Oxford is a city in the Thames valley area of southern England, 56 miles west of London, 64 miles south of Birmingham and 61 miles northwest of Bristol. It is internationally recognised for the excellence of its universities, the first of which was established in the 12th Century.
In addition to its colleges – the city is home to thirty-nine – Oxford is also a major hub for scientific research, automotive engineering, information technology and publishing. Evidence for Oxford’s ongoing importance and thriving productivity can be found all around you in the city, which features buildings in every major architectural style since the days before the Norman Conquest.
Despite its monolithic status, however, Oxford itself remains compact, attractive and very green; dominated by impressive architecture, large parks and the rivers Thames and Cherwell. It should prove an ideal place for a getaway with your four-legged friend, especially with three Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty – the Chilterns, the Cotswolds and the North Wessex Downs – all not far from the city boundary.
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Dog Friendly Oxford Must Sees
City Sightseeing Tours
As we’ve already mentioned, Oxford is home to some of the UK’s most remarkable architecture: it inspired the poet Matthew Arnold (1822-1888) to call it “the city of dreaming spires”, after all. Whether or not dogs are similarly moved or even impressed by grand buildings, of course, is another question entirely.
It is a moot point anyway: the vast majority of the city’s most notable buildings do not allow dogs to enter, so if you’d like to see the Bodleian Library, Ashmolean Museum, Carfax Tower, Martyr’s Memorial, Sheldonian Theatre, Bridge of Sighs, Radcliffe Camera, Christ Church Cathedral, St. Mary’s Church, Magdalen College, or Oxford Castle and Prison then you and your pooch will be doing so from outside.
Thanks to the compactness of the city this can, of course, be achieved on foot. However, if time is a factor you will be pleased to hear that City Sightseeing operates their open-top bus tours around the city. Luckily, in this case dogs ARE allowed.
A steamboat down the Thames
Based at Folly Bridge, near Christ Church Meadow, you’ll find Salters Steamers: a family-owned boat tour company that has operated on the River Thames for over 160 years. Dogs are allowed on their boats, at the discretion of the purser, and you’ll find the trip a great way to discover both more of the city itself and also the lush countryside that surrounds it.
Punting down the Cherwell
If bus tours or steam boat trips are too little effort for your tastes, head to Bardwell Road (at the northern tip of University Parks) and find Cherwell Boathouse Punting. This company will allow you to hire a punt to go off exploring the river under your own power for £20 an hour or £100 per day. Your dog could become accustomed to this kind of personal service.
Cogges Manor Farm
Based in Witney, a town 12.5 miles to the west of Oxford city centre, Cogges Manor is a living museum which operates in and around its manor house, gardens and farmyard. There’s plenty of opportunities to learn about farming heritage, watch demonstrations or just gambol about in the Oxfordshire countryside. Understandably, with other animals permanently living on the site, dogs are required to be kept on leads.
The Best Dog Friendly Walks in Oxford
Finding large wide-open areas of green space to let your dog have a run around and play is not at all difficult in Oxford. However, it is always important to bear in mind that many of these areas are owned by one of the city’s colleges and therefore are technically private property, primarily meant for all kinds of their own sporting and educational purposes.
As such, always make sure you clean up after your pet (and yourself!) and also do your best to obey any signage you come across on your walk.
This green space can be found around the back of Magdalen College, near to the headquarters for Oxford Punting. It is triangular in shape and entirely encircled by the River Cherwell, meaning the only access is via footbridge. An ideal spot for a dog who likes to play around in the water or achieve top speed on the grass.
One of the city centre’s largest green spaces, University Parks is 91 acres of grassland and woodland that runs alongside the west of the River Cherwell. Anyone walking their dog on this site is in noble company: it is thought that King Charles II used to exercise his pooches on this land as long ago as 1685. Hopefully he cleaned up after them.
Found just to the north of the city, Port Meadow is a 345 acre area of common land bordered along its entire western edge by the River Thames. Port Meadow is one of Oxford’s largest and most popular spots for walking, running, cycling and river swimming. It is also notable for its rich variety of wildlife, with some areas designated nature reserves or sites of special scientific interest.
