Top 20 Walks in Oxfordshire

Oxfordshire is a haven for outdoor enthusiasts with its diverse range of stunning landscapes and picturesque towns. With an abundance of walking routes available in our fair county, it was a pleasure to hike these in preparation for this article for an overview of the top 20 walks in Oxfordshire, catering to varying levels of fitness and experience.

From exploring charming villages on the River Thames to climbing the chalk downs and strolling through Oxford’s Dreaming Spires, there are numerous paths for hikers seeking adventure or relaxation. Whether you prefer peaceful nature trails or historic landmarks, this guide offers something for everyone.

The following paragraphs will highlight some of the best walks that showcase Oxfordshire’s outstanding natural beauty and cultural heritage while providing an opportunity for visitors to escape from their daily routines and experience freedom amidst breath-taking scenery.

For my favourite and regular Oxfordshire walks I’ve given some extra information, and I’ll ad to this as I do them over the summer.

The Ridgeway National Trail: Lord Wantage Monument

  • From: Car Park, Bury Lane, Wantage OX12 8QX
  • Turn around point: Lord Wantage Monument, Wantage
  • Distance: 3.7 Miles to Monument, 7.4 miles total
  • Average walking time: 2 hours, 26 minutes
  • Time taken: 2 hours, 3 minutes.

The ridgeway trail

Covering a distance of 87 miles, the Ridgeway National Trail is an ancient track that stretches from Ivinghoe Beacon in Buckinghamshire to the Avebury stone circle in Wiltshire. There are plenty of long walking options here, and you can pretty much pick and choose the distance.

But a manageable 7.4 mile walk is the Bury Lane car park to the Lord Wantage Monument and back, which is a decent distance possible in just over 2 hours. You will need to be mindful of cyclists, joggers, and dog walkers.

This historic trail has been used for over 5000 years by travellers, traders, and soldiers. The chalk landscapes offer wildlife spotting opportunities and scenic views of ancient sites such as hill forts and burial mounds.

The enjoyment of The Ridgeway is not limited to a specific season. However, spring to autumn (from March to November) is the period when the scenery is most beautiful in my opinion; the wildlife is abundant, and the ground is in better hiking condition.

Those who visit The Ridgeway during early May can witness the breath-taking bluebells that cover numerous woodlands. The Chilterns is not on tis route but is one of the highlights but their are some scenic spots.

The Oxford Canal Walk Pub Stopper

  • From: Oxford OX1 2EW
  • Destination: The Bell Inn, 21 Market Square, Lower Heyford, Bicester OX25 5NY
  • Distance: 13.2 Miles total, but stop off options on route including Nethercott Station halfway
  • Average walking time: 4 hours, 20 minutes
  • Time Taken: 4 hours, not including stop offs

Traversing through picturesque landscapes, the Oxford Canal Walk offers a peaceful retreat for nature enthusiasts seeking to explore the waterways of Oxfordshire. The canal walk is perfect for those looking for a calming experience amidst nature’s beauty. The 78-mile-long canal runs from Oxford to Coventry, and is an ideal destination for both short walks and longer hikes.

On nice days, I get the train into Oxford City centre and walk back along the towpath to Bicester, taking alternate routes as it merges with the River Cherwell. I’ve added some of my favourite stop off pub points, which can all be done as shorter routes, including the Plough (Jericho), The Jolly Boatman (Thrupp), the Gardiner Arms (Nethercott – station here for the lazier days) and ending in my local the Bell Inn (Lower Heyford).

The Oxford Canal Walk offers visitors the chance to witness wildlife while enjoying a stroll along its flat towpath. Along with hiking, visitors can also enjoy cycling on the flat towpaths or taking a ride on one of the many canal boats that operate in the area. With over 40 locks and bridges dotted throughout, each with its own unique history, there are plenty of opportunities to learn about canal history.

Visitors can also explore waterside pubs or even plan narrowboat holidays or camping trips alongside the picturesque waterway. Also, restoration projects across various parts of Oxfordshire have rejuvenated this historic canal system, making it accessible again after years of neglect.

walks in Oxfordshire go through beautiful woodland paths with Bluebells in May
Bluebells in May are always worth finding in the Chilterns beautiful woodland paths

The Chiltern Way

Exploring the Chiltern Way in Oxfordshire offers a unique opportunity to experience the natural beauty and cultural heritage of this region through its extensive network of footpaths and bridleways. This 133-mile long-distance trail connects Hemel Hempstead in Hertfordshire with Goring-on-Thames in Oxfordshire and passes through some of the most stunning landscapes, charming villages, and historic sites that the Chilterns have to offer. The route is also suitable for walkers of all abilities as it can be tackled in sections or as a whole route.

