On this page you can find details of some of the routes that Isis Cyclists have covered in recent years. We’re offering them so that people can go for bike rides in addition to, or as an alternative to, our programme of group rides. A number of them are also being used in our regular programmes, so that you can see where we’ll be going.
- About the routes
- Oxford City: inside the ring road
- North-east: A44 northbound to A40/M40 eastbound
- South-east: A40/M40 eastbound to A34 southbound
- South-west: A34 southbound to A40 westbound
- North-west: A40 westbound to A44 northbound
- 50-mile challenge routes
- Car-assisted routes
ABOUT THE ROUTES
For each route we provide a synopsis and a link to the website (e.g. Mapometer or Ride with GPS) on which you can view the route itself and download the GPS file (possibly also a cue sheet). The routes are publicly available; you don’t need to sign up to the site. For a guide to classifications, visit the About Us page.
The list is organised into five sectors, bounded by the Oxford ring road and four of the major roads radiating from it, as shown in the schematic map on the right. Most routes go through two or more sectors, so we have categorised them according to the sector in which the destination is located (usually the refreshment stop in normal times).
Enjoy – but do take extra care to avoid mishap. We don’t want to add to the existing pressure on hospitals and the other emergency services.
If you don’t see a route that takes your fancy, return to the Home page, where you can browse all of our rides dating back to January 2017. Many of them include links to the actual routes.
An Oxford circular and river towpath (Short)
This 8.5-mile route starts in Marston and heads south crossing the Cowley and Iffley Rds to pick up Meadow Lane to Donnington Bridge. A mile of river towpath brings us to Folly bridge which we cross and head up St Aldates, past Christchurch College. We then turn down Pembroke St and up St Ebbs to reach Bonn Square and George St (via New Inn Hall St). We are now heading west towards Jericho where we will turn north up Walton St, have a short detour round the streets near the canal before picking up Kingston Rd, Frenchay Rd, crossing both Woodstock and Banbury Roads and picking up the Marston Ferry cycle track by Cherwell School. Then back to New Marston via the Recreation Ground and the Purcell Road cycle track. If you want to pause, I suggest the recreation ground off Meadow Lane or the New Marston Recreation Ground. Both have plenty of space. The route can be ridden starting anywhere and backwards and forward. (Ellen)
Oxford circular route: Cutteslowe, Wolvercote, the Oxford Canal into central Oxford (Short)
This 10-mile route takes us through the quiet roads of North Oxford to Cutteslowe and Sunnymead. We then ride to Wolvercote, picking up the newly resurfaced canal towpath at Bell Bridge on Wolvercote Green. We will follow the canal as far as Walton Well Street before heading through central Oxford to Broad Street. We will return to the start via Magdalen Bridge, St Clements and the University Parks cycle track. Potential places to stop are Wolvercote Green or Parsons Pleasure (off the University Parks cycle track). The route can be ridden starting anywhere and backwards and forward. (Ellen)
Oxford circular route: Marston to East Oxford, Temple Cowley returning through Headington (Short)
This 10.4-mile route starts on the Marston Road and heads for the Cowley Rd to pick up the Barracks Lane track. From there it heads to Marsh Rd and up Temple Rd, crossing Hollow Way and reaching the ring road cycle track at Fernhill Rd. After a short section on the ring rd cycle track we head down Horsepath Rd, Hollow Way and The Slade (making use of the new “access to Headington paths”. We will then cut through to Old Road pass Rock Edge Nature Reserve and Headington Quarry to arrive at Green Rd roundabout. From there it is paths and quiet roads through Old Headington to Northway, Old Marston and back to the start on the Marston Rd. Sensible places to stop for carried refreshments are Barracks Lane meadows or Peasmoor Piece (between Northway & Old Marston) or Boults Lane Recreation Ground in Old Marston. The route can be ridden starting anywhere and backwards and forward. (Ellen)
How to avoid the Headington Hill (Short)
There is a lovely nature path at the back of the new development in the ring road off Marston. This is very useful when you go from Summertown to Barton: for example, on the way out towards Stanton St. John, as you can avoid going up and down Headington Hill.
From the crossroads of Marston Road and Headley Way, you enter Copse Lane and go through Westlands Drive to cross the ring road on the traffic lights. Follow straight until the lake and take the nature park that follows Bayswater brook until you reach Barton. If you are doing this west to east, when Barton Village Road turns sharp left, you need to go ahead; it is not very clear but you will find the path from the bit of grass ahead of you. (Leonor)
Scenic city parks ride (Short)
This ride is a 7 mile circular route which can be ridden clockwise or anticlockwise and picked up at any point of the route.
Starting beside University Parks at the corner of South Parks Road and St. Cross Road, take the Marston cycle path through to Harberton Mead. At the top turn right into Pullens Lane towards Brookes University, and cycle over to South Park enjoying the City vista. Then ride towards the Oxford Golf club in Hilltop Road turning right onto the cycle path through Southfield Park, then turn left into Barracks Lane.
Cycle alongside Cowley Marsh recreation ground to the tennis courts, turning right into Marsh Road then over Cowley Road, alongside the allotments to Rymers Lane and into Florence Park. Follow the central avenue of trees and exit the other side of the park to ride to Iffley Turn. Ride along Church Way in Iffley village and turn right into Meadow Lane, past the playground to the end of the cycle path turning right where it meets Jackdaw Lane. On joining the Iffley Road, ride towards Magdalen Bridge and the City centre. Turn right into Queen’s Lane, eventually turning right under the Bridge of Sighs to Parks Road and then right into South Parks road back to the starting point. (Sarah)
Riverine Ride (Short)
This lovely ride follows the river to Iffley Lock, crosses the lock, then turns down Meadow Lane and on to route 5 which takes you through Hinksey and Osney to The Tumbling Bay café at West Oxford Community Centre, where you may be able to stop for coffee and homemade cake. You then continue along the Thames by way of ‘Fiddler’s Island’ to Port Meadow, cross the river and make for Walton Well Road. From there you wiggle our way through Jericho and back to the city centre. The ride is 8 miles in length, with only a tiny hill in Iffley village, and the terrain is a mixture of towpath, quiet roads and a short section of grassy path (Karen).
