Oxford Circular walk

The Rivers Isis and Cherwell, Wolvercote Common, the Oxford Canal, a tour of the old town and historic Colleges, Oxford Castle and Mound


This is a list of previous times this walk has been done by the club (since Jan 2010). For more recent events (since April 2015), full details are shown.

Date Option Post # Weather
Thu, 28-Dec-23 Post Christmas leg stretcher - Oxford Circular Walk 1 a sunny dry day but with a strong cold wind
Wed, 28-Dec-22 Wednesday Walk Oxford Circular - the Rivers Isis and Cherwell, Port Meadow, Lower Wolvercote, Wolvercote Common - then along the Oxfordshire Canal back to Oxford 3 overcast and dull but mild and mostly dry
Wed, 29-Dec-21 Wednesday Walk Oxford Circular - The Rivers Isis and Cherwell, Port Meadow, Wolvercote Common, the Oxford Canal and Oxford Colleges 6 drizzle and steady rain turning pleasantly sunny after lunch
Fri, 28-Dec-18 Oxford Circular - Port Meadow, Rivers Isis and Cherwell, Oxford Canal then Oxford's Colleges 2 lovely sunny day
Fri, 29-Dec-17 Friday walk: Oxford Circular - Port Meadow, Rivers Isis and Cherwell, and University Colleges 3 mostly sunny day with higher than forecast temperatures
Sat, 31-Dec-16 Saturday Third Walk : Rivers Isis and Cherwell, Oxford Canal, Wolvercote Common, the City Centre & its Colleges, Oxford Castle and its Mound 4 gloomy but dry
Sun, 06-Dec-15 An easy Oxford amble
Sat, 16-Feb-13 Oxford Circular 8
Sun, 15-Jan-12 Oxford Circular
Sat, 26-Mar-11 Oxford Circular
Sat, 04-Sep-10 Oxford Circular
Sat, 28-Mar-09 Oxford Circular
Sun, 06-Apr-08 Oxford Circular
Sat, 19-Jan-08 Oxford Circular
Sat, 01-Dec-07 Oxford Circular
Sat, 31-Mar-07 Oxford Circular
Sun, 08-Oct-06 Oxford Circular
Book 1 Walk 13 - Oxford Circular

Length: suggest short walk today, excluding tour of colleges: circa 5 miles
Toughness: 1 out of 10
London Paddington: 10-23 hrs. Great Western service to Oxford
Arrive Oxford: 11-17 hrs
Return: approx 01 and 32 mins past the hour
Rail ticket: apart from the obvious, holders of Freedom Passes, if feeling cheapo, could travel on Elizabeth Line trains from Paddington to Reading for free, just leaving them to pay for tickets(s) between Reading and Oxford, but I do not recommend this as the Elizabeth Line trains are all-stopping and take ages, they do not have WC facilities on board, and at present many services are being cancelled, leaving those that do run being horribly overcrowded.
I usually post this walk in the period 'twixt Christmas and New Year as a leg stretcher, to walk off some of the festive excesses on the flat without over exerting oneself, as a warm up for more challenging walks to come.
The riverside paths in the morning before Port Meadow can be waterlogged or flooded, so I will check conditions closer to the date. If (hopefully) fully navigable on the day, we have a pleasant walk opposite Port Meadow to Godstone Lock then Wolvercote, where we will stop for lunch at one of the pubs in Lower Wolvercote or Wolvercote Green: recently we have found Jacob's Inn in Lower Wolvercote to be a good bet.
After lunch we join the Oxfordshire Canal for an undemanding but pleasant stroll along the canalside path. At this time of year there is little point in leaving this path and following the walk directions to Wolfson College, as the fields and meadows just beyond it are usually flooded and unpassable in winter. So instead, we stay canalside all the way back to Oxford railway station. You could, if you wish, continue on into Central Oxford, either for retail therapy or to take the college tour, which is perfectly safe and doable in the dark.
For those of us with a booking for the SWC Social tonight to see The Nutcracker, we should be back in London in good time to enjoy the performance this evening.
Walk Directions are here: L=1.13

  • 28-Dec-23

    I got to Paddington nice and early, to find all services suspended in and out of the station following a person having been hit by a train near Langley. A quick head scratch, and instead of enjoying a leisurely coffee, I was back on the Bakerloo lIne to Marylebone, where an Oxford bound train was ready to depart. I was lucky to get one of the last free seats, as the whole population of South Korea was on board, heading for Bicester Village. So I managed to salvage the day but friends who arrived at Paddington closer to our train departure time were left stranded - having swapped text messages with them they abandoned the day.

