Who are you?
Caroline Mills, travel writer and author specialising in camping, touring and travel in Europe.
How do you know the area?
I'[ve lived on the Warwickshire/Oxfordshire border, known informally as Banburyshire, most of my life.
What do you love about it?
Banbury has grown in recent years and you have to look quite hard to find its historic character, although the Oxford Canal is a focal point. But nearby villages are picturesque, and set in pretty countryside.
What is your favourite place to visit?
Broughton Castle, three miles southwest of Banbury. It’s not strictly a castle; more a medieval fortified, moated manor house of perfect proportions and a fascinating history with links to the Civil War.
The interior is formidable, particularly the Great Hall, filled with Civil War armour; but it’s the exterior that is so pleasing on the eye, especially when the sun sets and turns the stonework a translucent orange, thanks to the local Hornton ironstone. The gardens are stunning, and the parkland is great for walking.
There’s also Upton House, northwest of Banbury, and Sulgrave Manor, the ancestral hone of George Washington, to the northeast. And don’t miss the British Motor Museum, at Garden.
Which campsites would you recommend?
Open all year, Fir Tree Farm Caravan Site (OX17 1JL), in an idyllic valley near Warmington, has wonderful views from all 35 touring pitches (a mix of hardstanding and grass). This secluded site is on two levels, with a fishing lake and purpose-built amenities.
For a more basic site, try The Pig Place (OX17 3NU). This adults-only campsite is right beside the Oxford Canal, with magnificent towpath walks and fine views of the River Cherwell valley. They rear rare-breed pigs, which become first-rate sausages and bacon, sold in the on-site farm shop. The Pig Place slopes down to the canalised, so chocks may be required, and you’ll need your own facilities on board.
What food and drink is the area known for?
Banbury cakes are a traditional pastry, dating back to medieval times, with a filling of dried fruits and spices. They are quite difficult to find these days, but you can buy them at the Wykham Park Farm Shop (OX16 9UP), which has wonderful meat, fruit and veg, is renowned for its asparagus in season, and has a lovely café.
At the award-winning Hook Norton Brewery (OX15 5NY), you can tour the premises, where they also have a café – and a sampling room.
For a pub with a difference, try the Castle at Edgehill (OX15 6DJ). The food is great, as is the location. Few pubs have their own castellated turrets!
Where can you get spare kit?
Bicester Caravan & Leisure (OX26 6RA) is a couple of miles southeast of Banbury, on the A41.
Where can I find the cheapest petrol.diesel in the area?
Any of the three main supermarkets in Banbury – Tescos, Morrisons and Sainsburys.
Where should you avoid?
No specific visitor attraction, although I’d recommend avoiding Hennef Way and Ruscote Avenue in Banbury, or, indeed, trying to drive through the town at all in the rush hour – it is always notoriously jammed.
Share a highlight only a local would know….
Ten miles from Banbury and just half a mile from the village of Sibford Ferris, on the edge of the Cotswolds Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty, is Traitor’s Ford (OS grid reference SP335365).
It’s well-hidden, set in a beautiful tree-lined valley by the burbling River Stour (indeed, the Stour runs over the ford). This is a wonderfully cool spot to spend some time relaxing in the height of summer, and a popular place with children, dangling their legs over the little footbridge, dabbling in the shallows and playing Pooh Sticks.
For scenic walking, Traitor’s Ford (which has a small parking area) is on the Macmillan Way long-distance trail. A walk to the north of the ford, along the ancient footpath known as Ditchedge Lane (which is also on the Macmillan Way), will provide some superb views across the south Warwickshire countryside.
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