For 2019 we have a fantastic new starting location for our canal boat holidays at Lower Heyford near Bicester, about twelve miles north of the historical city Oxford.
This is the perfect region for taking a step back in time and exploring beautiful historic sites in the south of England. Set on arguably one of the prettiest canals in Britain, this base in Oxfordshire offers some lovely cruising routes both to Oxford and further south into Greater London.
Oxford, the ‘City of Dreaming Spires’ is only a 7-8 hour cruise from the base at Lower Heyford, making it a perfect short break. Further afield are the historic towns of Windsor, Marlow and Hampton Court, all situated on the River Thames.
The Oxford Canal is among the earliest of cuts in the Canal Age. Originally designed by James Brindley, it was opened in sections between 1774 and 1790 with the purpose of bringing coal from the Coventry coalfields to Oxford and the River Thames. The canal formed part of Brindley’s grand plan for a waterway ‘cross’ linking the rivers Thames, Mersey, Trent and Severn.
This 77-mile long canal follows the contours around hills, rather than using cuttings and embankments like later canals, which means that it offers a picturesque and gentle cruise through largely rural waterways.
Nowadays it is mainly a leisure waterway, for canal and narrow boats to enjoy cruises around Oxfordshire.
This new base offers the perfect short break into Oxford. Book a long three-night weekend or four-night midweek break and you can enjoy a leisurely cruise to this historical city.
Alternatively you can head north to the old market town of Banbury and also Cropredy – home to the annual Fairport Convention. This trip is more suited to a midweek break, but can be done over a weekend with longer cruising hours per day.
The City of Dreaming Spires
The Dreaming Spires, Oxford
Oxford is the county town of Oxfordshire and famous worldwide for its prestigious university, the oldest in the English-speaking world. Founded in the twelfth century it was the only university, other than Cambridge, to exist in England until 1832. Therefore it pretty much had the monopoly on education for a long period of time, educating high profile figures for generations.
The nickname of ‘The City of Dreaming Spires’ originates from the poem ‘Thyrsis’ by the Victorian poet Matthew Arnold. He called Oxford ‘the city of dreaming spires’ after the stunning architecture of these university buildings.
Nowadays, the city is a bustling cosmopolitan town. With its mix of ancient and modern, there is plenty to explore. Whether it’s visiting one of the many historic buildings, colleges or museums, going out for a drink or a meal, taking in a show or shopping till you drop, Oxford has it all.
for a good online Oxford City guide.
Oxford is a visually stunning city and has attracted moviemakers across the globe to film here. Some of the films to have been filmed here include X-Men: First Class, Howards End, the Harry Potter movies, Brideshead Revisited, Saving Private Ryan, A Fish Called Wanda, 102 Dalmatians and The Italian Job.
If you are a Harry Potter fan, several scenes from the movies were shot in Oxford, including the Hogwarts Sanatorium in Oxford University’s stunning Bodleian Library, and Hogwarts dining hall in Christ Church College’s dining hall, still used today.
If you’re looking for a longer two-week canal boat holiday then the cruise to Hampton Court Palace in the London Borough of Richmond upon Thames is a stunning trip, taking in many famous sights in Oxfordshire, Berkshire and Greater London.
From the base at Lower Heyford, you’ll cruise the Oxford Canal to Oxford, joining the River Thames here (a licence will be required and can be purchased from the lock, roughly £80 for one week). You’ll then travel through the historic towns such as Henley-on-Thames and Marlow before arriving at Windsor to visit attractions such as Windsor Castle and Legoland, a fantastic theme parks for families.
Continue on towards Runnymede and Staines-upon-Thames to reach Hampton Court where you can explore the home of Henry VIII, visit the grand gardens and famous maze and spend time walking the corridors steeped in Tudor history before returning to base.
Book for 2019
Visit our Lower Heyford base
page here for more details and to book for 2019. You can book short breaks, seven nights and two-week holidays (or longer on request), on a selection of boats that sleep up to ten people.