Oxford in summer means much more than just an opportunity to admire the sites. The students may have vanished but the city still hums, with a season of festivals under way.
How about, for example, The Oxford Festival of the Arts (www.artsfestivaloxford.org) which continues until July 2, offering everything from cooking workshops to an outdoor performance of The Marriage of Figaro ? Or the Cowley Road Carnival (www.cowleyroadcarnival.co.uk) on July 10 celebrating the life of the multi-cultural and modish district, just across Magdalen Bridge from the city centre. For good measure, there’s Oxford Canal Festival (www.oxfordcanalheritage.org) on June 25 which provides a good reason to the visit a charming but often neglected patch of Oxford within strolling distance of the university district.
It’s high summer in Oxford and peak season for the city’s best-loved pastime. For almost 150 years, students in search of entertainment or a little peace have headed for the river for a spell of punting, one of the gentlest and most peaceful occupations ever devised. Two punting stations – at Magdalen Bridge in the city centre or the Cherwell Boathouse in the northern suburbs offer traditional boats with prices from £22 an hour. And on a fine day, that’s a bargain.
To take a punt on the River Cherwell – a tributary of the Thames – is too pass through an incomparable landscape with views over Christ Church Meadow, Magdalen College, and the University Parks, as well as open countryside to the north of the city: the Victoria Arms in the village of Marston makes a perfect destination. Just be warned that propelling a long heavy boat with a 12 foot pole is no easy matter. For first-timers, there’s guidance available on Underhill’s Punting Map. www.puntingmapoxford.com