Old Marston and Old Headington (Short)
This is a lovely ride where I share some of my lockdown discoveries, little alleyways, snickets or whatever you may want to call them. You cross Mesopotamia and follow the back roads of Marston towards Old Marston and then Northway; from here a quiet new path at the back of the ring road development takes you to Barton where you face a little hill to the ring road (walk it if it’s too steep). You then meander through lovely Old Headington before making our way back. You can make a stop at some point in Headington, depending on the weather. The ride is just under 9 miles mostly through quiet roads and some paths (Leonor).
Figure of eight: Radcliffe Square to North Oxford, Jericho, West Oxford, North Hinksey, Wytham and Wolvercote returning to central Oxford along the canal towpath (Short-Medium)
An 11.4 mile route starting from Radcliffe Square in central Oxford. This route starts off heading for Jericho via North Oxford before cutting across to the Botley Rd via Roger Dudman Way where you can admire the green walls on the infamous University student flats. In dry weather you could cut across Port Meadow and Fiddlers Island to the Botley Rd instead. You then head over Osney Island, Oatlands Rd Recreation Ground (flooding permitting!) and Willow Walk. Then ride through North Hinksey and over the Botley Interchange (on cycle track) to pick up the back road to Wytham and Wolvercote. Join the canal at Wolvercote Green and ride into town leaving the Canal at Walton Well Road. If you are happy to have an al fresco stop, then the Botley Cemetery has plenty of seating and is a peaceful spot away from the bustle. Wytham Village Stores is a good place to buy coffee and cake as long as you are happy to sit outside in the garden. If you want to ride the route the reverse way round, that should work fine too and will give you a different perspective. (Ellen)
This well-known route is a gentle 10.8-mile circular cycle ride through Cutteslowe Park, Wytham and North Hinksey where you will stop for refreshments at The Fishes PH. There is a green plaque on the old cottage opposite the pub describing where John Ruskin – first Professor of Fine Art from 1869 – lived. You then continue along Willow Walk, also known as Ruskin’s Ride. Finally, you enjoy a new stretch of cycle path through Osney Mead before returning to Radcliffe square via a stretch of the Thames Towpath.
A short trip to Narnia (and back)
This 9mile route starts in the centre of Oxford, in Radcliffe Square and heads out on a C.S. Lewis-themed ride to the BBOWT reserve in Risinghurst named after him and on land he formally owned adjacent to his house “The Kilns.” Along the way you visit Bury Knowle Park in Headington, where you might spot a few characters from the Narnia novels, and Holy Trinity Church, which he attended and where he is buried. However, before you start, if you have a bit of time to spare, you might take a look around Radcliffe Square for a couple of characters who look as they could have come from Narnia. Who knows whether C.S. Lewis was aware of the pair of fauns that guard what has become known to locals as the “Narnia Door.”
The ride includes the climb up to Headington from Marston but otherwise is fairly flat. There is no cycling at the Reserve, so if you want to walk around, or just sit, listen and watch the wildlife, then you will need to remember a bicycle lock and leave your bike outside. You return to the centre of town using quiet roads through Headington and Marston. On the way, you’ll pass another connection with C.S. Lewis, the house of his friend and fellow “Inkling” J.R.R. Tolkien (on Sandfield Rd). (Ellen)
A loop west and south around Oxford (Medium)
This is a slightly longer ride than the preceding ones, which goes through the pretty village of Wytham. The original ride started in Summertown but you can start the ride in town and follow the usual way up to Wolvercote; from Wolvercote you cycle through the beautiful village of Wytham. We will then come down towards Botley, follow the quiet back lane of Osney Mead and St. Ebbes to end up in the Abingdon Road; to complete the loop you can return crossing the Donnington Bridge and follow the river and canal back through Jericho to the starting point. This 13-mile flat route suitable for all riders and bikes. (Leonor)
Sculpture in a locked-down city (Medium)
This unusual themed ride was organised by a member of Sustrans for National Bike Week in 2014. It takes riders on a 12-mile circular tour around Oxford, pausing at 16 varied sculptures ranging from the 1840s (Martyrs’ Memorial) to the present day, including two works by Anthony Gormley. The directions are quite detailed, so we have included them in a separate document for you to download, together with brief descriptions of the sculptures. We have been unsuccessful in tracing the author of the document and any copyright attached to it; if you can supply this information please send us a message via the Contact Us page. (Jane)
Ring Road faster blast route: a circumnavigation of Oxford sticking to or close to the Ring Road (Medium)
This 16.2-mile route will be good if you want to ride a bit faster and more continuously. It sticks to the Ring Rd cycle track except between Wolvercote and through Wytham and North Hinksey where there is no cycle track. It might not sound so pleasant, but at least the ring road will be quieter than we are used to and you can get a decent speed up. My route starts where Elsfield Rd in Old Marston meets the Ring Rd cycle track and works ok in both directions (I think!). I’ve included lots of places you can join. Because of its nature, there isn’t that much opportunity to stop and admire the view, however the car park by the river in Lower Wolvercote is a possibility, or the churchyard or The Fishes in N. Hinksey. (Ellen)
Following the river (Medium)
This is a gentle 13-mile ride when you feel like following the water down to Sandford-on-Thames. It starts in Summertown, but you can adapt it to your starting point.
There are bits of rough surface that can be easily done with a hybrid bike. The river tends to be where everyone goes when it is a nice sunny day so try to avoid times when it may be a bit crowded. (Leonor)
A bit of countryside from north Oxford (short)
This gentle 8.5-mile ride takes you through fields from Summertown to Kidlington via Water Eaton. (Leonor)
For a similar, but longer, ride see Sarah’s ride in the Medium Rides section below.
Annie’s Tearoom at Thrupp via Islip
This ride is medium to long, depending on whether you start from Radcliffe Square (21 miles) or North Oxford (a bit less). Leave Oxford via the Marston cycle path and Old Marston. Cross the A40 by the flyover and turn onto the quieter roads through Woodeaton (moderate hill alert) and Islip. Turn left immediately after the river bridge into Mill St and then follow the bridleway to cross the railway. Continue, wiggling around the slip roads onto the A34, and then take the cycle track across the fields to Kidlington church. From there take The Moors to the T-junction with the A4260; you’ll then have to ride a short stretch of this main road to the turn-off to Thrupp and Annie’s (alternatively, one of the two canalside pubs).
