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Road trip: From Bicester Village with love

This summer, Muddy has teamed up with luxury open-air shopping destination Bicester Village to explore Oxfordshire's most gorgeous fashion, eating and shopping destinations. Ready? Let's go!

Last year we all fell back in love with Britain — I mean, who didn’t go to Cornwall for their holidays? — and this summer the airport misery has reminded us once again that there’s culture, beauty and fun to be had on our own doorstep. Oxfordshire, with its rolling hills, Cotswold stone and City of Spires is one of the UK’s most chic and historic counties, so if you’re looking for a gorgeous day trip or a longer staycay away from the coastal crowds, here’s the lowdown on the highlights, by our Muddy editor-in-chief (and longtime local) Hero Brown.


Start your day with a trip to Bicester Village, Oxfordshire’s world-famous open-air shopping destination. It’s looking particularly pretty this summer, bedecked in gorgeous greenery (think watering can planters and wild flower corners) with pop art murals on the walls, yellow corgis everywhere, a relaxed summer vibe, and – oh yeah – over 150 awesome designer boutiques to choose from.

I timed my trip perfectly to tap into the recent openings from Jil Sander, Maison Margiela, Jo Loves and Isabel Marant — though ironically I ended up seduced by a frock in All Saints (hey, it’s easily done). You can go one better than me on scheduling your shopping odyssey though because, from 14 July, Bicester Village’s Extraordinary Sale cranks up a gear to up to 70% off the original retail price. PLUS the Summer Evenings programme has started with live music, cocktail happy hours and is open until 10pm every other Thursday (14 Jul – 25 Aug). AND there’s also an exclusive Smiley pop up from 14 July to the end of September, with 100% of proceeds going to The Bicester Collection’s DO GOOD charity partners.

My tip: Check out the Village’s brand new membership programme — it’s great for the inside line on the Private Sale (be in the know before everyone else!), being spoilt on your birthday, and complimentary concierge services. If you’re coming up in the next few weeks, I’d recommend a mid-afternoon pistachio ice cream from Vero Latte for a quick pick-me-up, and reward yourself at the end of the day at farmshop restaurant & café by Soho House & Co — the Dirty Vegan burger is legendary and there’s a fab upstairs balcony area that’s perfect for an end of day cocktail too. Finally, don’t forget to book Personal Shopping assistance — two hours of pros doing the hard work for you — for FREE, sister! — while you hang out in dedicated personal shopping rooms like this with your besties.


The centre of Oxford is literally eight miles from Bicester Village — you’ll be there in 20 minutes! The Ashmolean is one of the UK’s top museums, and never feels packed out in the way London museums sometimes can. I spent a quiet (and free!) hour wandering around Greek statues, modern British art (Bacon, Piper Freud, Hepworth, Moore), Flemish masters, Baroque harpsichords and local Roman artefacts but could have stayed much longer.

My tip: Literally just reopened (15 July) and running until 27 Nov 2022 the Ashmolean’s nationally-lauded exhibition Pre-Raphaelites: Drawings and Watercolours returns after a brief 5 week stint in 2021, so it’s well worth timing your trip to coincide with that. The rooftop restaurant has awesome views and is worth your while but beware it only opens at 12pm.


Gee’s has the rare charm of being simultaneously an institution (my parents used to treat me as a student here for dinner way back in the 19th century) and contemporary — it reopened in May after a huge refurb, and has added a new stylish ‘secret garden’ out the back. Gee’s USP is its elegant glass summer house setting with plants aplenty, beautiful tiled floor, chandeliers and slouchily chic leather chairs and banquettes. Great for girlfriends, big parties, romantic tête-a-têtes and everything in between, it’s one of the most stylish restaurants in the city.

My tip: Try the tapas board to share (£18.95) — great value, and the croquettes were amazing. I love the Secret Garden but for twinkly atmosphere I’d stay inside the main conservatory.


Oxford is not particularly well served for chic hotels, but the privately owned five star Old Parsonage is definitely the exception with its 17th century Cotswolds honey stone, roaring fireplaces (yes even in summer) and pretty courtyard. The location is a major coup, just round the corner from Jericho, one of the trendiest neighbourhoods in the city, and a couple of minutes’ walk past St Giles (check out St John’s College, it’s dreamy) to Broad Street and from there to the Bodleian Library, Sheldonian Theatre, Radcliffe Camera, Bridge of Sighs and a host of other world-famous landmarks.

My tip: Try the afternoon tea in the walled garden, or borrow a bike and two-wheel it around the city like an Oxford student.


Oh good! For more inspiration in Oxford, check out Muddy’s ultimate insider guide to the City of Spires or, for pleasures further afield, may we suggest; Blenheim Palace (pictured) for heritage, walks and plenty of family attractions throughout the summer; Broughton Castle near Banbury for a stunning, small manor house with gorgeous grounds owned by the Fiennes family (keep your eyes peeled for Ralph but don’t hold us to it!).

Also worth a visit are Rousham Gardens, a privately owned manor house near Bicester containing one of England’s most important gardens dating from the 18th century; a trip to the Oxfordshire Cotswolds and Soho Farmhouse (yes it’s private, find a friend to let you in!). Make time for Chastleton House and Greys Court, two of the most historic and beautiful National Trust buildings in the county; take the kids to the Cotswold Wildlife Park (pictured) near Burford, and if you have any energy left, walk or cycle around an Area of Outstanding National Beauty’ — the Chilterns hills of Watlington and Henley.

Fancy a £1170 day at Bicester Village as part of your Oxfordshire road trip (including £800 gift card, lunch for two and a swish Le Creuset oven dish and more)? Oh go on then. Enter here in seconds and enjoy a day or staycay to remember on us!

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