    That meant in was just me 1 on a sunny dry day but with a strong cold wind which required several layers of clothing to keep snug and warm. Plenty of deep puddles on paths and in fields but no flooding of main paths, so no need to divert off the written route, just lots of slippery mud to test ones balance. I arrived at Jacobs Inn - now renamed The Wolvercote - to enjoy a very good lunch in the half full pub which was getting busier by the time I set out to cross Wolvercote Common and then to take the Oxfordshire canalside path . By the time I reached Oxford railway station services in and out of Paddington had resumed, and a good fast train whisked me back to London.

    Whilst my own company was delightful, of course ? ! , it would be nice if I had some company proper on my New Year's Day Walk West in four days time.

Change of departure station following the decision by Chiltern Rail to severely reduce their normal timetable between Christmas and early January, due to ongoing RMT strike action.
With planned rail strikes up until the day before this walk we can expect some disruption to services on so-called non-strike days. I am hoping the services shown below will be running on the 28th, but I will provide an update on the situation on Friday 23rd December.
Friday 23rd December update: travel still looking good for the 28th.

Book 1 Walk 13 - Oxford Circular Walk

Length: full walk, including tour of the colleges 16.3 km (10.1 miles). Without tour 14.5 km (9 miles) Short walk today: 10 km (6.2 miles)
Toughness: all versions 1 out of 10 No hills today
London Paddington: 10-20 hrs Great Western service to Oxford Reading 10-48 hrs
Arrive Oxford: 11-12 hrs
For senior walkers with London Council's Freedom passes, you can travel from Paddington to Reading on Elizabeth Line services free of charge, leaving you to buy a day return from Reading to Oxford.
London Paddington: 09-40 hrs Elizabeth Line from Abbey Wood to Reading Ealing Broadway 09-51 hrs
Arrive Reading 10-40 hrs Change trains
Leave Reading 10-48 hrs Great Western service to Oxford (as above)
Arrive Oxford: 11-12 hrs

Oxford to Paddington: Great Western services at approx 01 and 32 mins past the hour
Our choice of walk today might depend on whether the rivers Isis and Cherwell have burst their banks in recent times and flooded footpaths in adjacent fields. The route after lunch from Wolfson College is often impassable in winter, even for those wearing wellies, meaning we cannot walk between said college and University Parks. No matter - in recent years when this walk has been posted between Christmas and New Year we have been perfectly satisfied with the short version of this walk - as a post Christmas leg stretcher, combined with a nice lunch at one of the pubs in Wolvercote.
Leaving Oxford railway station we head for the Thames towpath (River Isis) which we join to walk in a north-westerly direction with Port Meadow over to our right. We pass Binsey and continue over water meadows and fields to Godstow lock and the ruins of Godstow Abbey, to come out on to a road, with the Trout Inn (a lunch option) on your right-hand side. Last year we discovered two pubs in Lower Wolvercote, and the suggestion today is we try one of them again, the Jacob's Inn, for our lunch stop.
After lunch we return to (Upper) Wolvercote, to cross the grassy expanse of Wolvercote Common to join the Oxfordshire Canal. We now enjoy a relaxing canal-side walk along its tow path towards the City centre, leaving the canal just before the centre to return to the railway station.
After any Christmas excesses this relaxing walk eases us back into SWC walk of a more demanding nature in 2023.
Walk Directions are here: L=1.13
  • 16-Dec-22

    I think you will find there are no Chiltern Railway services to Oxford on this date,

  • 16-Dec-22

    Many thanks Sarah H . Chiltern Railways have updated their timetable since I first posted this walk, and now, because of on-going strike action by RMT, they have decided to operate a greatly reduced service between Christmas and early January. On the 28th we can get to Oxford Parkway - but not Oxford ! Fortunately, Great Western are running services out of Paddington twixt Christmas and New Year (as of today, 16 December) and I will switch today's walk departure station from Marylebone to Paddington. I will provide an update on Friday 23 December, in case Great Western have further thoughts on their timetable.