Retrace your steps along the A4260 and The Moors, which turns into Mill St before bending right to become Evans Lane. Wiggle through the residential streets to emerge onto the junction with Bicester Rd at the King’s Arms pub. Cross over and take the track over the A34 and railway through Water Eaton to the Banbury Road. From there you can take cycle route 51 back through North Oxford. (Liz)
This is a pleasant 16-mile ride out to the village of Islip, north-east of Oxford, returning via Gosford and Water Eaton. The route leaves Oxford using the Marston Cycle track and heads on a minor road to the small village of Woodeaton. It then joins the B4027 for a short climb followed by a longer descent with great views over Otmoor and down to the village of Islip. You take a quiet back route around the village to pick up the road towards Kidlington. If you want to explore Islip a bit more, then you can either ride up the short climb (The Walk) to arrive at the Green or turn right over the bridge onto Lower road and then take either Middle Street or North Street to arrive at the same destination. The route then heads to Gosford before returning to Oxford using the Water Eaton track and Cutteslowe Park.
Circular route into the countryside: views over Otmoor (Medium)
This 11.2-mile route starts and finishes at The Up in Arms PH on the Marston Road and starts by climbing steadily to Headington using Jack Straws Lane and Staunton Rd. Once there we head into Old Headington and then the Green Rd Roundabout. We use the underpass to cross the ring road and head down Bayswater Rd towards Stanton St John and the B4027. We’ll only need to ride down the B-road for a short distance before we will turn down Horton Rd and ride into Beckley, hopefully enjoying wide open views of Otmoor as we go. After riding up through the village we will return to the B4027 briefly via Common Rd and views of the Otmoor Nature Reserve. We then cross the B4027 and return to Marston via Elsfield, hopefully enjoying a good whoosh down Elsfield Hill on the way. The route can be ridden starting anywhere and backwards and forward. Also, the routes in and out of Oxford can be used as a springboard for more exploration further north and east. (Ellen)
Summertown to Kidlington, Begbroke and Yarnton (Medium)
This is a 16-mile circular route north from Summertown to the villages of Kidlington, Begbroke and Yarnton. The ride is mainly flat and takes in some delightful countryside via Water Eaton lane where you can hear skylarks and maybe even see a deer or two, St Marys church with its imposing spire and the magical Begbroke lane which is currently decorated with creative artwork. The ride returns through Cutteslowe park where you can enjoy a well deserved ice cream in the café.
Note: The route avoids the canal path due to Covid-19 restrictions so the return section from Yarnton uses Sandy Lane which has only a small section of cycle path. (Sarah)
For a similar, but shorter, ride see Leonor’s ride in the Short Rides section above.
Circumnavigating Otmoor (Long)
The ride will take you through Woodeaton, Islip, Oddington, Charlton-on-Otmoor, Murcott, Horton-cum-Studley and Stanton St. John. The original ride started in Summertown but you can start the ride in town and follow the usual way up to the ring road. You can return either through Barton or Elsfield. The ride is over 20 miles (depending on where you start and finish) with just a couple of hills. (Leonor)
Up and down the Cherwell Valley (Long)
This 33-mile route takes riders up the western bank of the Cherwell Valley as far as North Aston and returns down the eastern bank. It starts by making rapid progress to Woodstock using the A44 cycle track. If you prefer, you can cut some of this off by picking up the canal towpath in Wolvercote and emerging several miles up the A44 at Yarnton. Otherwise, the scenic stuff really gets going at Woodstock where the route picks up Sustrans NCN Route 5 north through woodland to pick up a pleasant green lane northwards. Back on road and once you have crossed the A4260 (Banbury Road) you will enjoy a descent on a minor road along the edge of Tackley Wood, a great place for bluebells in the late spring. We meet the River Cherwell near Rousham and climb sharply to Steeple Aston. Turn right at the shop and if you pedal hard downhill and you might make it to the top of the following uphill! Ride through Middle Aston to North Aston enjoying views of the river and canal down and to your right.
Turn right in North Aston and descend into the valley to cross both canal and river to arrive at Somerton on the east bank. The route now turns south along an undulating road through the village and on to Upper Heyford. Back when I started riding around here you used to have to stop and put your fingers in your ears every time a F16 jet from the nearby US airbase shot low over the road. Happily these days you will probably only hear skylarks! Once you’ve climbed away from the village, there is a long, straight and gradual descent to Kirtlington and then the familiar territory of Bletchingdon, Hampton Poyle and Kidlington that is approached via the meadows.
Originally this route was designed for coffee in Woodstock and lunch at The Yurt at Nicholsons in North Aston. However, there are plenty of places to stop for coffee al fresco on the track out of Woodstock or on the green lane, the upper section of which has wide grassy verges. You could picnic on the large village green at North Aston. (Ellen)
Liz M. adds: The cycle track from Woodstock to the crossing at the B4027 can be muddy when wet, so you may wish to take this detour: in Woodstock, continue along Hensington Road (instead of turning left into Green Lane), then fork left (still Hensington Road) and leave town. When you reach the B4027, turn left and you’ll eventually come to the crossing with the cycle track, whereupon you turn right.
Riding east to Marsh Gibbon (Long)
This 33.6 mile route starts and finishes on the Marston Road in Oxford, outside the Up in Arms PH. It takes you out of Oxford to the north-east to Islip and then around the northern edge of Otmoor and through the villages of Merton, Ambrosden and Blackthorn. It then crosses the A41 and enters Buckinghamshire and the village of Marsh Gibbon. This is the route that I use when I ride to Bedford to visit my sister and family, and apart from the small hill on the B4027, before Islip, it’s flat. As you ride through Marsh Gibbon, you will come across a pond and a seat on your left, an ideal place for an al fresco refreshment break. There’s always something to see, a duckling, a dragonfly, a little fish basking in the shallows at the edge of the pond.
The return journey is hillier and starts by visiting the village of Piddington. As you approach it you will see the “twin peaks” of Brill Hill and the adjacent Muswell Hill. You won’t be conquering them on this ride, but there is a climb out of the village to the junction with the B4011. Make sure you stop before you get there to admire the view behind you. Then coast down the B-road and turn right to ride through Boarstall. The return to Oxford is via Honeyburge, Bernwood, and up the hill to Stanton St John and Elsfield. Then a final descent and you are back in Marston. The route includes two crossings of the A41, which is usually a very busy road and care is needed. In the coronavirus lockdown it’s much quieter than usual and very easy to cross.