Walking along the Chiltern Way provides a chance to immerse oneself in history and views. This area was once home to Iron Age tribes, Roman roads, medieval castles, Tudor manors, Victorian estates, and wartime defences. The trail passes by several notable landmarks such as Dunstable Downs, Ivinghoe Beacon, Chequers Court, West Wycombe Park, Hughenden Manor, Greys Court Estate, Nuffield Place Estate, Turville Heath Churchyard (filming location for ‘The Vicar of Dibley’), and many more.

Wildlife spotting is also a highlight of walking on the Chiltern Way. This area is an important habitat for several rare species such as red kites soaring overhead; fallow deer browsing on woodland edges; badgers snuffling around hedgerows; hares sprinting across fields; butterflies flitting about wildflowers; birds chirping from treetops; and much more.

You can take your pick of wonderful rolling countryside picturesque walks in the Chiltern hills, but I am a fan of the 2 hour Rollright Stones loop.

The Cotswold Way

The Cotswold Way is a 102-mile long-distance trail that stretches from Chipping Campden in the north to Bath in the south. The route takes walkers through some of England’s most beautiful landscapes, offering stunning views of rolling hills and charming villages.

Along the way, hikers can explore historical landmarks, nature reserves, and local pubs. Wildlife spotting opportunities abound on the Cotswold Way, with plenty of opportunities to see rare birds and mammals. The challenging terrain makes it a perfect destination for experienced hikers looking for a challenge. However, there are also family-friendly walks suitable for all ages and abilities.

Most people who have a good level of fitness can hike the Cotswold Way, but some may find themselves taken aback by the number of challenging uphill sections. The trail is clearly signposted, making navigation a breeze, but it’s advisable to carry a guidebook or map as a precaution.

The White Horse Hill Circular Walk

One of the recommended hikes in Oxfordshire is the White Horse Hill Circular Walk, which offers stunning views and a chance to see one of Britain’s oldest chalk hill figures. The walk is approximately 7 miles long and takes about 3 hours to complete. It starts at the National Trust’s White Horse Hill car park and takes hikers through scenic countryside, steep hills, and areas rich with local history and legends.

The highlight of this hike is undoubtedly the Uffington White Horse, a prehistoric chalk figure that has fascinated visitors for centuries. Apart from this iconic landmark, hikers can also enjoy breath-taking views of the surrounding landscape from various vantage points along the trail. Additionally, there are plenty of opportunities for wildlife spotting throughout the route on one of my favourite walks.

While parts of this hike can be challenging due to the steep terrain, it is still family-friendly as long as everyone comes prepared with proper footwear and gear. There are also pub stops along the way for those who want to take a break or enjoy some local culture.

The Shotover Country Park Trail

The Shotover Country Park Trail offers a stunning woodland experience, meandering through 117 hectares of ancient woodland and providing hikers with an opportunity to spot deer and other wildlife.

From the main parking area, multiple paths wind through the park. If your children lack enthusiasm for a simple stroll, following the marked trails can be a useful way to keep them engaged.

For smaller children, the briefest path to the natural sandpit is the red trail. This path is circular and requires approximately half an hour to complete. However, you can take your time and enjoy a full morning or afternoon if you pack a picnic and allow your kids to play along the way.

In the latter parts of April and early in May, bluebells can be found along the way. The path descends through the forest, making it easy to gather sticks and explore bugs under stones. The halfway point is the natural sandpit, and from there, it is uphill all the way back to your car.

Nearby attractions include Oxford City Centre, which is just a short drive away. Visitors can take in local events such as the Cowley Road Carnival or explore famous landmarks like Christ Church College and Bodleian Library.

The Wittenham Clumps Walk

Located in the heart of Oxfordshire, the Wittenham Clumps Walk offers a unique and rewarding hiking experience for those interested in exploring ancient landmarks and breath-taking views. There are two ways to get to the top of the Clumps with one route which covers 4 miles (Bit of a harder trail) and the other just over a mile long.