Christ Church Meadow
A popular park in central Oxford, the triangular Christ Church meadow is wedged in between the River Thames on its western edge and the River Cherwell to its east. As you may have already guessed, it is owned and maintained by Christ Church College, which sits to its north. The Meadow is technically the college’s private property, but they allow the general public access during the day.
A picturesque area of open space hemmed in by trees and water, Christ Church Meadow bore witness to the first ever hot air balloon flight in England in October 1784. It is also the home of the yearly Christ Church rowing regatta as well as Oxford University’s two main annual rowing competitions, Eights Week and Torpids.
Shotover Country Park
A large – 289 acre – area of woodland and hilltop grassland located 3 miles east of Oxford city centre. Shotover is particularly notable for its collection of hidden valleys and array of diverse habitats, which have seen much of the site designated as a site of special scientific interest. As well as being a popular spot for dog walking, you may well also encounter horse riding or orienteering.
A 51 acre forest near the village of Cumnor, 4 miles to the west of Oxford city centre. The entire area is a site of special scientific and geological interest: indeed, the whole forest is owned by All Souls College, Oxford, which has been studying the mosses and liverworts that grow in the area for more than half a century. Your dog is unlikely to be particularly interested in the mosses, but will enjoy exploring amongst the trees.
Dog-friendly Cafés and Restaurants in Oxford
28-32 St. Michael’s Street, OX1 2EB
A cosy and relaxed cafe in the centre of the city, not far from St. Peter’s College. The Handle Bar is decorated throughout with cycling paraphernalia and has a menu dominated with breakfast, brunch and lunch classics.
Vaults Garden & Cafe
University Church, 1 Radcliffe Square, OX1 4AH
Set within a 1320 building at the University Church of St. Mary the Virgin, just around the corner from the Bodleian Library. The Vaults & Garden have a strong ecological bent and use only the finest locally-sourced and sustainable ingredients to produce their breakfasts, brunches, lunches and cream teas.
11-12 Little Clarendon Street, OX1 2HP
Wilding are wine specialists, with a wine bar and wine shop attached to their restaurant in the Jericho area of the city, close to the Oxford War Memorial. They offer coffee, cocktails and weekend brunch, as well as Sunday roasts, in addition to their regular sustainable homemade fare.
39 Magdalen Street, OX4 1RB
Located between the parks at Aston’s Eyot and Jesus College Recreation Ground, Green Routes is a fully plant-based cafe, specialising in sandwiches, bagels and brunch options.
George Street Social
34 New Hall Inn Street, OX1 2DH
Found at the heart of the city centre, just south of the Ashmolean Museum, George Street Social is a casual all-day bar and eatery with a menu packed with light bites and comfort food staples.
The Lawn, Oxford Museum of Natural History, OX1 3PW
Milton Park, Didcot, OX14 4SB
Horsebox Coffee sells coffee from an old horsebox, you will be staggered to learn. During the summer season they will often add additional boxes in extra locations around the city, but you will be able to find them all year round on the lawns at the Museum of Natural History. Ideally situated for a break after a morning spent chasing your dog around University Parks.
North Hinksey Village, OX2 0NA
A gastropub set in an old Victorian building in the wooded surroundings of North Hinksey, a pretty village on the river about 3 miles from the city centre. You’ll find a menu of well-cooked, hearty and locally-sourced food.
Dog Friendly Pubs in Oxford
St. Aldate’s Tavern
108 St. Aldate’s, OX1 1BU
Located in the centre of the city, a minute’s walk north from Christ Church College, St. Aldate’s Tavern is as traditional as they come. There is also an excellent menu to suit every appetite and all dietary requirements.
Binsey Lane, Binsey, OX2 0NG
Set in a 17th Century building with a riverside setting in Binsey, a couple of miles northwest of Oxford city centre. The historic and attractive surroundings make The Perch a favourite venue for weddings, while for everyone else there is a menu of traditional British food inspired by both traditional and modern recipes and techniques.
The Rickety Press
67 Canham Street, OX2 6DE
Situated in the Jericho area to the north of the city, not far from Oxford University Press and Somerville, Green Templeton and St. Anne’s Colleges. The Rickety Press specialise in real ale and the best in contemporary European cuisine.