You can, of course, choose to ride the route the other way round in which case the main hill on the way to Marsh Gibbon is Elsfield Hill and there is also a long but not particularly steep drag from Menmarsh to the Piddington turn on the B4011. On the return leg you will just need to tackle the hill on the B4027 exiting Islip. The advantage of riding the route this way round is that you will be able to enjoy the scenic descent to Piddington. However, my advice would be if the wind is strong and from the west, ride the route as written to avoid a headwind on the exposed roads around Otmoor on the way home. (Ellen)
In search of Queen Victoria’s postbox (Long)
This 38.8-mile route is a hilly one and explores some villages to the south-east of Brill. The reward for 1900ft of climbing is some magnificent views over to the Chiltern Hills and the Vale of Aylesbury.
The route starts on the Marston Rd, outside the Up in Arms PH and departs via Headington and Barton to Stanton St John. It then descends to Menmarsh and through Worminghall and into Shabbington. This is where the hills start to make their presence felt! Turn left and ride to Long Crendon. As you approach the village, take the right hand fork up Frogmore Lane. This is a stiff climb but there are plenty of nice old buildings to distract you. Long Crendon is full of lovely vernacular architecture and the route shows a lot of this off, including The Old Courthouse, owned by the National Trust. It’s a good place to have a breather, maybe in the churchyard.
The route now heads to Chearsley, which is a village on top of a hill with a green where five roads meet. Take the Winchendon Rd, which is magnificent. You will continue climbing with big views on both sides. When you get to a crossroads, turn right and enjoy the descent of Cannon’s Hill. Turn left (care, gravel on corner) to Nether Winchendon and go in search of the eponymous post box! There’s a bench if you want a rest and a snack.
Retrace your route back to the main road and turn left back to Chearsley. This time take the Chilton Rd and enjoy a scenic descent followed by the inevitable ascent to a T-junction. Turn right to Chilton. Keep on and down the hill. I’ve chosen to turn right at the T-junction at the bottom to climb Brill Hill and to return to Oxford via Honeyburge, Menmarsh, Stanton St John and Elsfield. If you feel that climbing Brill Hill is 400ft too much, then turn left and ride to Oakley up the B4011 and take the Oxford Rd in the village to re-join the route as it heads to Bernwood. Whatever you decide, this route really should be ridden on a clear day and with a good picnic! (Ellen)
Stratton Audley Christmas Barn (Long)
This 43-mile ride was the final warm-up for the 2019 50-mile challenge and takes you north-east. It stopped at Stratton Audley Barn for lunch, but you’ll need to take a picnic to eat en route instead. The anti-clockwise route starts in Radcliffe Square, at the back of the University Church. Leave Oxford through Marston and ride out via Otmoor and Launton, to the east of Bicester. The return route swings north to Fringford, south-west to Middleton Cheney, then due south back to Oxford via Weston-on-the-Green and Bletchingdon. You re-enter Oxford through the back of Summertown.
In terms of terrain, there are a couple of short hills at 5 and 35 miles, and some gentle undulations after Stratton Audley. (Liz M.)
Brill: the hill and the windmill (Long)
Leave Oxford via Green Road roundabout tunnel and Bayswater Road, cycling up past the Crematorium and turning first right for Stanton St John. At the T-junction, turn right and left into Stanton and keep left through the village. Keep following Mill Street out of the village for a mile or two until you come to a junction, where you take the left fork for Oakley, Brill, etc. There is a wood just beyond this junction.
Keep straight on the road and cross the M40. Carry on (Oxford Road), left towards Boarstall, through Honeyburge. Turn right at the T-junction (Brill Road), where the road comes in from Horton-cum-Studley. Boarstall Duck Decoy is on your left before another T-junction. Turn right and then take a left fork towards Brill. Carry on in stages until you reach Brill, just short of the windmill and the Pheasant pub. There’s plenty of space around the windmill for a brief refreshment stop.
The return route starts along Windmill Street, with the Pheasant pub on your right. Turn right at the T Junction onto High Street, past the Post Office, and then bear right at The Square, past a beautiful old Manor House on your right, and down Oakley Road, with a long freewheel down the hill to join the Bicester Road. Turn right into Oakley, then left for Worminghall. After that village, at a junction, carry straight on for Wheatley, Littleworth and Horspath before the ride concludes at Horspath Driftway (on the ring road). The ride is approximately 25 miles long. (Jane)
‘Vaccination Circular:’ Sandford and the Kassam Stadium
This short town and country ride from Radcliffe Square is a refreshing 10-mile circuit taking a lovely long towpath section southbound on the NCR 5 , some road and cycle paths through Low Transport Neighbourhood areas of East Oxford.
The route was planned when cycling to receive the Covid-19 vaccination at Kassam stadium, which is half way through the route. It takes about an hour of leisurely cycling – add another half hour if you stop to have your vaccination at the Kassam (Sarah T).
Shotover’s lovely path (Short)
This route is about a lovely path that starts in Shotover – assuming you know how to make your way to Shotover; the route shows directions from Summertown. Follow Old Road in Shotover towards Wheatley until you find a gate on the left that takes you between two cottages. It takes you on the rough bridleway (with glorious view of the Chilterns on right) down the now with beautiful leafy canopy. You come to a track (parallel to A40) crossing a field, which doesn’t have cows at the moment, there is a metal gate that brings you onto Park Hill. The gate has a sensor, you need to adopt the girth of a Fiat 500 or Heifer – alternatively when close to the gate cycle in a circle in front and the gate will open. Beware: not everyone succeeds and you may have to lift your bike over the gate.
On the return you can choose to get back to Shotover from the bottom of Old Road; if you are tired to climb up Shotover again you can make your way back down Gidley Way and Horsepath.
This path was suggested and described by Yvonne (who managed to open the gate) and tested by Leonor (who had to lift her bike).
Route: https://ridewithgps.com/trips/50469796 (Note that this route has been saved as a ride, which means that you can’t load it into your GPS device and follow it.)