Along the way, hikers can enjoy wildlife spotting opportunities as well as local legends surrounding the clumps. The Wittenham Clumps consist of two hills that rise above the River Thames and are surrounded by fields, woodlands, and meadows. Atop each hill is an Iron Age fortification that dates back over 2,000 years.

The Wittenham Clumps are a notable feature of the flat Thames Valley area because of their height, standing at over 300 feet, and the unique look of being covered in trees. These peaks offer incredible panoramic views of the countryside that just cannot be missed. It’s also a popular spot for sledging during the winter months.

The Harcourt Arboretum Trail

Nestled in the scenic countryside of Nuneham Courtenay, the Harcourt Arboretum Trail offers a tranquil escape for nature enthusiasts. The trail is part of the University of Oxford’s Botanic Garden and covers 130 acres of land.

The stunning arboretum close to Oxford boasts a range of well-constructed paths to discover. Wanderers can explore wildflower-filled fields, rhododendron patches and bluebell forests. Visitors will also come across mammoth redwoods, azaleas and monkey-puzzle trees, many of which have been introduced from the Pacific North West of North America.

The delightful tracks will lead you to the peaceful Serpentine Ride and secluded clearings. This is an area of sheer beauty in the autumn, and the springtime offers an array of stunning bluebells. Alongside the woodland, you can find a 67-acre wildflower meadow with views of the nearby landscapes. While wandering through the grounds, keep an eye out for a variety of bird species and the resident peacocks. If you fancy extending your hike, Harcourt is conveniently located near the Thames Path.

The Iffley Village and River Walk

Discover the 2.7-mile (4.3 km) trail near Oxford and indulge in a great experience. The route is considered to be easy and can be completed in approximately one hour. This circular walk takes you around the beautiful Iffley Lock and Meadows next to the River Thames in Oxford.

The area is famous for hikers, walkers, and bike tour enthusiasts, therefore, you can expect to bump into other people while exploring the trail. The path is stunning, following the shoreline of the River Thames, and serves as an escape from the busy city centre.

Along the way, you get the chance to visit the exquisite Lingbridges Nature Park and Iffley Meadows. The trail has a mix of woodlands and open terrains, making it suitable for people of all ages and fitness levels. Above all, the trail is relatively flat, adding great advantage to the experience.

The Wytham Woods Circular Walk

Car park: OX2 8QQ via Wytham Village (no access from the B4044)

Just outside Oxford, you can cycle (although you can’t take bikes into the woods), drive or take the ST2 Science Transit Shuttle Bus to Wytham. It’s suitable for hiking only, and there’s a low chance of encountering other individuals while trekking as you need to apply for a free permit before walking this private woodland. Both dogs and bikes are prohibited, so peace and quiet is assured.

This walk takes you through one of the largest remaining ancient semi-natural woodlands in Oxfordshire, providing ample opportunities to witness the local flora and fauna. Walkers can embark on a 4-mile (6.4-km) circular trail. This path is considered relatively easy and typically takes around 1 hour and 44 minutes to finish.

To begin your walk, head towards the car park located on the eastern end of the woods, near the Keeper’s cottage. Follow the paths heading westward and explore the southern part of the area. The woodland boasts a diverse range of plants and wildlife, so be sure to keep an eye out for badgers and a variety of woodland birds.

The woodland is situated just east of the Thames Path. If you’re up for a longer walk, you could take the riverside trail heading south towards Swinford and the picturesque Farmoor Reservoir. Alternatively, heading in the opposite direction will lead you to the charming Port Meadow, just a little over a mile away from the site.

The Oxford Green Belt Way

In celebration of its 75th anniversary and the 50 years of Oxford’s Green Belt, the Oxfordshire branch of the Campaign to Protect Rural England (CPRE) developed a route to highlight the importance of the Green Belt in preserving the open countryside. The route covers 50 miles, representing a mile for each year since the establishment of Green Belts in 1956. Collaborating with the CPRE are the Oxfordshire Field Paths Society and the Countryside Service of the Oxfordshire County Council.