The Head of the River
Folly Bridge, St. Aldate’s, OX1 4LB
Located on Folly Bridge, next to Christ Church Meadow, The Head of the River is a traditional inn on the banks of the River Thames. It offers good food, drink and accommodation in the picture-perfect heart of central Oxford.
The Chester Arms
19 Chester Street, OX4 1SN
Based just to the east of Aston’s Eyot park in a renovated industrial space, The Chester Arms is a friendly and modern pub which prides itself on its extensive menu of drinks made by local producers. There’s also an array of pub grub favourites to eat.
195 Godstow Road, Wolvercote, OX2 8PN
This Thames-side gastropub, just to the west of Port Meadow in the village of Wolvercote, has stood on this location since the 17th Century. Today it remains a favourite family pub and restaurant boasting cosy and historically-leaning decoration, a beer garden and even its very own roaming muster of peacocks.
7 South Street, OX2 0BE
A riverside pub not far from Oxford railway station, The Punter’s unique selling point is their menu, which is made up of exclusively vegetarian and vegan dishes, all sourced from the best of the local ingredients.
4 Bath Place, OX1 3SU
Situated in between the Bodleian Library and New College Chapel, the Turf Tavern has been serving the great and good of central Oxford since 1831. It is particularly notable for the number and variety of celebrities who have been there, not least the then-Prime Minister of Australia Bob Hawke, who on a visit in 1954 established a Guinness World Record for downing a yard of ale in 11 seconds!
Dog Friendly Shops in Oxford
Unfortunately, there are not a wealth of independently-owned boutiques that allow dogs in Oxford. However, all is not lost: remember to check out our article on some of the UK’s favourite high street stores which (usually) do, many of which you will be able to find in Oxford.
Dog-friendly Oxford: Where to Stay
If you’re looking to stay in a dog friendly hotel in Oxford, here’s our recommendations:
Oxford Castle, 3 New Road, OX1 1AY
A four-star hotel set within the site of the old Oxford Prison, your stay is very likely to be far more luxurious than any of the site’s historical inhabitants. Dogs over 1 year old are welcome to stay for a fee of £20.
Beaumont Street, OX1 2LN
A luxurious five-star hotel, situated just around the corner from St. John’s College. Doggy guests will receive a bed, bowl and treats in their room. Even better news is that up to two dogs can stay with you for no additional fee.
The Head of the River
Folly Bridge, St. Aldate’s, OX1 4LB
We’ve already mentioned The Head of the River in our pub guide, and happily they are equally dog-friendly when it comes to their guest rooms. Dogs can stay on request, for no additional fee.
Bath Place Hotel
4-5 Holywell Street, OX1 3SU
A two-star hotel situated close to New College and Balliol College Recreation Ground. Dogs (and cats) are welcome to stay at Bath Place, with a fee of just £15 for up to two nights, although additional fees are applicable for longer stays.
59-60 Western Road, Grandpont, OX1 4LG
A four-star hotel set in an old Victorian townhouse, not far from Queen’s College Recreation Ground. You will need to know your dog’s weight for this one: Ethos allows dogs up to 32kg (or two dogs of no more than 16kg each) to stay for no additional fee, although a charge of £150 will be applied if your pet is “not well-behaved”.
Abingdon Road, OX1 4XG
Moto Services, Peartree Roundabout, OX2 8JZ
Travelodge continues to have the back of dog owners who want to travel with their best friends. They have two pet friendly locations in Oxford: Abingdon Road is at the southwestern tip of the city in between Hinksey Stream and the River Thames; while the Peartree location is based at Oxford Services to the north of the city. Both are two-star hotels and both allow up to two dogs to stay for a fee of £20 per dog.
The Bear and Ragged Staff
28 Appleton Road, Cumnor, OX2 9QH
A traditional-style pub and inn based in the village of Cumnor, about 4 miles from central Oxford, The Bear and Ragged Staff is an ideal location if you and your dog are keen to explore the Oxfordshire countryside. The pub itself comes highly recommended, too. Dogs stay for a fee of £15 per night – although this price does include a sausage or a rasher of bacon at breakfast time.
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