A (hopefully) sunny ride to Sunnyhill (Medium)
This route starts from the North Lodge of the University Parks (corner of St Cross Rd and South Parks Rd). It takes tracks and minor roads through Marston, East Oxford and Cowley, before crossing the Ring Road using an underpass at the end of Long Lane. The route now takes riders through Minchery Farm and past the Kassam Stadium before riding beside Fry’s Hill Park and through Gillian’s Park in Greater Leys. Soon the route emerges on Grenoble road and then takes the B480 for a mile or so before turning for the pretty village of Garsington. This involves a long but steady climb and you will be rewarded with wide open views over S. Oxfordshire towards the Chiltern Hills. A left turn then takes you rapidly downhill and past Sunnyhill Vineyard to Horspath and thence to the eastern ring road. The route finishes at the bottom of Barracks Lane on Bartlemas Close and is just over 13 miles long. (Ellen)
Pumping your heart (Medium)
Here is one for when you want to test your stamina going up hills; it’s a 15-mile route that starts from Summertown and goes south-east through Headington and out to Littleworth (on the edge of Wheatley), but you can adapt it to your starting point.
There are bits of rough surface that can be easily done with a hybrid bike. A few twists around Headington Quarry that I felt like exploring. (Leonor)
The Windmill and the Bishop – a ride around Wheatley and Cuddesdon (Medium)
Starting from Magdalen Bridge, head East along Cowley Road until you come to Bartlemas Close, where you turn left and then right to join Barracks Lane. Taking the left fork up the steep hill to the traffic lights, head straight on down Horspath Road and cross the Ring Road using the lights, to ride on to Horspath. Turn left up Gidley Way (hill!) and then at the end of the village, take the track straight on (Windmill Lane), avoiding the left-hand bend in the road. This will lead you to the Windmill, which is closed at the moment, but may open on specific dates later in the year. You can then retrace your route to join a track which will be on your left, which takes you down to Wheatley Road. But it is very narrow and should only be used if you are very confident that you won’t meet anyone coming up, on foot or on bike. Alternatively, you carry on on Windmill Lane to join Ladder Hill, fairly near the top. Turn right and ride onto Wheatley Road.
Take the left turn to Cuddesdon (straight on if you used the track from Windmill Lane), and ride to Ripon College, on the right. The Chapel may or may not be open. In more normal times, if it is locked, you can knock on the door of the nearby house and they will open the Chapel for you, and sometimes it is open anyway. We can’t say what the situation is at the moment, but you could try ringing 01865 874404. The (Bishop) Edward King Chapel is a stunning example of modern architecture and is the one of the most peaceful and uplifting places that I know.
Retrace the route back to the Wheatley Road, turn left and carry on into Garsington, ignoring the right turn back to Horspath and Oxford. Take the Oxford Road right in the village and enjoy the steep hill which you are cycling down. You’ll emerge onto Garsington Road, turn right and cross the roundabout underneath the Ring Road (cycle paths). Carry straight on down Cowley Road to where you started. The ride is 14 miles, but you could miss out the trip to Cuddesdon, especially if you have established that the Chapel is closed.
“Great” and “Little” villages SE of Oxford – anti-clockwise (Long)
Your ride starts at The Plain, on the corner of Cowley Place and Iffley Road (by the cycle racks in front of the Magdalen College School sign). Head out down the Cowley Road to the Barracks Lane cycle path, crossing the ring road next to the Mini Plant. Continue through Horspath and up the hill to Cuddesdon, before undertaking your tour of the Miltons and Haseleys: the Littles first, then the Greats. Heading back, swing north at Wheatley, passing under the A40, then wiggle through Holton and cycle briefly alongside the A40 to Forest Hill before dropping down through Beckley and Elsfield to Marston.
The route is 26.7 miles long to the exit from University Parks by Linacre College. The terrain is mainly undulating with one substantial hill through Horspath. There is also a very short stretch of unsurfaced track at the top of Gidley Way past the Wheatley Windmill; this can be walked.
The route is a variation of one covered in May 2019, which made a detour to Waterperry for tea. (Liz M.; variation by Ellen)
“Great” and “Little” villages SE of Oxford – clockwise (Long)
This route more or less reverses the anti-clockwise one above, with one significant difference: it starts at the Up-in-Arms pub in Marston and leaves Oxford by the cycle tracks through Northway and the new estate at Barton. It’s slightly longer (29.3 miles to the end point by Linacre College), but the only substantial hill is up into Cuddesdon. However, you could avoid this by ignoring the left turn to Cuddesdon after Little Milton and going directly back to Wheatley. Refreshment stops could be Little Milton Post Office or (and?!) Mill View Garden Centre on the way into Wheatley. Or, you could extend your ride with a detour to Waterperry Gardens.
Summary of route: Marston – Northway – Barton – A40 – Wheatley – Great Milton – Great Haseley – Little Haseley – Little Milton – Cuddesdon – Wheatley – Forest Hill – Stanton St John – Beckley – Elsfield – Marston (Liz M.)
Moreton and more (Long)
This 33.7-mile route starts and finishes at the Headington Rd roundabout and takes riders east via Stanton St John, Worminghall, Shabington and across the River Thame to North Weston. Here the route picks up the cycle track along the A418 and into the edge of Thame. In non-lock down times, it would be well worth making a detour into the town to find the traditional coffee and cake. However, in these strange times, we simply skim the edge of Thame, heading along Rycote Lane to pick up Moreton Lane which leads to the hamlet of that name. I can more or less guarantee that this is somewhere you have never been before! You will soon find yourself on a tarmac single track straight road which after a while turns into a farm track with a decent surface, solid but with occasional loose stuff on top. It’s fine for most bikes, although maybe not so pleasant in the wet.
Climb up and over Horsenden Hill and you will come out in Tetsworth. If you feel it’s time for an outdoor refreshment break, then turn right and coast down to the village green where there are plenty of seats. Then head back along the A40 for a couple of miles. The A40 sounds busy, but it isn’t, even in normal times. The route leaves the A40 at Postcombe (along Salt Lane) and you will now enjoy some roads through South Weston, Adwell, Wheatfield, Stoke Talmage and Clare that have splendid views both over to the Chiltern escarpment and in the other direction down to Oxfordshire’s clay vale. After a couple of miles on the B480, you can turn to ride through Chalgrove. If you feel in the mood for history (or a sit down) then turn right by the turn into Chalgrove for a 0.5 mile detour to John Hampden’s Monument marking the site where he was mortally wounded at the battle of Chalgrove Field in 1643.
