While Oxfordshire may be best known as the home of the City of Dreaming Spires, it’s also home to many of the loveliest villages in the country. This county in southeast England holds a wealth of beauty, history, and culture. Breathtaking architecture, lovely landscapes, and mysterious sights abound from the Chilterns to the Cotswolds.

    To help you make the most of your experience in the English countryside, we’ve rounded up our picks of the most picturesque villages in Oxfordshire, each of which is well worth your visit.

    1

    Kingham

    Bask in the beauty of the Cotswolds’ crown jewel

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    Kingham, set in the Evenlode valley, was once chosen as England’s Favourite Village. It contains lovely stone houses with pastel-coloured doors and elegant cottages that date back to the 17th and 18th centuries. There’s also a Norman church dedicated to St Andrew, a village shop, and 2 highly rated pubs – the Wild Rabbit and the Kingham Plough – that attract foodies from all over.

    While you’re in the village, stop by the Daylesford farm shop for some fresh produce and to try their lemon drizzle cheesecake. If you have time, visit the Cotswold Farm Park to complete the rural English countryside experience.

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    2

    Dorchester-on-Thames

    Learn more about history in this lovely river-lined village

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    Dorchester-on-Thames is a quaint village located 9 miles south of Oxford and, while it may be small in size, it’s rich in history. It was once the capital of the Anglo-Saxon Kingdom of Mercia and is home to the 12th-century Dorchester Abbey that was built on the site of a 7th-century Saxon Cathedral. The award-winning medieval stonework in the Cloister Gallery depicts the abbey’s story while the Abbey Museum tackles Dorchester’s history.

    As you take a walk around the village, you’ll find stately townhouses and 17th-century cottages and mansions lining the streets. Once a popular stop-over for people on journeys, 2 of the oldest coaching inns remain open to this day.

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    3

    Minster Lovell

    Be entranced by the eerie beauty of the region’s most haunted village

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    Head to the village of Minster Lovell if you’re looking for a hint of supernatural in your trip to the English countryside. This village is beautifully set in the sloping Cotswolds landscape, lending it a dream-like charm. It’s best known as the home to the ruins of a 15th-century manor house owned by the Lovell family, the crux of its haunted reputation.

    Once you’ve had your fill of the spooky legend, take a stroll in the village and admire the lovely stone buildings and thatched cottages. Stop by the Minster Mill and the Old Swan for a hearty dinner by the scenic River Windrush.

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    4

    Shipton under Wychwood

    Visit the village under the boughs of the Wychwood Forest

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    Shipton under Wychwood retains some traces of its past as a part of the Royal Hunting Forest of Wychwood, with the large green at the centre of the village. To the north is an obelisk commemorating the 17 Shipton residents who lost their lives in a shipwreck en route to New Zealand in 1874. To the south is the church of St. Mary the Virgin, a lovely sight with its spire atop a gabled tower.

    Among the village’s interesting buildings is The Shaven Crown, a 14th-century inn that was once a hospice for the poor. Another is the Shipton Court, a beautiful Elizabethan manor that’s reportedly one of the largest in the country.

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    5

    Swinbrook

    Take in the tranquil beauty of this Cotswolds village

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    Swinbrook is a quiet village filled with picturesque cottages of warm-toned stones typical of the Cotswolds countryside. It’s best known for its 17th-century Fettiplace memorials inside the church of St Mary the Virgin. Once a powerful and wealthy family, what remains are the wall tombs and fascinating monuments inside the church.

    If you fancy a pint, head down to the south of the village for the Swan Inn. It’s situated by the banks of the River Windrush so you can enjoy a scenic view as you unwind.

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    6

    Uffington

    Witness the mythic attractions of this Vale village

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    The village of Uffington offers a host of attractions, the best known of which are the mysterious White Horse, the Iron Age fortress, and the Dragon Hill. The White Horse of Uffington is one of the oldest carvings in the English hillside, with its origins still shrouded in mystery. Atop White Horse Hill is the remains of Uffington Castle, and below is a smaller hill where it’s said St George slew the legendary dragon.

    The village itself is home to beautiful thatched cottages made of local chalk. St Mary’s church, also known as the Cathedral of the Vale, is a notable example of Early English church architecture.

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    7

    Burford

    Admire the breathtaking architecture in the Gateway to the Cotswolds

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    Burford, originally an Anglo-Saxon ford then a wealthy wool town, has since evolved into a beautiful village in the English countryside with several architectural attractions. One of these is the 3-arched medieval bridge that crosses the River Windrush. Another is the 16th-century Tolsey Museum that once was a meeting place for medieval merchants.

    The Church of St John the Baptist, a grand Grade I-listed building, holds many stories, like the time it was used as a prison in the mid-1600s. You can still find the graffiti and carvings the prisoners made in its walls.

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    8

    Bruern

    Learn about the colourful history of this tiny hamlet

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    Bruern, a tiny hamlet located south of Burford, is home to many beautiful luxury cottages such as Sandown Cottage. The history of the hamlet stretches back to 1147 when the Cistercian Abbey was founded. The place had its share of disreputable history comprised of deposed abbots, succession plots, and riots. Much of the original abbey is gone but in its place are the Bruern cottages.

    Make sure to visit the nearby Foxholes Nature Reserve, an ancient woodland renowned for its beautiful springtime flowers and bountiful birdlife.

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    9

    Kelmscott

    Enjoy the calming beauty of this quaint Thames-side village

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    Kelmscott, a small but charming village in West Oxfordshire, is home to the famous Kelmscott Manor, a Grade I-listed building. The limestone manor became the country home of designer, writer, and socialist William Morris in the late 19th century. The manor’s beautiful gardens, peaceful meadow, and babbling stream provided much inspiration for Morris’ writings. Morris is said to have described the place as the “loveliest haunt of ancient peace.”

    If you want to enjoy a hearty meal, head over to the nearby pub garden, The Plough. Enjoy alfresco dining in the summer and the warm roaring fire in the winter.

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    photo by Milena (CC BY-SA 3.0) modified

    10

    Shilton

    Capture the lovely sights in this scenic village

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    Shilton is home to the Arlington Row in Bibury, the most photographed spot in the Cotswolds. This small village has more to offer though, like its beautiful stone cottages with stone roofs that are built in the typical Cotswolds style. There’s also the ford that cuts across the Shill Brook, forming a rush-lined duck pond near the centre of the village where you can spend a quiet moment.

    The 12th-century Church of the Holy Rood that sits on the hill overlooking the village is a fine example of Norman architecture. After you’ve had your fill of the sights, fill your stomach with good food at the historic village pub, The Rose & Crown.

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    Geri Mileva | Contributing Writer

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