    Just goes to show how impossible the walk poster's task is at present.........

  • 28-Dec-22

    Just 3 for my last Wednesday posting. Perhaps the unfavourable weather forecast put off some of our regulars. The steady rain which accompanied the train out of London and all the way to Oxford began to relent as the three of us met up in the entrance foyer of the railway station. By the time we set out the rain had almost stopped and within a mile it had. The sun remained on holiday all day, and apart from a breeze at times, it was very mild. So overcast and dull but mild and mostly dry . The trains out of Paddington and back were running mostly on time to Great Western's amended timetable but with formations of only five carriages all trains were packed. I managed to get a seat leaving Paddington but I struggled to find even a standing space on the train leaving Oxford.

    As for today's walk, there is nothing much to report. I was expecting the opening leg to be flooded in places but we just encountered lots of large puddles. The route between Binsey and Godstow was a bit muddy in places but nothing to get excited about. Two of us enjoyed a good lunch at the busy Jacob's Inn, whilst our sandwicher opted to set off on the afternoon leg of the walk - she met up with us on Oxford station, having visited Wolfson College, to find the route ahead locked.

    The crossing of Wolvercote Common was dryer than usual, and we enjoyed the walk along the resurfaced towpath to the Oxfordshire Canal - dry, mud-free and spongy, so nice and easy on the tread. As we approached the railway station it began to drizzle. The station was packed, and as mentioned earlier, no seats were free on the train home.

    An undemanding short walk but a good leg-stretcher after Christmas celebrations.

Book 1, Walk 13 - Oxford Circular Walk

Length: 16.3 km (10.1 miles) to include tour of Colleges - without tour and today's suggested walk - circa 7 miles
Toughness: 1 out of 10 ( no hills today, but toughness rating more if you have to wade through flooded or muddy sections)
London Paddington: 10-20 hrs Great Western service to Oxford Slough: 10-34 hrs Reading: 10-48 hrs
Arrive Oxford: 11-12 hrs
London Paddington: 09-43 hrs TFL Rail service to Reading Ealing Broadway: 09-51 hrs Slough: 10-14 hrs Reading: 10-43 hrs
Change at Slough or Reading to Oxford train as above
Oxford to Paddington: direct service at 15-32, 16-02, 16-31, 17-01, 17-32, 18-02 hrs and so on
Changing at Didcot Parkway: 15-36, 17-07, 17-16 and 18-16 hrs
The rail service from Marylebone to Oxford is not recommended today as the journey time exceeds 90 minutes.
Rail ticket if travelling on Great Western trains you will need a day return to Oxford. Seniors travelling on TFL Rail services may user their London Councils Freedom Passes as far as Reading "free of charge" and purchase a day return from Reading to Oxford. But please note you only have a 5 minute connection at Reading and it might be prudent to change trains at Slough, for a more relaxing connection (but you will need to purchase your onward ticket from Slough). The choice is yours !
The suggested walk today takes you over Port Meadow to the village of Binsey, then on to Wolvercote for an early lunch at the Trout Inn with its attractive riverside setting (the alternative pub on Wolvercote Common - the Plough - is closed until 06 January).
After lunch I suggest we omit the walk to the start of the colleges tour, then the tour itself, and instead walk back to the city centre along the Oxfordshire canal - making today's walk a short post Christmas leg-stretcher, rather than a full blooded SWC walk. But do take all or part of the colleges tour if you wish - and if this walk is new to you. You should get to the start of the SWC walking tour, as detailed in the Walk Directions, before you lose daylight and it is safe to walk through the city streets as darkness descends.
This walk does not get posted very often - so enjoy !
Walk Directions are here: L=1.13
  • 29-Dec-21

    Thank you, Marcus, it was a lovely walk .


  • 30-Dec-21

    We set off from Oxford railway station as a small group of 5, then later in the afternoon we met up with a later starter who had walked the route alone behind us and was having lunch in the Anchor pub, so that is 6 .