I’ve routed the return to Oxford via Little Milton, Wheatley, Holton and the A40 cycle track. If you want to get back more directly, you can follow the B480 all the way to the roundabout at the top of the Cowley Rd. Or you could follow the route through Little Milton and then turn off for Cuddesdon and Horspath instead. (Ellen)
Ellen adds (12/04/20): I think that the road down the hill from Stanton St John to Menmarsh is going to be shut from 14/04/20 for a week or two. I don’t know how this will affect cyclists. It will certainly be good if the road is resurfaced as it’s a bit of a bumpy ride at the moment. If you are worried about getting through this stretch, you can do one of the following:
- From the B4027, turn left instead of right and take Horton Rd to Horton cum Studley and turn down towards Bernwood and then right at the T-junction to pick up the route at Menmarsh.
- Take the A40 cycle track from the Headington roundabout and ride through Holton and Waterperry and pick up the route at Worminghall.
- Ride to the B4027 at Stanton St John. Turn right to Forest Hill, Holton, Waterperry and pick up the route at Worminghall.
A ride around the southern villages (Long)
This largely flat 22.8-mile ride does exactly what it says on the tin, linking villages including Bayworth, Sutton Courtenay, Appleford, Nuneham Courtenay and the Baldons. The route also passes over Boars Hill and through Abingdon on bridleways and cycle paths. The instructions are quite detailed, so we have provided them in a separate document for you to download. (Jane)
A good long ride to Wallingford (Long)
Here is a good long ride, ideal for a nice day in late spring or summer. It starts and ends in Radcliffe Square and takes riders out and along the Ring Rd cycle track to the B480 via Barracks Lane and Temple Cowley. It then follows the B480 through Chiselhampton to Stadhampton. A short section on the A429 (never a busy road) takes you to the turn to Drayton St Leonard and to quiet country roads all the way to Dorchester on Thames whose Abbey and Abbey Gardens are well worth a visit. We leave Dorchester over the long bridge over the River Thames and its flood meadows. After a short section on cycle track adjacent to the A4074 you can turn off to cross the River Thames at Shillingford Bridge and then enter Wallingford. You will pass the entrance to the Castle Meadows on your left, which is a good place to have a wander and eat a picnic.
In Wallingford the route heads back over the River Thames and into Crowmarsh Gifford. Turn to ride through Howberry Park, home to the EA and some high tech businesses. The route then passes through Preston Crowmarsh. Another great place for a picnic is Benson Lock which you can walk to using a footpath off the road to your left in Preston Crowmarsh. We then continue through Benson, Rokemarsh, Berrick Salome and Chalgrove before heading to Little Milton, Cuddesdon and Horspath. We return to central Oxford using Barracks Lane and the Cowley Rd. The route is 36.4 miles long. It is undulating rather than hilly, but watch out for Cuddesdon Hill towards the end! (Ellen)
Dead-ends and Donkeys (Long)
This 30-mile ride that starts on the cycle track on the B480, immediately beyond the ring road roundabout and ends at Donnington Bridge. It includes a couple of stretches of main road, which are fine during lockdown and hopefully manageable after. It also goes “off piste” a couple of times to investigate the bits of Marsh Baldon we normally sail past, and also Mackney, which is an isolated hamlet south of Brightwell cum Sotwell and is lovely. I only got round to exploring it for myself during lockdown after having stared at it on a map for ages, but never quite got round to going there!
After an initial couple of miles on the B480, the route turns off through the Baldons. I’ve taken a different route, round the back of the Marsh Baldon and reappearing into more familiar territory by the 7 Stars PH. Then it’s a short stretch along the A4074 before turning right for Clifton Hampden and Long Wittenham. Here you turn off for Little Wittenham. If you have time to spare, it’s worth making a detour by turning left at the T-junction in the village and coasting down past the Manor and the church to Day’s Lock and the River Thames. Otherwise (or on returning from the detour), turn right at the T-junction and climb the hill past the Earth Trust and Wittenham Clumps.
After descending, turn left and head to Brightwell cum Sotwell (use the cycle track cut through to avoid some A-Road). Soon turn right down Church Lane and left by the War Memorial onto Brightwell Street. This is where you start your “dead end” exploration. Turn right down Mackney Lane. As the road bends sharply right, keep straight on. As long as you stick to tarmac, you will do a loop of the hamlet and meet the sharp bend to return up the lane to the main village. I really enjoyed all the old farm building. There were plenty of holes in roofs for swifts and bats.
Back in the village turn left and ride past the war memorial. Just before the road joins the A4130 you will see the donkeys in their field. You can take the road towards the Island Farm Donkey Sanctuary for a closer look. Our map suggested that you could get out onto the A-road from here, but we couldn’t work it out, so the route retraces and joins the A-road for the short hop to the North Moreton turn. You may have better luck!
The route turns for home at North Moreton, another nice flint and brick village, and climbs steadily with good views of “The Clumps” to descend Shires Hill. Turn left at the bottom and continue through Appleford and onto Sutton Courtenay. The route now turns to go through Culham and into Abingdon along the A415 (there’s a narrow raised track on the other side of the road, not ideal for social distancing!) and returns on road to Oxford via Radley, Kennington and the newly widened Sustrans track. The reason for approaching Abingdon from Culham is that our preferred route using the Hanson Way from Sutton Courtenay is currently shut. When it’s open again, I would recommend it over the Culham route. You may also prefer to use the Sustrans track from Abingdon all the way to Oxford instead of the road. We avoided it during lockdown because it’s narrow in places and is hard to keep your distance.
Good refreshment stops are Days Lock (by the river) or Wittenham Clumps. In normal times, the Donkey Sanctuary website says that there’s a café there, but you should probably check opening hours as it’s not open all the time. We stopped for coffee in the bus shelter in North Moreton, where the “Going Forward Buses” weren’t, due to the coronavirus!
Cumnor Hill Challenge (Short)
Starting in Radcliffe Square, you begin by riding through St Ebbes and crossing the river to pick up the towpath towards Osney. You then use the new cycle path to Willow Walk and through North Hinksey to pick up the main road up Cumnor Hill. This is where the challenge comes in! Please don’t be put off. Most hills can be tackled successfully if they are taken at the right pace for you. You can always walk if necessary, or stop to catch breath every so often.
Once at the top, you turn down Hurst Lane and return to North Hinksey, where you can stop for coffee at The Fishes pub. You then cycle back along Willow Walk to Osney Mead, then along the towpath to South Oxford. The route is a smidgeon over 10 miles.
