest animals on the planet. The zoo is home to 17 different species of crocodile and alligator, from the critically endangered Siamese Crocodile to the heavyset American Alligator.

There’s a lot more to Crocodiles of the World than just watching from a distance however. Three times a day you can see a feeding first hand and learn more about all the different varieties of croc as professional zoo handlers talk through the entire feeding process.

If you want to get even closer to the animals you can take the opportunity to hold a baby croc for a great photo opportunity. Crocodiles of the World even offers keeper experience packages for both adults and children – giving you the opportunity to work closely with zookeepers and get hands-on with feeding, preparing and cleaning around the zoo.

Don’t forget to visit the other animals! Crocodiles of the World is also home to Monitor Lizards, Meerkats, Snakes, Turtles and Tamarinds to name but a few. As well as crocodile keeper experiences, Crocodiles of the World also offer the opportunity to get up close with the Meerkats, who are guaranteed to entertain!

There’s plenty to see and do in Oxfordshire and we’ve covered just two of them! Hardwick Parks, with its central location near Witney, is a great place to set up camp for your next Oxfordshire adventure.