We admit, these are not quite on the same scale as the Great Pyramid, but relatively speaking these are the sightseeing treasures of the area. Historically important sites, masterful architecture and grand feats of engineering that await your discovery.
Banbury Cross stands 52 feet 6 inches high at an historic road intersection in the centre of town. It is of course the cross featured in the famous nursery rhyme ‘Ride A Cock Horse’.
After the Puritan destruction of the previous Banbury Crosses; High Cross, Bread Cross and White Cross in the 1600s, the decision was made in 1859 to design and construct a new cross to commemorate and celebrate the wedding of Queen Victoria’s daughter (the Princess Royal) to Prince Frederick of Prussia. This is the ornate cross that now stands proud in the centre of Banbury.
Statues of Queen Victoria, Edward VII and George V were added in 1914, with the stone monarchs gazing out through the history of the 20th century and beyond, witnessing the passing of horse-drawn carriages and the introduction of the motors vehicles that pass by them almost constantly. It is adorned with heraldic coats of arms and colourful engraved arms of the town throughout its history. The town’s motto ‘Dominus nobis sol et scutum’ (The Lord is our Sun and Shield) can also be seen.
The cross together with the Fine Lady statue just over the road, makes a great photo opportunity.
St. Mary’s Church
Nestled in the heart of Banbury town centre is the glorious St. Mary’s Church; a golden-hued temple-like structure which has stood proud and welcoming since September 1797. It replaced a badly damaged medieval church which fell into disrepair and ultimately collapsed in April 1790.
The new church with it’s iconic domed ‘pepper pot’ tower was designed by architect Samuel Pepys Cockerill who modelled it on Sir Christopher Wren’s St. Stephen’s Walbrook in the City of London. Samuel was a trailblazing architect, designing or adding his expertise to many London landmarks including St. Paul’s Cathedral and Admiralty House, Whitehall and was also Surveyor to the East India Company. One of his pupils was Benjamin Henry Latrobe who worked on the White House and designed the original dome for the United States Capitol building.
St. Mary’s is very active as a communal space with services throughout the week and it also hosts many charitable social activities, such as concerts and community fetes.
Warwick Castle is a motte and bailey medieval castle that stands on the site of an original that was built by William the Conqueror in 1068, situated in the centre of Warwick on the banks of the gorgeous River Avon.
The castle was used as an important stronghold throughout various wars, right up until the early 17th century when it passed into the hands of the Greville family, who became Earls of Warwick and converted it into a private residence. Hundreds of years later in 1978 it was sold to the Tussauds Group who created the attraction it is now, becoming one of Britains most famous sites, presently under the Merlin Entertainments brand.
It’s a fascinating and atmospheric place to visit, especially with children who can learn about medieval life and the events that took place in the area.
Why not book a short break for the family at the castle’s Knight’s Village, with Warwick Castle Breaks?
The Rollright Stones are an ancient megalithic stone circle on the crest of the Cotswold hills near Chipping Norton in the west of Banburyshire.
The stones lay nestled within scenic fields in a complex of connected monuments; The King’s Men stone circle, The Whispering Knights dolmen and the solitary King Stone that stands in a field opposite the stone circle site and across the main access road.
For over 5,000 years since the early Neolithic age (circa 3,800-3,500 BC), the Whispering Knights dolmen has stood quietly surveying the ancient lands before the rest of the complex was added in the Bronze age, possible as a ceremonial centre.
Many legends and stories have been associated with the stones along with the witnessing of strange phenomena such as ball lightning and spectral sights and sounds, with an important survey named The Dragon Project taking place in the 1970s-80s, led by author and researcher Paul Devereux.
Once described as the jewel in the crown of British architecture, Blenheim Palace is a majestic place that was also once home to the family of ex Prime Minister, Sir Winston Churchill.
Sitting in the most southerly area of Banburyshire and a short distance to Oxford, this golden-hued private stately home has become a must-see destination for tourists and locals alike. It’s beautiful park extends for many acres and features a twisting, serpent-like lake to it’s west side. The formal gardens, fountains and the many monuments dotted around the site echo the romantic gardens of Renaissance Italy.
The palace itself is a sprawling treasure trove of rooms dressed in the finest upholstery, art, furniture and interior design.
Burton Dassett Hills
The Burton Dassett Hills Country Park is a group of elevated ironstone hills that look out over south Warwickshire, situated 7 miles north of Banbury.
The park was historically a source of ironstone for the construction of buildings in and around the area, giving the hills a pot-marked appearance with cavities and small ravines where the ground has been scooped away, lending the park a unique character which is great for walking and exploring.
Today the council owned park is hugely popular with families picnicking, flying kites and strolling up and down the hills as they take in the vast horizon on show. It is also a great spot for radio controlled gliders and cars.
The adjacent All Saints Church is a beautiful Norman church that was built in the 12th Century. In 2009 it underwent a huge restoration to preserve and restore its medieval wall paintings, so is worth a visit as well.
The Oxford Canal is a man-made waterway that stretches up and down central England for 78 miles, linking Oxford in the south to Coventry in the north by way of Banbury, Rugby and many picturesque villages in-between.
Passing through Oxfordshire, Northamptonshire and Warwickshire, the route is often considered one of the most scenic canals in Britain.
An Act of Parliament in 1769 set in motion the construction of a canal that would link the industrial factories of the Midlands with the ever-expanding London capital, creating one of the most important and profitable transport links in the country.
Today the canal is very popular as a leisure destination with the private holiday hire of narrowboats along with guided pleasure cruises, especially in the south at Cropredy, Banbury and Oxford.
Visit Tooley’s Boatyard adjacent to Banbury Museum to learn more about the day-to-day life of this part of the canal.