There are few more picturesque settings than that possessed by the De Vere Oxford in Sandford on Thames. Three miles from the city centre, on the banks of the River Thames, the hotel lies within 30 acres of parkland.
The original building was a headquarters of the Knights Templar, and the hotel has been extended steadily throughout the years. Each new addition is perfectly in-keeping, built of Cotswold stone. The gardens balance past and present styles: you move effortlessly from a Tudor knot garden to walkways lined with lavender, then across manicured lawns to the riverside where a 19th century university barge is moored. The hotel may not be in the middle of the world-famous university town, but it is all the better for it.
The De Vere Oxford caters to many markets, but in our view it’s best suited to couples treating themselves to a romantic weekend away. The hotel’s parklands are extensive enough that once you’ve checked in you can explore and find plenty of private corners for amorous liaisons. You can indulge yourselves with his and hers treatments in Jerome Spa. And in the superb River Room Restaurant, staff give you just the right amount of privacy, so it feels like it’s just the two of you.
Accommodation at the De Vere Oxford is split between the hotel’s wings, which date from different periods. We stayed in a Deluxe room in the modern Garden Wing, which as the name suggests overlooks the lawns then down to the River Thames.
The design of the rooms is stylish and contemporary: think a predominantly monochrome colour scheme with occasional flashes of colour (in our case turquoise and bright yellow). Old photographs and prints on the wall reveal a side of Oxford University life which has long since disappeared.
The De Vere Oxford’s facilities are extensive as the hotel caters to conference and wedding guests in addition to weekenders like us. The Jerome Spa has a heated swimming pool, sauna, steam room, and gym, all of which are open to guests, and you can book in for beauty treatments and massage. If you’re feeling active, you can challenge your partner to a game of tennis, or just enjoy the great outdoors.
Food and drink
The River Room Restaurant has quite justifiably been awarded an AA rosette. Head Chef Head Chef Claudio Costea appeared on a BBC MasterChef: The Professionals in 2016, and he crafts imaginative dishes using seasonal local ingredients. The Barbary duck breast with merlot poached pear, pumpkin, and broccoli was a revelation. It’s rare in a hotel review to single out the restaurant manager and waiting staff, but Christian and Ovi provided a de facto masterclass in service. Their approach and attention to detail was faultless.
If you just want a drink or something light to eat, the hotel’s Crusaders Bar & Lounge is rich in history. The space is two storeys high, open to the beams, and many of the building’s original medieval features have been preserved. Raise a glass to De Vere Oxford’s heritage whilst you are here.
When the weather is fine, there is no greater pleasure than walking along the Thames Path to Oxford. The path shadows the winding of the river, so you can watch the birds and the boats.
Oxford University is an incredible site rich in history, and many of the buildings are open to the public. There’s far too much to see in one day, but we’d particularly recommend the Bodleian Library, Christ Church, and the Botanical Garden. Make sure you spend an hour or two wandering through the medieval streets looking up at the impressive architecture, and hire a punt on the river for great hilarity, plus a waterside view of the colleges.
Is WiFi available?
WiFi is available for free throughout the hotel.
B&B rates at the De Vere Oxford start from £130 per night. This includes a £10 voucher which can be used for dinner in the River Room Restaurant.
Value for money
The city centre hotels in Oxford tend to be very expensive, and in high season are frequently booked up. Coming just a short distance out to De Vere Oxford makes your stay much better value for money. The facilities are better, there’s much more space, and the city’s attractions are still within easy reach.
The De Vere Oxford is just to the south of Oxford, on Henley Road in Sandford on Thames. There’s plenty of on site parking (another advantage over city centre hotels!) and it’s completely free. Arriving by train, Oxford is on the direct line from London. The hotel is then a 10-minute taxi ride from the station, or if it’s a pleasant day and you don’t have too much luggage, you can walk along the Thames.