Steeped in history and often featured in Midsomer Murders (Oxfordshire is a hotbed of locations for TV murders) Dorchester-on-Thames is a quaint, scenic village, a short drive from the centre of Oxford. Immortalised in Joseph Turner's 'Union of the Thames and Isis' and home of the imposing Dorchester Abbey, the village is a former focal point for travellers between Oxford and London.
The main attraction in the village is the Abbey, which has been a fixture since the 12th century. It is open 365 days of the year and entrance is free. When the Abbey is not in use for events, including services and weddings, or closed for restoration work, it is fully accessible. There is also an accompanying museum, which chronicles the history of the Abbey from its Saxon cathedral routes through the medieval monastic Abbey it became to the Parish Church it is today. The museum works closely with Oxford Archaeology who have an ongoing dig there and are excavating evidence of a Roman road. There are old artefacts from the village's history on display, plus an exhibition about the women of the village during World War One. You can explore the changing style of stonemasonry in the Cloister Gallery of the Abbey.
One of the main reasons to visit Dorchester-on-Thames is for the beautiful surrounding scenery. Hurst Water Meadow is worth a visit, with a public footpath crossing it and all 18 acres open to the public. For a selection of village walks, visit the Dorchester-on-Thames website.
In the surrounding area the Oxford Aqua Park on Queenford Lakes is open during the warmer months, and offers inflatable water-based fun. Drayton-St-Leonard is a quaint nearby village, home to the Aston Martin Heritage Trust Museum and the Catherine Wheel pub, offering a warm welcome and scrumptious Indian food. The Island Farm Donkey Sanctuary welcomes visitors daily and is home to ill-treated donkeys being given a new lease of life. Finally you will likely pass the Harcourt Arboretum on your journey to the village, which is home to spectacular foliage and beautiful nature walks.
Dorchester-on-Thames has a number of dining options. Lily's Tea Room, situated on the high street, is a family-run tea room that sells a range of cakes, breakfasts, and cream teas, as well as stocking local produce from the surrounding area. The Dorchester Abbey Tea Room is open from Easter until the end of the summer season. Situated in the grounds of the Abbey and run by volunteers, the Tea Room serves cake and tea for visitors and residents of the village.
For a more hearty meal there's the Fleur de Lys, a 16th century inn that specialises in pub classics and Sunday lunches. There is a beer garden, play area, and five ensuite bedrooms for those who want to stay a bit longer. Other dining options include the George Hotel Restaurant, which is one of the oldest coaching inns in the area, complete with oak beams and inglenook fireplaces. Finally, there's the White Hart Hotel Restaurant, which comes with lavish bedrooms and a welcoming bar and restaurant.
On the outskirts of the village are a pair of very different eateries. The Chequers specialises in traditional meals with a modern twist, serving steaks, pub classics and fabulous sharing boards. The H Café is notable for its bike-friendly setup and can often be found with near a hundred motorbikes parked outside, which is quite the sight.
In the calendar of events two stand out for Dorchester-on-Thames. The Flower Show takes place twice a year in the Spring and Autumn, showing off the variety of horticultural expertise in the area, while the Dorchester Festival is a semi-annual art, food and culture festival. Previous festivals have included food fairs, film nights in the Abbey, a duck race, and performances from local theatre groups and the Showstopper musical group.
Concerts are regularly held at the Abbey, with the likes of the Orchestra of St John's, the Berkshire Maestros and the Benson Choral Society all performing at the majestic venue. Upcoming events can be found here.
The Historical Society meet monthly to discuss the history of the village and surrounding area, while the Dorchester Amateur Dramatics Society (DADS) have performed in the village for over three decades, staging two productions per year.
By car: Situated ten miles outside of Oxford, Dorchester is reached by following Iffley Road to the Heyford Hill Roundabout, and taking the A4074 past the Harcourt Aboretum until you reach the Berinsfield Roundabout. Here you will take the 3rd exit onto the A415 before turning left onto Abingdon Road, which will bring you into the village.
By bus: Take the River Rapids X38/39/40 towards Reading Town Centre from stop H3 at St Aldates. You will want the A4074 Layby stop and then it's a short 5 minute walk into the village. There is a bus approximately every twenty minutes until 9pm, with less frequent buses for the rest of the night.