    As per last Wednesday, we started today's walk in drizzle and steady rain turning pleasantly sunny after lunch . There was some standing water on the paths between the two rivers at walk start, but no flooding, and the route over the meadows to Binsey and Wolvercote was muddy, but we made good progress in the drizzly rain towards a lunch stop. The Trout Inn could not accommodate us due to Covid restrictions but their manager kindly directed us to a pub in Lower Wolvercote - Jacob's Inn - a new find. Here we were made welcome in the pub's comfortable surroundings and although the food was pricey it was delicious: their pizzas were excellent, as was my pasta. I will add this watering hole to the lunch options in the Walk Directions.

    After lunch we crossed Wolvercote Common and joined the Oxfordshire Canal for our return leg towards the city centre. The surface of the canal's tow path has been upgraded since I last did this walk, from a muddy earthen path to a surface dressed springy way, making it very pleasant to walk along - particularly in the afternoon sunshine. At the point on the path where we cross the canal to start the leg towards the colleges, one of our group stayed on the tow path and headed for the city centre for some retail therapy, leaving the four of us to find walker number six in the Anchor pub. Continuing on the TO Book route, we got as far as Wolfson College, only to find the River Cherwell down below had burst its banks, flooding the onward paths. We had a wade for a while but when water levels were over boot tops we had to abandon the route. Retracing our steps towards the canal we first stopped for tea in the Anchor pub before we returned along the canal to the railway station, where we were just in time to catch the 17-01 hrs fast train back to Paddington.

    An enjoyable day out in very good company. Nice clean walking boots, too, after our paddle.

Book 1, Walk 13 - Oxford Circular

Length: 15.2 km (9.4 miles)
Toughness: 1 out of 10 [a bit more if the towpaths are flooded and / or the route is muddy]

London Marylebone: 10-06 hrs Oxford service
Arrive Oxford: 11-09 hrs

[Allow plenty of time at Marylebone station ticket office as shoppers for Bicester Village might be out in vast numbers]

Return: 15-41, 16-11, 16-38, 16-56 and later

In recent years during the week between Christmas Day and New Years Day I have arranged a family meet-up at the homely Plough pub in Wolvercote Common - and always very nice, too. My horde travels by car - and I fit in this easy, flat walk. We have other plans for this year - but that is no reason for my abandoning my customary visit to Oxford for a short winter's walk and a good lunch. You are all welcome to join me !

Leaving Oxford station we head for the River Isis, and soon the fun can begin. If it has been raining heavily for a week or so, sections of the tow path are likely to be flooded - to top of walking boot level, sometimes a bit above. With some careful walking on top of path-edge wooden battens you can often by-pass the worst bits. But if the water is too deep you can resort to returning to the junction with the Oxford Canal and reversing an afternoon leg of the walk. But hopefully we will make it along the tow path to come out beside Port Meadow, to follow meadows beside the river all the way to Godstow Lock and then the ruins of Godstow Abbey. Then its over a road bridge and over Wolvercote Common into the village of Wolvercote for lunch at the Plough.

After lunch we walk for a while along the Oxford canal. As I have visited Oxford on many an occasion I will probably head straight for the railway station by staying beside the canal. If you wish to follow all or part of the Walk Directions and do all or part of the tour of the colleges (it's safe to do so in failing daylight) you are welcome to do so.
Your Walk Directions are here: L=1.13

  • Anonymous

    I hope to walk


    is there a train via Ealing B or are there

    engineering works

    Merry christmas Marcus

  • 24-Dec-18

    Hi Jane

    ....and Happy Christmas to you !

    You can travel from Ealing Broadway at 09-18 hrs on Didcot Parkway service, changing at Slough (arrive 09-43, leave 10-03) onto Oxford service, arriving Oxford 10-50 hrs. Please wait for the Maryleboners who should arrive at 11-09 hrs. Or take the service from Ealing Broadway 30 mins later, again changing at Slough, arriving Oxford 11-22 hrs- and walk fast to catch up with the Maryleboners ! But probably best to make your way to Marylebone if you can to catch the posted train.

    Kind regards


  • 29-Dec-18

    Just 2 of us set out on this walk on a lovely sunny day , in near perfect winter walking conditions. No flooded paths today and very little mud as we ambled over Port Meadow, enjoying the sunshine. We arrived at the Plough Inn just before it became very busy with family groups. Well fed and watered, we then took the direct route back to Oxford along the Oxford canal for an early train home.

    An enjoyable relaxing day.

