“ Address: Milton Common / Nr Thame / Oxfordshire / OX9 2JW / England „
We had decided to have a couple of days away to celebrate our Wedding Anniversary and had chosen to visit Oxford, Why Oxford I hear you ask? , well apart from it being a beautiful city, then I can answer that in two words Inspector Morse , which was of course is filmed in and around Oxford and just happens to be one of my favourite television programmes.
We set about browsing the various online booking sites to check hotel availability for our chosen dates.
Having settled on using lastminute.com we were pleased to find at least 10 hotels were listed, all in different price ranges, and offering various facilities
We chose the Oxford Belfry, not only for their competitive prices but it its location sounded ideal for our needs. For two nights Bed and Breakfast (for 2) we paid £110.00 (plus £1.38 credit card charge) which we both felt to be more than reasonable for this 4 star hotel.
~~~ THE HOTEL~~~
The Oxford Belfry, is situated very close to the M40 making it very easy to find. A 4 star hotel with 154 Bedrooms set in 17 acres of Oxfordshire countryside. It has just benefited from a £4.5 million refurbishment of the public areas (I understand some of the guestrooms are to be refurbished later in the year). The hotel is part old and part modern, the original building once known as Brimpton Grange dates back to the 19th century and it is said to have been the home at one time to the French Ambassador. The extensions have been very tastefully carried out so as to not lose the original charm; there is free parking for 200 cars, with a separate secure key pad controlled barrier exit. There are large signs reminding you of this in the entrance to the hotel, but should you forget to get the number from the receptionist then fear not for there is also an intercom located at the barrier too, not that we forgot to ask, himself has a memory like an elephant when it suits.
There are two entrance doors at the front of the hotel, one the revolving type, whilst the other is designed for disabled access with automatic opening at the push of a button.
The reception area is large, light and very airy, very tastefully decorated with a long reception desk on the left hand side. We were acknowledged with eye contact and a friendly smile before receiving a friendly "Good Afternoon" from the young lady on reception. Checking in was simplicity itself, as we had already paid in advance, we were not pressed to leave details of our credit card, but were given the option of doing so together with the choice of paying cash for any extras we might have. Knowing himself is a "typical Yorkshire man" (very careful with his brass), I knew he had no intention of parting with any money in the Hotel Bar or on room service, so his credit card stayed put in his wallet alongside the family of moths that hadn't escaped when he removed his credit card to pay at the time of booking. We were then asked if we required a wake up call or any help with our luggage (both of which we declined) before being given our key (the card type) and directions to our room.
Our room was located on the ground floor so we had to need no use the stairs or lift and it was very easy to find along the long wide corridors. We concluded on reaching our room that we were at the back of the hotel.
~~~ THE ROOM~~~
I have never been any good at opening doors with these card things (give me an old fashioned key any day), but even himself had problems too using it for the first time. Luckily for us a member of staff was about to enter a room a couple of doors away to change towels and swiftly, without being asked, came to our aid.
Once inside we were both pleasantly surprised at the size of the room bearing in mind we had only booked one of their standard guestrooms. The bathroom was located on the right hand side, which contained a bath (with shower type mixer taps), basin, toilet and walk in shower. Everywhere was spotless and very well maintained; amongst the usual complimentary toiletries were 2 boxes of soap, shower cap, and small plastic bottles containing shampoo, conditioner and foam bath. Towels were soft, fluffy and white; there was also a rubber, non slip, bath mat plus a floor mat too. Suitably impressed we ventured further into the room. Directly opposite the bathroom was the wardrobe with ample space and hangers, above it on the shelf were extra pillows and blankets whilst below on the floor sat an electric fan. To the left of the wardrobe there was a suitcase ledge, whilst to the right on a shelf sat the tea and coffee making facilities, (which included 2 packets of chocolate biscuits too) beneath this shelf there was a mini fridge. Directly opposite this a cupboard hid a trouser press, iron and ironing board.
As I have previously mentioned, our room was indeed spacious and decorated tastefully in a calming cream colour, it coordinated perfectly with the terracotta coloured bedding, curtains and carpet. Besides the obvious bed (which was much firmer than we were used to, but extremely comfortable) there were two bedside tables with drawers, one of which contained a sewing kit, shoe mitt (to shine your shoes) as well as the obligatory bible. A large desk housed a welcome pack containing all the information you are likely to need regarding the hotel during your stay, a room service menu and a connection for internet access ( I understand you have 2 hours free use during your stay). The TV with access to some satellite channels (mainly sport) sat on top of a chest of drawers and a cleverly placed dressing table was located in the corner (underneath it's shelf is where the powerful 2 speed hair drier lived) A very comfortable easy chair and a large coffee type table, plus numerous lamps gave this room that cosy home from home feel.