This circular walk takes you through some of Oxfordshire’s most picturesque villages and countryside areas, while also providing stunning views of the River Thames near Abingdon and the Oxford Canal north of Oxford. The Green Belt Way links four of Oxford’s Park & Ride sites and is easily accessible via major bus routes, making it convenient for both city and village dwellers to enjoy the route.

Along the way, you’ll get to see Oxford’s iconic “Dreaming Spires” as well as other notable places such as Otmoor, Foxcombe Hill, and Wytham Woods.

The Blenheim Palace Circular Walk

One of the most popular walks in Oxfordshire is the Blenheim Palace Circular Walk. This short walk takes visitors through the stunning history and architecture of Blenheim Palace, a UNESCO World Heritage Site surrounded by over 2000 acres of gardens and parkland. The palace was built between 1705 and 1722 as a gift to John Churchill, First Duke of Marlborough for his victory in the Battle of Blenheim.

While walking around this circular route, hikers can also enjoy panoramic views across the White Horse Hill, an ancient chalk downs area, as well as explore some parts of Thames Path. The Ridgeway National Trail is also within reach of this walk. Visitors can spot wildlife or observe prehistoric sites while walking along these paths in Oxfordshire’s countryside. For those who prefer a more leisurely stroll, there are many riverside strolls available along Thames Path.

Oxfordshire offers numerous other walks that cater to all preferences and abilities. These include famous trails such as Chiltern Way with its beech woods and red kites soaring overhead or Cotswold Way with its honey-coloured villages and rolling hillsides.

Jurassic Way

This is a challenging hike that is ideal for experienced hikers. The trail begins near Banbury, and it leads through some of the most picturesque areas of North Oxfordshire and Northamptonshire.

This hike is not suitable for those who are not comfortable with walking for extended periods. But it boasts stunning views of the surrounding countryside and takes you through both rural villages and large towns.

Depart Banbury and head towards Middleton Cheney, before proceeding north to Stamford. Along the way, you will come across Charwelton, Wardington, and Great Easton, all of which have their unique charm and delightful country pubs.

For a good night’s rest, settle in the West Haddon area, which is roughly in the middle of the trail. You may also extend this multi-day hike and make stops in Market Harborough and Hellidon. This is, without a doubt, one of the best Oxfordshire hikes available.

Minster Lovell Circular Walk

When you see a photo of Minster Lovell, a charming English town, it stays in your mind due to its striking beauty. A walk that takes around 30 minutes by car from Oxford leads to impressive views, remnants of ancient structures, and numerous chances to see wild animals in wooded areas.

Starting in the village, which has picturesque cottages and traditional English taverns, this hike progresses towards Crawley by following the River Windrush and back. It’s important to keep in mind that this trail could be a bit muddy in certain places (so it’s advisable to bring appropriate footwear in wintertime) and keep your pet under control so as not to startle the cows if you take your furry companion with you.

Chipping Norton to Over Norton

The UK’s Cotswolds region is renowned for its stunning scenery, with numerous walks to choose from that are sure to impress. However, having spent considerable time in the area, I can confidently recommend the 2.7-mile trail between Chipping Norton and Over Norton as one of the most scenic.

Begin your journey at the Crown and Cushion Hotel on Chipping Norton’s bustling main street and make your way towards Over Norton, taking in the breathtaking natural beauty along the way. The entire trail is well-signposted and was established as part of the Step Into The Cotswolds project.

Along your walk, you’ll have the option to stop at charming local pubs and cafes for a quick refreshment break. Trust me, the area has some incredibly quaint pubs to explore!

The Waterperry Gardens and Riverside Walk

Located in the heart of Oxfordshire, the Waterperry Gardens and Riverside Walk offer visitors a delightful stroll through beautifully landscaped gardens and tranquil woodland. Families can enjoy various activities such as picnic spots throughout the garden or guided tours around the estate’s historical landmarks.

The Waterperry estate is home to eight acres of ornamental gardens that feature a collection of rare and unusual plants, including apple trees, herbaceous borders, water lilies, and lavender fields.

The Riverside exploration trail along the River Thame is an exceptional place for sighting indigenous fauna and visitors can see fish, otters, swans, badgers, and kingfishers within the area. The pathway alongside the river is a sanctuary during hot summers, offering a refreshing and tranquil escape from the hot weather

The route provides excellent opportunities for wildflower spotting and bird-watching. Throughout the year, visitors can spot different species of birds such as goldfinches, blue tits, great tits, and long-tailed tits among others. Nature lovers can also capture some beautiful moments with their cameras while exploring this lovely environment.

