Enjoy a festive break in Oxfordshire and Buckinghamshire as we explore the highlights of these counties during the most magical time of year. We discover Stonor Park, dressed beautifully for the season, and soak up the festive sights and sounds at Waddesdon Manor’s Christmas Fair. We also admire the lavish decorations at Blenheim Palace, the birthplace of Sir Winston Churchill, before enjoying a special festive lunch here. With time to explore historic Oxford, a wonderful setting for some Christmas shopping, this break is a lovely way to get into the festive spirit.
The 4-star Oxford Belfry Hotel is set in 17 acres of beautiful grounds in Milton Common, close to the university city of Oxford. The hotel offers comfortable bedrooms, a restaurant and lounge bar plus a health club with an indoor pool, sauna, steam room, gym and outdoor tennis courts. Spa treatments are available at an extra cost.
We check in to the Oxford Belfry Hotel in the afternoon. Later, we enjoy a welcome drinks reception hosted by our tour manager followed by a three-course evening meal.
Wednesday: Stonor Park & Waddesdon Manor
Today we head to Stonor Park, situated in a valley in the Chiltern Hills. Home to the Stonor family for 850 years, it is one of the oldest family homes still inhabited today. We embark on a guided tour of the house which contains an impressive collection of art and artefacts as well as an atmospheric 17th-century library. For generations the Stonor family have delighted in decorating Stonor House during the festive season, with the process starting many months ahead. Holly, mistletoe and sweet-scented pine are carefully selected from the estate to create beautiful natural decorations while the Gothic Hall is laden with sparkling festive ornaments gathered from the family’s travels around the world.
We continue to Waddesdon Manor, built by the wealthy Rothschild family in the style of a Renaissance château and filled with royal treasures. We enjoy a guided tour here and explore the interiors that are given an extra sparkle around Christmastime with lavish festive decorations. The Christmas theme continues into the gardens with light trails and stunning illuminations, including Waddesdon’s 30ft high real Christmas tree with its magical fairy lights. There is also time to enjoy Waddesdon’s Christmas Fair, a wonderfully festive shopping experience set against the backdrop of the illuminated North Front of the Manor. From unique gifts and decorations to seasonal treats, there are over 80 hand-selected exhibitors housed in charming wooden chalets.
This evening, we enjoy a three-course dinner back at the hotel.
Thursday: Oxford & Blenheim Palace
This morning we visit historic Oxford, known as the city of dreaming spires and famed for its world-renowned university colleges. There is plenty to discover in this unique city during our time at leisure, from the University of Oxford Botanic Garden to the stunning Bodleian Library. There is a range of fascinating museums too, including the Ashmolean, the world’s first public museum, and the Pitt Rivers Museum which houses over 600,000 objects, photographs and manuscripts from almost every country in the world.
Next is Blenheim Palace, set in over 2,000 acres of beautiful parkland landscaped by ‘Capability’ Brown. We enjoy a festive lunch here before exploring the palace, decorated sumptuously for Christmas. As the seat of the Dukes of Marlborough, the palace is synonymous with the Churchill family and is the birthplace of Sir Winston Churchill. A permanent exhibition commemorates the life of this famous wartime Prime Minister, whilst the magnificent State Rooms reveal a superb collection of tapestries, paintings, porcelain and furniture.
After dinner this evening, we enjoy an interesting themed talk from a guest speaker, filled with stories of Christmas customs.
After breakfast, we check out of the hotel for our journey home.
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