Off-road to Cumnor Hill (Short)
This is a short but hilly route (7.9 miles) that includes several off-road bridle tracks and gives riders a good workout and magnificent views. The ride starts and finishes in Radcliffe Square and zig-zags its way to meet the Botley Rd at the western end of Frideswide Square. It then goes straight along the Botley Rd to the base of Cumnor Hill. This is fine in lock-down, but when the traffic resumes, you may want to avoid some of the main road by riding parallel and through the business park instead. Sarah Twine happened to mention a while back that she thought Hurst Hill Rise was the steepest road in Oxford! Naturally, I had to investigate, and I’m inclined (ha, ha!) to agree with her. There’s a very steep section part way up. If you follow this route, you will have a chance to decide for yourself. If you don’t fancy a super-steep gradient, you can continue up Cumnor Hill and turn left on Arnold’s Way to re-join the route at the end of Hurst Rise Road.
Look out for Cedar Rd (to your left). Soon after this, take the bridle track off to the right. It leads you in a straight line to Cumnor Hill with its beacon and views over to Farmoor Reservoir and Hurst Hill. Continue till you meet the Chilswell track and turn left onto it for a couple of hundred metres and then turn left again onto another track which leads to Westminster College. The route now returns to road and descends to go under the ring road and down into North Hinksey. Here it picks up Willow Walk and then Ferry Hinksey Rd and Hillview Road to return to the Botley Rd and thence to central Oxford. Again, this is a lock-down route and in normal times I would recommend taking the river towpath back Folly Bridge to return to the start. (Ellen)
A trip to Jarn Mound (Medium)
This route starts from Costa Coffee on Banbury Rd in Summertown and heads south through Walton Manor and Jericho before picking up canal and then river towpath all the way to Iffley. From there, it climbs up Tree Lane and continues through Rose Hill, under the Ring Rd, through Littlemore and onto Sandford on Thames. It crosses the river again at Sandford Lock. On the outskirts of Radley, it turns up Sugworth Lane besides Bagley Wood, a great place to stop and admire bluebells in the spring. It then continues to Bayworth where there is a steep wooded climb, often referred to by us as the “Côte de Bayworth”! It’s then only a short way to Boars Hill and the famous “Dreaming Spires” view. Jarn Mound is half a mile or so further on. It was created by the archaeologist Sir Arthur Evans, and in addition to the mound (which you can climb to admire the view) the surrounding paths and tracks contain many interesting (though not real) archaeology. The route returns to Oxford directly down Hinksey Hill and finishes by the river at the end of Marlborough Rd. If you follow the entire route, you will have ridden 17.6 miles. (Ellen)
Boars Hill-Buster (Medium)
This ride offers you the opportunity to test your stamina for hill-climbing as you ascend the four main routes up Boars Hill in turn:
- Wootton village to Youlbury (Sandy Lane)
- Wootton village to Old Boars Hill
- Foxcombe Lane
- ‘Côte de Bayworth’
The route includes all four hills, but you can build up progressively, starting with one (maybe using Ellen’s trip to Jarn Mound above), then two etc. If you’re really keen, you could insert a quick ‘down and up’ Hinksey Hill after you’ve cycled up Foxcombe Lane, to make five. I’ve included two routes, one starting from Wootton crossroads (by The Bystander pub: 16 miles) and one from Bayworth (14 miles). When you’ve done all four climbs you’ll have ascended 1,000 feet, so give yourself a pat on the back! (Liz M.)
Note: Take great care when descending the hills, especially the Côte de Bayworth and Old Boars Hill. The latter is particularly steep, narrow, bendy and poorly surfaced in parts. Also be alert for horses on all the roads.
- Link for Wootton start: https://ridewithgps.com/routes/32951660
- Link for Bayworth start: https://ridewithgps.com/routes/32953552
Oxford – Sunningwell – Cothill – Cumnor circular (Medium)
This 17.4-mile medium circuit begins at Radcliffe Square and takes you south to Kennington before swinging west across the A34 to Sunningwell. A short stretch on the B4017 takes you back to quieter roads through Cothill and Dry Sandford to Besselseigh (take care crossing the A420!). From there you continue to the Eaton turn and Cumnor before enjoying a zoom down the Cumnor Hill and along the Botley Road back into Oxford. (Liz M.)
Note: The route on Ride with GPS includes a triangular loop from Cothill to Bothy Vineyard at Frilford Heath, which extends the ride by 3 miles. To ignore this loop, turn right along Church Lane (SP Dry Sandford) just before you enter Cothill.
Oxford – Cumnor – Cothill – Abingdon – Kennington circular (Medium)
This 18.7-mile medium circuit begins at Oxford station and takes you south-west to Cumnor, then south-east to Besselseigh (take care crossing the A420!), Dry Sandford, Cothill and Abingdon, where you can have a rest and refreshment by the river across the bridge (not shown on route). The return takes you along the cycle path through Abingdon meadow, parallel to Barton Lane and past Thrupp lakes to Radley; however, if it’s muddy go along Audlett Drive instead and rejoin the route by the exit from Thrupp Lane. From Radley, continue to Kennington and up the south Oxford cycle route to Folly Bridge. If you don’t fancy Cumnor Hill, simply ride the route in reverse! (Liz M.)
See also the long rides to Witney in the ‘North West’ section.
Chill out on Charney Bassett village green (or in The Chequers) (Long)
This 36-mile route leaves Oxford via Willow Walk and Raleigh Park Road (if you want to lessen the gradient, go all the way down Botley Road and up Cumnor Hill). It passes through Cumnor, Appleton, Fyfield (take care crossing the A420 here; use the traffic island if it feels safer), Lyford, Denchworth, Goosey and along a short stretch of the A417 before (finally!) turning towards Charney Bassett. Return via Southmoor (bridge over the A420), and then back along the quiet road through Appleton and Cumnor, down to Botley and the city centre.
You can reduce the distance by taking any of the turnings to Charney Bassett once you’re south of Southmoor. (Liz M.)
Bablock Hythe (both banks) and quiet lanes around Northmoor (Long)
We don’t ride very often through the lanes on the west bank of the Thames to Northmoor and Bablock Hythe, in part because the most direct route involves the busy and/or unexciting B roads to Eynsham and Stanton Harcourt. This 34.7-mile ride takes you there along generally more peaceful roads, with the exception of a segment along the A415. There are various ways to shorten the ride, as you’ll see on the map in Ride with GPS.
