Wales' Premier Independent Travel Magazine

Holiday Inn Oxford: Putting The H In Hospitality

Oxford is famous for many things. We kept mentioning Oxford Circus but it's not... it's Oxford Fair.
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Our recent visit to Oxfordshire coincided with our 25th wedding anniversary, and while we were mixing mainly business with a little pleasure, the Holiday Inn team went out of their way to make a relatively mundane business trip a little more special.

Due to work commitments, we would be celebrating this matrimonial milestone in Cornwall the following weekend but, on our actual “special day”, we would be spending it in Oxford, the ‘City of Dreaming Spires’, followed by a day in Milton Keynes, “The Greenest City in the World” (seriously, look it up).

While we were celebrating on the 6th September, little did we know the country would soon be plunged into sadness with the announcement of the death of our Queen on the 8th.

We were in Oxford to do some background work for Oxfordshire Life, one of our other titles, and when we’re “in town”, we like to explore the city a little and see if we can discover a few hidden gems.

We had managed, at quite short notice, to book an Executive  room in the Holiday Inn just off the Pear Tree roundabout, where the A34, A40 and A44 converge. There’s an excellent park and ride service here too so it’s perfectly placed for visitors who don’t really want to tackle the city’s roads. Oxford can be a challenge on occasion.

The Holiday Inn has recently had a makeover, and what a transformation. The reception area now merges with a tastefully designed lounge and restaurant area. Open plan but cleverly not; the areas are distinct but flow neatly together. The design is colourful and felt somewhat Skandi, but not in a “I’ve nipped to Ikea, I’m on a budget” kind of way. It’s much warmer and way more inviting. We both agreed it was lovely and we weren’t the only ones. A couple arrived shortly after and the lady voiced, loud enough for us to hear, “Oooh, this is nice!”

The lovely chap on reception, Kevin, explained where everything was and ensured that we knew how to get the best out of our stay. Kevin was from Portugal, and we chatted about places we’d stayed there on the Algarve, and he gave us some good suggestions if we were to return.

Having popped our cases in our room, we headed into Oxford. Kevin had mentioned the annual St Giles’ Fair was on so we decided that would be something to see after we’d sorted out the business element of our visit. The fair was quite spectacular, like our own Barry Island but on steroids. It was huge.

St Giles’ Fair is one of the greatest and most prestigious in the country. The fair dates to 1625 when it was a parish festival to celebrate the feast of the patron saint, St Giles, and is held on the Monday and Tuesday following the first Sunday after St Giles’ Day (1st September). Apparently, in the 18th century, it began as a toy fair, then in the early 19th century a children’s fair. In Victorian times improved transport links meant many more could visit, and it has grown steadily over the years. So large, that the streets are closed to traffic for two days to accommodate the tens of thousands that attend.

We also visited Westgate Oxford. Jennifer was particularly delighted as it has an & Other Stories, one of her favourite boutiques. There are plenty of other great brands and eateries at Westgate and, in the streets nearby, a very good selection of indie shops.

In the evening, we headed to the cinema as we tend to do when we’re away. Top Gun Maverick was showing so we subjected ourselves to a very enjoyable two-hour, eleven minutes advertisement for the US Air Force and solid, cosmetic dental work. Actually, it was pretty good and it has grossed £1.5 billion dollars to date. Heck you could buy two Northrop Grumman B-21 Stealth Bombers for that (not including the £20 billion development cost though).

Talking about budget, with Holiday Inn, you do tend to get more than you pay for. Our room was very clean and the little extras you receive booking an Executive room are most welcome and well worth paying that little extra for. The bed was very comfortable, and the linen is really soft and surprisingly luxurious for what, essentially, is a budget hotel albeit described as four stars.

One of the things we particularly love about Holiday Inn is that the room has a bath. This may not be that important in our summer visits but, in winter, we love a bath to unwind when we’re away from home. The shower here is over the bath so you must step in and out. They do advise care and to use a non-slip mat. The shower was excellent – like a jet afterburner (apologies, Top Gun creeping in again), surprisingly powerful. So often showers are such a disappointment, not so here. The room has all you need and a good size wall mounted television means you can watch more movies from the comfort of the comfy bed.

I mentioned earlier that they made us feel extra special. When we arrived in our room, there were towels in the shape of a heart on our bed with glitter and one of the housekeeping team had written on the mirror in deep pink wishing us a happy 25th anniversary – a lovely touch. When we went down to breakfast the following morning, we had a similar message in the breakfast area – very thoughtful. Incidentally, the breakfast here is pretty good. We’d enjoyed a Club Sandwich in the restaurant the evening before. The presentation was a little basic but the “substance over style” was most welcome. What it lacked in garnish, it more than made up for in flavour – great fries too. Like the breakfast, it tasted really good.

We do like Oxford, and Oxfordshire, even if we are there for work. This time though, the Holiday Inn team made our stay that little bit special – when it comes to hospitality, at Holiday Inn, that H is definitely a capital one.

Holiday Inn
Peartree Roundabout
Woodstock Road
Oxford OX2 8JD
03719 429086
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Aaah, Bicester!
We popped into Bicester Village during our stay. You can read all about it here.