Having made and enjoyed a much needed cup of coffee, we decided to head off to the leisure facilities in search of the pool, sauna and steam room.
~~~ REFLECTIONS - HEALTH, FITNESS AND SPA ~~~
This is another of the areas that have benefited from the recent refurbishment, all the areas we came into contact with were clean, bright and well maintained. After collecting our fluffy towels from the spa reception, we headed off to our respective changing rooms, after arranging to meet at the poolside. I obviously can't comment on the Gents facilities but I assume from the description I was given from himself they were virtually the same as the ladies. A large communal area for changing with wooden lockers adorning the walls, 3 showers (in private cubicles, all with large plastic bottles of shampoo, conditioner and shower gel) 2 hand basins again with complementary soap and moisturiser, a large shelf with 2 hair driers and mirror above. I did notice though whilst having a nosey there was in fact a small private changing cubicle tucked away in the corner. There was also a spin drier type machine, so you could remove any excess water from your swimming attire.
A door from the changing rooms' leads directly into the wet area, the pool, sauna, steam room and experience shower.
~~ Pool ~~
Whilst compared to some this at only 12.5 meters is somewhat small in comparison, and I was pleasantly surprised to find the deep end wasn't that deep so much so I could stand up in it. All areas around the pool were again spotless and the water was lovely and warm. We used the pool on two occasions during our stay and virtually had it to ourselves each time.
The same could be said for the sauna and steam room. It is however worth bearing in mind the rules in place for using these facilities as children under 16 are not allowed in the pool without an adult, nor are they allowed to use the sauna or steam room at anytime. There is no life guard on duty, but I did notice there was several panic type buttons placed on the wall around the pool side.
In addition to the above mentioned, there are 7 treatment rooms where you can enjoy a wide range of spa treatments from facials to massages, which of course incur additional costs and have to be booked in advance to avoid disappointment. A well appointed gym, furnished with state of the art equipment beckons those wanting some strenuous exercise (although under 18's are prohibited from using this facility). There are also 2 all weather tennis courts (equipment can be hired with a £10.00 deposit) and a croquet lawn too. Golfers can enjoy reduced green fees at the nearby Oxfordshire Golf Club subject to availability (and no, before you ask, himself didn't take his clubs)
~~ RESTURANT AND BAR~~
The Oxford belfry offers a choice of a la carte dining in the Rycote restaurant or light snacks and drinks in the Isis Bar, there is also room service too of course.
The Restaurant is open daily for breakfast and dinner, whilst the Isis bar serves food and drinks through out the day.
Married to a frugal Yorkshire man (or some might even say tight) we only ate breakfast in the hotel as we felt the prices in the restaurant and bar were on the expensive side, for example starters ranged from £5.95,- £6.95 main courses £12.95 - £18.95 and desserts £6.00, - £7.50, yes at first they did appear steep to us northern folk but after further investigations looking at menus in restaurants in Oxford and the nearby village of Thame, they weren't much dearer than them. It is worth noting though that should you book the hotel on a bed, breakfast and dinner basis, anything you choose over the sum of £25.00 carries a supplement.
Breakfast, (the most important meal of the day) is served from 7am -9.30 Monday to Friday and 8am -11am Weekends. The restaurant is decorated again very tastefully, wooden beech coloured tables are spaced well apart. The choice of food on offer is phenomenal with something to tempt even the fussiest of eaters. Having been shown to our table we were asked by our friendly waitress what we would like to drink (the menu on the table lists all the options from a wide variety of teas, coffees, hot chocolate etc...) and within minutes of sitting down a steaming pot of coffee was placed on our table, jugs containing milk were already there.
Service is help yourself at breakfast but you can if you wish, request table service, which I am sure, would be of great help to disabled guests.
As mentioned before, the choice is extensive even with the juices (orange, apple, grapefruit, cranberry and tomato with a bottle of Tabasco to spice it up should you wish .
There was also an ice bucket containing bottles of chilled mineral water too. Cereals are again wide in choice and you can also request porridge if you wished. Fresh fruit, yoghurts, pastries, breads and cheeses offer an alternative to the traditional English breakfast. There was nothing missing from this either, bacon, sausage ( vegetarian ones too), baked beans, black pudding, scrambled eggs, fried bread, grilled tomatoes, mushrooms, hash browns and fried eggs cooked to order, phew !!, you could also request your eggs boiled or poached even. Like the fried eggs, toast was done to order with a choice of brown or white bread.
