Witney - occasionally amusingly mistaken for Whitney - is a town in west Oxfordshire famous since the middle ages for its woollen blankets. It first appeared in a Saxon Charter as 'Wyttannige' in 969 AD, and is home to a 12th century church. Much like seemingly every other town in the home counties, it is labelled as a 'historic market town'. Famous people associated with Witney include David Cameron (Witney's ex-MP), actor Gugu Mbatha-Raw (Black Mirror, Beauty and the Beast), artist Andrew Logan, and actor Robert Llewellyn (Red Dwarf, and was expelled from Henry Box School in the town centre!). Not exactly a tourist town but features some nice buildings, eateries and attractions, and loads of free parking.
Things To Do
There are a few tourists attractions in Witney, mostly focussing on the town's weaving heritage. Visit Wychwood Brewery; guided tours available of the local fantasy-inspired beer-maker, home of Hobgoblin and Oxford Gold ales. Learn about the town's weaving heritage at the Witney Blanket Hall, a museum, woollen goods store and pie shop.
The church green outside St Mary the Virgin church is a lovely place to relax with a picnic on a sunny afternoon. The green is surrounded by lovely stone terraced houses, and is certainly one of the prettiest locations in Witney. For those who are always on the lookout for a bargain, the Witney giant car boot sale is on every Sunday at the Ducklington showground just outside of the town. You'll need a car to get there, but there can be loads of hidden gems amongst the tat.
Unexpectedly, in the heart of the town lies the family-oriented Cogges Manor Farm. Known to many as the location of 'Yew Tree Farm' in Downton Abbey, it offers open green spaces, animals to meet, and a historical manor house to explore. They also run regular courses and evening events. Open spring, summer and autumn (with special events in winter). Being a charity, they also offer opportunities to get involved with the running and operation of the house, grounds, gardens and courses.
Arts, Cinema and Theatre
There is a Cineworld on Marriott's Walk, which shows a broad range of blockbusters as well as one-off events such as midnight releases and early showings. The SOTA Art Gallery showcases a diverse range of art at all budgets, so it's a good place to discover artists and purchase additions for your very own living room gallery.
Sadly Witney doesn't have a purpose-built theatre - yet - but the Corn Exchange (allegedly designed by Sir Christopher Wren) does host shows and events occasionally. Fat Lil's is the main music venue in Witney, hosting live music a few times a week, doubling up as a bar and restaurant.
Witney's recent-ish Marriott's Walk complex brought many of the usual chains, but Witney is still a hub of independent shopping. Explore the small, quirky shops such as Teddy Bears of Witney and Witney Trophy Centre, as well as the large modern H&M and Next.
Witney is home to many supermarkets for all budgets, from Waitrose to Poundstretcher, all within walking distance of the town centre. Witney's Thursday (and Saturday) market has been going since the medieval times, and it sells everything from street food to gifts.
Sport and Fitness
Witney's clubbing scene is non-existent, but there are many pubs which are open late across the town. The aforementioned Fat Lil's is the closest you may get to a club, hosting aftershow parties after many of their gigs through to 3am.
Around Witney are a few historical sites to visit, such as North Leigh Roman Villa and Minster Lovell Hall. Both are free to enter and a short car journey away from Witney (and Oxford), and are brilliant places to go for a walk with the dog or a picnic with family and friends.
Witney has many brilliant pubs, restaurants and cafes, both chain and independent. Highlights include Chequers Smokehouse, a delicious American-style meat-lovers' paradise, and Como Lounge, a hip spot which does some nice low-key food as well as hosting music nights.
The Fleece is a historic pub overlooking the church green, serving high-end food. Down the road is The Company of Weavers, the local Wetherspoon's, serving alcohol at dangerously low prices. Witney is full of pubs which range from spit-and-sawdust establishments to gourmet gastropubs.
Hunters Cake Cafe is a favourite, offering lovely cakes with monthly specials at good prices. The Shake Shop is a great milkshake place on the high street, which doubles as a Ye-Olde-style sweet shop. At the Leys is charming little cafe The Coffee Shed, serving cakes and coffee out in the park. New for 2018 is the 9-hole crazy golf course at the Leys, which promises to be fun for all the family.
Every year Witney is home to the World Pooh Sticks Championships, which is exactly as brilliant as it sounds. This is held in June (on the 3rd in 2018), at Langel Common. It's held by the Rotary Club of Oxford Spires, and it gives anyone who enters the chance to become a world champion.
LibFest is an annual music festival held at the Leys recreation ground in Witney, in memory of schoolgirl Liberty Baker. Libfest will not be taking place in 2018, but it has been confirmed that it will return in 2019. Libfest raises money for several different charities, and many local companies get involved with the celebrations. Local bands as well as bands from all around the country come to play to raise money for good causes.
Witney Carnival takes place in July, and is a free event with music, games, stalls and events for all the family.
The Witney Feast occurs each year in September, and is Witney's answer to St. Giles' Fair (only older). It is steeped in 700 years of history, and sees Leys recreation ground covered in fairground rides and food stalls. It all started in 1243 when Henry III granted two deer from Wychwood forest to celebrate the rededication of St Mary's Church.
By car: From Oxford, the easiest way is to get onto the A40 from the Wolvercote Roundabout, and follow the A40 until the B4022 exit for Witney East. Then just follow the road until you enter Witney. There's free parking at Marriott's Walk and Woolgate.
By bus: You can catch the S1 or S2 bus from George Street in central Oxford.
Sadly the train station was demolished in 1970, however there are moves to reopen a station to improve links to Oxford.
This is our short guide to Witney, but for more information visit witney.net, which has lots more information.