Book 1, Walk 13 - Oxford Circular

Length: 15.2 km (9.4 miles) or 11.3 km (7 miles)
Toughness: 1 out of 10 (more if muddy)

London Marylebone: 10-06 hrs Oxford service
Arrive Oxford: 11-09 hrs

Return: Oxford to Marylebone: 15-43, 16-11, 16-43 and 17-41 hrs
Oxford to Paddington: 15-31, 16-01, 16-31, 17-01, 17-30 and 18-01 hrs

This is an easy, relaxing walk which in the morning takes us on the flat over Port Meadow via the River Isis to the village of Wolvercote, where we will stop for lunch in the "library" of the cosy Plough Inn.
After lunch, we set off along the Oxford canal back towards the centre of Oxford. Those happy with a short(ish) walk today, particularly if the weather is inclement, stay on the canal tow path all the way back to the railway station. Those wanting a longer walk can divert from the canal to Wolfson College to then follow the Walk Directions for a walk on an often muddy path beside the River Cherwell to the University Parks. Here, you can either embark on the Tour of the University Colleges (recommended if time and daylight permits) or you can head back through town to the railway station. Again, you don't have to decide until you reach the Parks.
Walk Directions are here: L=1.13
  • 29-Dec-17

    Because of the heavy rain in Central London early in the morning, the bad weather forecast and the dire traffic warnings, I was not expecting anyone else to venture out on today's walk. So it was a nice surprise to spot two fellow SWC walkers at Oxford station, so that made 3 for today's adventure.

    Lady luck was with us today: either Oxford has its own micro-climate, or we just happened on a five hour respite in the bad weather all around us, for we enjoyed a mostly sunny day with higher than forecast temperatures : in fact, lovely winter walking conditions.

    Near the start of the walk the River Isis had burst its banks and flooded the tow path in two places. We managed to negotiate the shin deep stretches of water without taking on board too much water: fortunately we were all wearing good leather walking boots: canvas jobbies, favoured by many a SWC walker, would have been hopeless.

    On across a soggy Port Meadow to the Plough Inn where we all enjoyed an excellent lunch. I always like stopping at this cosy pub.

    After lunch, my colleagues departed to visit family on the outskirts of Oxford, and I headed back to the railway station via the Oxford Canal, to complete a relaxing, non-strenuous day's walk, and an ideal leg-stretcher before the New Year festivities kick in.

    Home by 5 pm for an early bath.......

  • Anonymous

    Glad you had company, Marcus. Happy New Year.

Book 1 Walk 13 – Oxford Circular (revised route with options to extend) [planned for 29 Dec, moved due to railworks]

Length: 16.3 km (10.1 mi) [longer walk possible, see below]
Ascent/Descent: a few steps up from street level to the station and several arched footbridges
Net Walking Time: ca. 4 hours
Toughness: 1 out of 10
Take the 10.05 Oxford train from Marylebone, arrives Oxford 11.09.
Return trains: 15.09, 15.43, 16.11, 16.42, 17.11, 17.41, 18.07… (from 65 minutes journey time).
This is an undemanding but enjoyable short Country Walk, ending in an exploration of this historic university city, with its University’s Colleges and the Norman Castle compound.
The walk starts along the Isis River to Binsey, a favourite walk for the poet Gerard Manley Hopkins. With Port Meadow on the other side of the river, you walk to the ruins of Godstow Abbey, before coming to the Trout Inn at Wolvercote (a lunch option) then take in a bit of Wolvercote Common before coming to the Plough Inn (a second option for lunch).
After lunch the walk heads south along the Oxford Canal, past some houseboats, then across town and via a footbridge by Wolfson College to go along the River Cherwell through its Nature Reserve, where buttercups are abundant in May. Going through the University Parks, you come to the Pitt Rivers Museum. From here you start your walking tour of Oxford’s historic colleges and famous buildings, winding in and out of lanes and small streets as the walk fits in many of the colleges as well as the Norman Castle Compound with the Castle Mound and the former Victorian Prison (now a hotel), before you stop for tea and finally head for the railway station.
Three separate Short Extensions to the route are possible:
--- an out-and-back in the morning to Binsey Village with its lovely church and well adds 2.0 km (1.3 mi);
--- a loop around lunch through the Wolvercote Lakes, a Nature Reserve owned by the Oxford Preservation Trust, adds 0.5 km (0.3 mi);
--- a loop after lunch through the Trap Grounds, a local Wildlife Site, adds 0.6 km (0.4 mi).
If you are fast enough, you can visit Modern Art Oxford, a renowned art gallery open to 16.00 hours today, for their Kaleidoscope exhibition, celebrating their first 50 years.
There are four good pubs en route, before you get to Oxford, the two best positioned ones for lunch are some twenty minutes apart. The first of those is The Trout Inn in Wolvercote (4.4 km/2.8 mi). This pub enjoys a lovely setting beside the River. On the other side of Wolvercote Common is The Plough Pub & Restaurant in Wolvercote Green (6.2 km/3.9 mi). This pub is more homely than the Trout Inn and less touristy. For tea, you are spoilt for choice for cafes, restaurants and pubs in the city centre. For details consult the Walk Directions.
For walk directions, map, height profile, photos and gpx/kml files click here. T=1.13
  • 30-Dec-16