If you are only booked in on a room only basis then taking advantage of this feast would set you back £10.00 for the continental style food or £ 15.00 for what they call the Classic Q which gives you a choice of everything on offer.
You also have the option for an additional £3.50 (which applies to everyone) to order something a bit more special like Scottish Smoked Whiskey kippers, eggs Benedict or scrambled eggs with smoked salmon.
The food we ate could not be faulted in any way; it was piping hot and was of obvious good quality. The scrambled eggs in particular were the best I have tasted in a long while, deliciously creamy and seasoned to perfection. Had I not wanted to appear greedy I would have loved to have gone back for seconds.
My only small gripes are that whilst the food was piping hot, the plates were cold, we concluded that this could have been due to the fact that on both occasions we ate just after 7am and the plates hadn't had long enough to warm through. My second is the Milk, why do people assume that everyone uses semi skimmed milk? We first thought it was just the coffee that was strong but having made coffee in our room from the little sachets provided we notice that the milk also was semi skimmed and we ended up using 2 cartons in each cup rather than just the one that would have sufficed had it been the full fat kind.
We didn't drink in the bar, but I did manage to have quick look at the list on the bar that displayed the prices. Again these were almost on a par with the pubs in Oxford and Thame, with a pint of beer costing £ 3.80 and a half of lager £1.80.
~~~ USEFUL INFORMATION ~~~
The hotel is situated close to the village of Thame and the M40 which makes it an ideal base for visiting nearby attractions such as the City of Oxford, Silverstone, Blenheim Palace, The Vale of Aylesbury, Bicester shopping village, and Legoland at Windsor to name but a few.
There is also a wonderful park and ride facility in place just a 10 minute drive away where you can park your car for free then catch a bus into Oxford for a return fare of £2.20 (Over 60's travel free with those new passes) You can also catch one that goes into London Too.
This Hotel is one of the largest conference and event venues in Oxfordshire and has 17 conference and meeting rooms, offering space for up to 450 delegates, indeed there were a number of these rooms in use at the time of our stay.
Check- in time is 2pm, whilst check- out is 11am.
No pets are allowed except for guide dogs.
The hotel accepts all major credit cards.
Rooms vary in price, Single rooms range from £60- £80 whilst doubles are from £80 - £100, obviously more if you upgrade to one of their deluxe rooms. Shop around for the best deal.
As with most hotels now this is non smoking in all indoor areas, but there are two beautiful courtyards with tables and chairs where the smokers can go or the terrace where you can sit in pleasant surroundings and enjoy a drink if the weather permits.
We found the hotel very easy to find without any super satellite navigation system, just me with a map on my knee was all that was need to get us there.
From the North (Bicester, Birmingham, Mancester.M42, M6) exit M40 at Oxford Services junction 8/8A. At slip road roundabout take exit signposted A418 to Aylesbury. After about half a mile turn right onto the A40 to Milton Common and Wallingford. The Oxford Belfry is situated 1 ½ miles along on the left hand side.
From the South (London, High Wycombe) exit M40 at junction 7, turn right following the A329 towards Thame. Immediately after crossing over the motorway, turn left onto the A40. The Hotel is situated 300 yards on the right hand side.
The nearest Airport is London Heathrow, whilst the train station is only 5 miles away at Thame.
~*~ CONCLUSION ~*~
I must say that we were suitably impressed with the hotel as a whole; the staff whilst attentive were by no means intrusive. We did have occasion to request extra supplies of milk and coffee on our first day and called at reception on our way back to our room after using the pool. We had only just walked into our room when there was a knock at the door from the porter who came laden with extras of everything.
The TV in our room may not be of the standard some have come to expect but it was more than adequate for our needs. After all we didn't go away to watch television, although I did manage to catch the tail end of an episode of Inspector Morse whilst relaxing with a coffee after spending a lovely day in Oxford and himself caught up with the sport whilst I was getting ready to go out for our evening meal.
This hotel would without doubt be my first choice when we visit Oxford again and I can not recommend it highly enough. (And no himself will NOT be taking his golf clubs next time either, well not unless he wants me spending a small fortune in the spa).
All in all this is an excellent hotel with superb facilities and staff and I defy even the pickiest of guests to find fault.
*** Previously posted on ciao by me with pictures under the same user name.***