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Best free family days out in Oxfordshire

PUBLISHED: 14:07 09 June 2015

A donkey at the sanctuary | Photo credit: The Island Farm Donkey Santuary

A donkey at the sanctuary | Photo credit: The Island Farm Donkey Santuary


Fun with the family needn’t cost a pretty penny. Here’s our round-up of the best free activities in Oxfordshire to appeal to all ages.

The Ashmolean Museum | Photo credit: Lucian MilasanThe Ashmolean Museum | Photo credit: Lucian Milasan

The Ashmolean Museum of Art and Archaeology, Oxford

University of Oxford’s popular Ashmolean museum brings together contemporary and historical collections of art and archeology all under one roof. Aside from the usual exhibitions, there’s family-oriented entertainment with hands-on arty activities, a celebration of the 150th anniversary of Alice in Wonderland, a festival of archaeology and a look into Ancient Rome, Ancient Greece, the Japanese Samurais and plenty more taking place this June and July. So if you’re stuck for ideas during the summer holidays, the Ashmolean should have you covered.

Under the Bridge of Sighs during a Footprints tour of Oxford | Photo credit: Footprints ToursUnder the Bridge of Sighs during a Footprints tour of Oxford | Photo credit: Footprints Tours

Footprints 2-hour tour, Oxford

Possibly the only tour organisation offering a free 2-hour guided walk around Oxford, Footprints has established itself as something of a favourite among tourists and locals alike. The tour covers the history of the city, the history of the University colleges, notable people from residents to graduates, Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland and some quirky tales from Oxford’s past, all delivered with wit and enthusiasm. These tours will be best appreciated by the adults and adolescents of the family. You can book ahead (admin cost of £2) or just turn up on the day!

Folly Tower and surrounding woodland in Faringdon | Photo credit: Neil HansonFolly Tower and surrounding woodland in Faringdon | Photo credit: Neil Hanson

Folly Hill, Faringdon

Up on Folly Hill in Faringdon sits a 4-acre woodland of Scots Pine and broadleaf trees, some over two hundred years old. Nestled in the centre and just visible above the trees is the 100ft Folly Tower, an ornamental construction arranged by the eccentric Lord Berners in the 1930s - more to tease neighbours than anything! The tower itself can be climbed for a small fee, but the pretty woodland, with its quirky sculptures, and surrounding fields often peppered with vibrant red poppies, don’t cost a penny to enter.

Pitt Rivers Museum, Oxford | Photo credit: Jorge RoyanPitt Rivers Museum, Oxford | Photo credit: Jorge Royan

Pitt Rivers Museum, Oxford

It’s easy to lose yourself among the cabinets of curiosities at Pitt Rivers. Another of the six venues established by the University of Oxford, the museum holds a fascinating collection of over half a million archeological and ethnographic objects from across the world, painting a picture of the varied and colourful cultures of human civilisation over the ages. There is a dedicated itinerary of family-friendly events throughout the year, with food foraging, shadow puppetry, a sensory trail, art and printing among other activities lined up for the next couple of months.

The Uffington White Horse, seen from aboveThe Uffington White Horse, seen from above

The White Horse, Uffington

The iconic chalk horse, cut deeply into the side of the White Horse Hill in Uffington, is a fascinating relic of British history dating back to the Bronze Age. Though the White Horse is best seen from above, the hill and its picturesque surrounds offer a great picnic spot, and a perfect point from which to visit the remains of nearby Uffington Castle and the ridged formation known as the Giant’s Stair. So, for a family outing with a slice of ancient history, White Horse Hill should fit the bill.

Oxford University Museum of Natural History | Photo credit: Oxford University Museum of Natural HistoryOxford University Museum of Natural History | Photo credit: Oxford University Museum of Natural History

Oxford University Museum of Natural History, Oxford

From dinosaur skeletons to ancient rock formations, the O.U.M.N.H attracts over 300,000 visitors a year with its collection of zoological, entomological and geological finds. You can even bring along something you’ve found yourself to be identified by one of the museum’s experts! Upcoming family-friendly events include dino-themed activities, hands-on scientific investigations, exploring the world of reptiles and much more.

View across the Christ Church Meadow | Photo credit: OzeyeView across the Christ Church Meadow | Photo credit: Ozeye

Christ Church Meadow, Oxford

Owned and maintained by the university college, Christ Church Meadow is a pasture of green in the centre of Oxford. You could have a picnic beside the river, watching the Longhorn cattle grazing nearby, or just enjoy the scenery with a gentle walk. Either way, the meadow is a great opportunity to avoid being cooped up indoors in front of a screen, and enjoy some fresh air out-and-about with the family.

Donkeys often form close friendships with one another | Photo: Island Farm Donkey SanctuaryDonkeys often form close friendships with one another | Photo: Island Farm Donkey Sanctuary

Island Farm Donkey Sanctuary, Brightwell-cum-Sotwell (near Wallingford)

In the small village of Brightwell-cum-Sotwell, the Island Farm Donkey Sanctuary cares for and protects abused and ill-treated donkeys. There are over 100 on the farm, with other rescued animals including sheep, goats and chickens receiving some much needed TLC from the volunteers too. Visitors are welcome from 11am-4pm, and though there’s a strict no feeding policy, it’s often possible to interact with the donkeys who come up to the edge of their pens to see you. The farm is free to enter, though generous visitors can make a donation, sponser a donkey or even offer a helping hand as a volunteer! There’s also an on-site café for refreshments, with proceeds going to the charity.

Blenheim Palace park grounds | Photo credit: Tm [wiki commons]Blenheim Palace park grounds | Photo credit: Tm [wiki commons]

Blenheim Palace Park, Woodstock

The impressive Blenheim Palace is surrounded by 2000 acres of parkland, some of which is freely accessible to the public for walks or picnics. You can enjoy the wide open fields, the grand oaks, the great lake and the classical bridge which straddles it, as well as views of the historic palace of course. The centre of the small market town of Woodstock is only a short distance away, and houses the next installment in this round-up.

The Oxfordshire Museum | Photo credit: SphericalimagesThe Oxfordshire Museum | Photo credit: Sphericalimages

Oxfordshire Museum, Woodstock

Located in Fletcher’s House, the county museum in Woodstock currently features an exhibition exploring life in Victorian times, a dedicated dinosaur room with life-size Megalosaur, an insight into metal forgery and more, with family-friendly activities to keep the kids interested. You can even take a virtual tour of the museum online!

Windrush Path Mosaic Trail | Photo credit: Oxfordshire CouncilWindrush Path Mosaic Trail | Photo credit: Oxfordshire Council

The Windrush Path, Standlake/Newbridge

Following the River Windrush upstream, the Windrush Path takes walkers through flood meadows, passed the Standlake Common Nature Reserve to Newbridge. The walk is only two miles long, which is ideal for a family with younger children, and a mosaic trail created by the local community will keep the littluns entertained. To enjoy the nature reserve itself, home to swans, deer, bees, butterflies and grazing sheep, you have to pay to use one of the on-site hides, but a family walk along the Windrush Path is still a worthwhile outing in this rural corner of Oxfordshire.


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