    Expect very long queues at the Marylebone ticket office over the holiday period (there were on Thursday) so leave plenty of time before your stated departure. Your Oxford train will also be bombed out by Far-Eastern visitors heading for Bicester Village - so be close to the barriers when the train is announced: it's along way to stand before you reach Bicester.

    On arrival at Oxford station you may find the start of the Thames path at the beginning of your walk closed, with its diversion poorly marked. So I suggest the following: coming out of the station, turn left. At the end of the concourse keep ahead on a green coloured cycle path, which soon swings to the right. Now pick up signs to the Thames Canal, and follow them through a residential area until you come to the canal. Here turn left and head down to go under the railway (restricted headroom) and keep ahead for the short distance until you reach the Thames path, with a footbridge on your left. Turn right onto the path - and continue with the Book's directions.

    For lunch on Thursday, the Plough at Wolvercote Green looked after my family very well.

  • 30-Dec-16

    From Ealing: 09.18 direct, arr. 11.06 or 09.33 via P'ton and Reading

  • 30-Dec-16

    The Tames Path diversion is a bit more straightforward from memory, having walk-checked my writeup a few weeks ago, it's only 100m or so that are affected due to some housebuilding. Take the residential road to the right just b4 the Thames and turn left in 100m or so to join the Thames Path. Just follow me...

  • 31-Dec-16

    Just 4 walkers on this today, in gloomy but dry weather, who did the extension to St. Margaret's church and well, had an ultra-fast lunch at The Plough, and then split in Oxford, with 3 going to Modern Art Oxford, 1 following the route straight to the train. The 3 then also climbed the Castle Mound (well worth the £1 fee). 16.30 train.

  • 01-Jan-17

    ...oh, and the outbound train was only half full, despite Bicester Village being open all day...

Sun, 06-Dec-15 : An easy Oxford amble ?
Book 1 Walk 13, Oxford circular
Length 15.2km (9.4m); toughness 1/10. completely flat
Trains: 09.34 London Paddington (Slough 09.54) arrives at Oxford 11.00
Return trains: xx:09 direct slow stopping trains to London
xx:51 direct faster trains to London
xx:16 fast trains to Reading where you change for a fast train to London
I’m taking a bit of a risk with this Book 1 walk as it has not been done for almost 3 years and has rather fallen out of favour. It was originally designed as an easy, flat walk for visitors to London and a chance to amble around Oxford colleges.
However the route is redolent with history and interest and Oxford should be buzzing with Xmas shoppers and “end of term” students. (You may care to do a bit of Xmas shopping yourself!) You can do the college tours if you wish but you may prefer to amble round the city centre and take refreshments at one of the many bijou cafes or pubs.

The walk has been rewritten and up-dated so don’t use the book but see here for more information about the walk, refreshment options, and detailed walk directions.
  • 04-Dec-15

    It is the CHRISTMAS PARTY on Thursday - don't forget!! See listing below

  • Marion

    Intend going

  • Anonymous

    is it suitable to bring a four-legged creature on this walk ?

  • Anonymous

    Yes well behaved dogs are welcome on these walks. We've had a few canine friends along in the past.

  • 08-Dec-15

    Did anyone go on this walk? Numbers much appreciated.