Visitors can witness seasonal changes at the Waterperry Gardens throughout the year. Springtime brings vibrant displays of daffodils and tulips while summer showcases blooming roses and other flowers in full bloom. Autumn brings with it a stunning display of autumnal colours across the landscape that is unforgettable to see.

The Henley-on-Thames Town and River Walk

This scenic route in Oxfordshire offers visitors a chance to discover the charming town of Henley-on-Thames and explore the serene River Thames, making it an ideal walk for both nature enthusiasts and history buffs alike.

The Henley-on-Thames Town and River Walk is a 4-mile easy-access route that takes walkers along the river’s edge, offering stunning views of the waterway, historic landmarks, and hidden gems along the way. As walkers follow this trail, they will have ample opportunities to spot local wildlife while finding perfect picnic spots.

Commencing from White Hill’s Henley Bridge, take a moment to appreciate the expansive flow of the river. Observe the abundance of vessels floating upon it, as well as boat houses, rowing clubs, and grand homes. Eventually, the path on the west bank diverges from the bustling walkway, lined with river cruise ships and opulent townhouses.

As the journey nears its end, the terrain becomes more rustic once again. Traversing fields and meadows, one can glimpse the wooded hillsides of Berkshire on the opposite side of the Thames, and even stumble upon Druid’s Temple and Passage Grave. After bidding farewell to the river, follow Bolney Lane into Shiplake, and then Station Road to catch the train back to Henley-on-Thames.

The Hook Norton Brewery and Countryside Walk

The Hook Norton Brewery and Countryside Walk provide a unique opportunity to explore the rich history and picturesque landscapes of Oxfordshire. This walk is family-friendly, dog-friendly, and offers plenty of photo opportunities with stunning countryside views. The trail covers approximately six miles and is best suited for those who enjoy moderate walking challenges.

The walk begins at the Hook Norton Brewery Visitor Centre, which dates back to the 19th century. Visitors can take a guided brewery tour and learn about the local history of brewing beer in this region. After touring the brewery, visitors can continue on their journey through beautiful farmland, quaint villages, and rolling hills. Wildlife spotting is also possible along the way, with sightings of birds such as buzzards and red kites being common.

The Hook Norton Brewery and Countryside Walk include several pub stops along the way for refreshments or meals. These pubs offer a chance to relax while enjoying some local food or drink after completing part of the route. Hidden gems such as ancient woodlands are also waiting to be discovered by walkers on this trail.

The Abingdon Town and Thames Path Walk

The Thames Path is a popular walking route that offers a serene escape from the city, providing picturesque riverside views and an opportunity to explore charming villages in Oxfordshire. The popular path starting from Abingdon follows the River Thames for 9.6 miles (15.4 km) and this relatively challenging walk can take between 3 to 5 hours to complete.

You’ll love this route as there are loads of markers and it just sticks to the Thames, so you’re not going to end up lost. But, just a heads up that it can get pretty muddy, especially if it’s been raining, so be prepared. On the plus side, there are heaps of cute pubs dotted along the way where you can grab some food (or a cheeky pint to keep you going) before you take the bus back to Abingdon.

For those looking for a break from walking, many riverside pubs offer local cuisine and refreshing drinks. Nature lovers can explore nearby nature reserves such as Radley Lakes or stroll through Albert Park with its beautiful gardens.

The Wallingford Castle and River Walk

An intriguing walking route in Oxfordshire is the Wallingford Castle and River Walk, which offers a blend of history and nature. The walk begins at the ruins of Wallingford Castle, which dates back to the 11th century and played a significant role in English history. The castle was used as a prison during the Civil War and later served as a Royalist stronghold.

The 5-mile figure of eight walk is perfect for those who enjoy a pleasant stroll by the river. Discover the charming market town of Wallingford as you take a leisurely walk along the magnificent River Thames, explore sprawling meadows and picturesque countryside, and explore the ancient ruins of the medieval Wallingford Castle.

Another highlight of this walk is passing through an arboretum with beautiful trees from around the world. The area is also significant for its geology, with evidence of chalk downs visible throughout the landscape.