The ride starts at Oxford station and goes out through Botley, Cumnor Hill, Cumnor and Besselsleigh. You then cross the A420 and continue to Dry Sandford, Cothill, Frilford (crossing the A338), Tubney and Fyfield. On the far side of Fyfield at Netherton, turn left in the direction of Longworth, then at the crossroads turn right onto the A415 and swoop (with care!) down Kingston Hill to Newbridge. Immediately after the second bridge, just after the Rose Revived, turn right into Moreton Lane, then left at the T-junction on the edge of Northmoor (SP Standlake).
Turn right at the next junction (SP Stanton Harcourt), pass the entrances to the Hanson quarries, and shortly before Stanton itself turn right (SP West End and Bablock Hythe). Continue to the end of the road, where there’s a grassy patch by the river for your refreshment stop. Lament (yet again!) the demise of the ferry, which would shorten your return by several miles, but then cheer up at the prospect of another lovely quiet lane ahead.
Retrace your tracks a little way, and then turn left through Northmoor. At the far side of the village you’ll see the left turn along Moreton Lane, which takes you back to the A415 at Newbridge. Take care as you go back up Kingston Hill (there’s no footpath to walk up, but it isn’t the worst climb in the world!), and at the crossroads turn left towards Appleton and Cumnor. If you’re game for one more easy hill, you can make a short detour down through Eaton to the other bank of Bablock Hythe, then back up again to Cumnor for a satisfying freewheel down Cumnor Hill to your starting point. (Liz M.)
Historical note: Bablock Hythe dates back to the 12th century, and means ‘landing place at Babba’s stream.’ The concrete slipways are all that’s left of the chain ferry that used to transport cars across the river – I remember it in operation (when I was very little)!
Buckland and the Great Brook (Long)
This is a good long 42-mile ride to the south-west of Oxford. The only significant climb on the route is Cumnor Hill, so when you are at the top, then you can relax! As you ride along you will start to get views towards the Berkshire Downs and between Pusey and Gainfield, the views are wide and open. Here the ride turns away from the Vale of White Horse and prepares to descend to the Thames Valley. First though, it visits the lovely village of Buckland with its many interesting buildings. There’s a handy seat part way through the village that is a good spot for a snack. After Buckland, there is a descent to cross the river Thames by the Trout PH. Soon after the route turns right along the Great Brook before winding its way through the villages of Cote and Old Shifford. The latter is now just a church and some ruined cottages. The return to Oxford is via Standlake, Northmoor, Stanton Harcourt and Eynsham. Although the route returns along the A40, if you live in West or South Oxford, it may be more convenient to return via Farmoor instead. This route works well either way round, but in this direction you climb the hill to start with rather than having to wait till roughly half way.
A multi-purpose “loopy” route (Medium)
This route was originally designed for a ride to Worton Organic Gardens, but because it is made up of three loops stuck together is actually quite a flexible. You could ride one, two or all three loops, depending what mood you are in and where you start. You can also ride the route forwards or backwards.
The original route started and finished in Radcliffe Square and the outward route went via Marston and Summertown before heading west to pick up the canal in Wolvercote. A short hop along the A44 cycle track took us to Worton via Yarnton. If you can’t visit the gardens, just keep going to Cassington and use Bell Lane to cut through to the A40 cycle track. This will bring you into Oxford at the Wolvercote Roundabout. We return to the City centre via Cutteslowe and North Oxford. The whole three loop route is 16.8 miles long and reasonably flat. (Ellen)
Not the Coombe cream tea route (Long)
This is the route that we have ridden a number of times to visit Coombe (NW of Woodstock) for cream tea in the Reading Room. This usually happens every Sunday afternoon from the end of July through August. However, even if you can’t indulge in a cream tea, it’s still a nice route that starts and finishes in Summertown. The 25-mile route leaves Oxford via Cutteslowe and Kidlington. There it wiggles its way to cross the railway on a pedestrian crossing and then picks up a pleasant off road track (Begbroke Lane) to arrive at the A44 cycle track which is followed to Woodstock. Then it picks up Sustrans NCN Route 5 through wood and field to reach the road to Wootton. After a short stretch on this B-road it turns left by the Oxford Drama School and soon descends to cross, and then climb away from, the River Glyme. It then crosses A44 and goes for some way along “Stonesfield Straight.” A left turn, and it arrives at Coombe with its generous village green, ideal for a picnic.
Leave Coombe by its East End and descend to cross the River Evenlode before (guess what!) climb up to Long Hanborough and then Church Hanborough. If you want a bit of a break, stop by the church. There’s a seat, or you could leave your bike and follow the nearby footpath into Pinsley Wood, an ancient wood and another good place for bluebells and other spring flowers. From here, the route picks up Lower Road which takes you to the Eynsham roundabout on the A40 and you can follow the cycle track back to Oxford. (Ellen)
Witney with minimal main roads (Long)
This 29-mile anti-clockwise route starts and finishes in Summertown, and visits Witney with minimal use of main roads. The route begins by picking up the Oxford Canal towpath in Wolvercote and brings riders out on the A44 cycle track which is followed as far as Yarnton. It then turns off through the village, passing Worton, before taking the straight road to the A4095. If you are confident riding on main roads then just turn left and ride up the main road for about a third of a mile before getting onto cycle track at a pedestrian crossing. If you prefer, there is a narrow and not much used footpath on the other side of the road which will turn into a cycle track in due course. Whichever your tactic, ride up through Long Hanborough and out the other side. The track continues past North Leigh Common, crossing Boddington Lane. Opposite the gates to Eynsham Hall you will turn and ride through North Leigh and descend gently through New Yatt. You should soon see the spire of Witney parish church in the distance. The route takes you into the Green in the centre of Witney on tacks and minor roads, around the back of Wood Green School and then down Church Lane to cross the River Windrush. The Green in Witney is a good place to stop for a picnic.
The return route is via Cogges Farm and Tar Lane to Stanton Harcourt, Sutton and Eynsham before it meets the A40 cycle track for the last 3 miles to the Wolvercote roundabout. This route has a few gentle inclines: nothing at all intimidating! (Ellen)
Witney via South Leigh with a short off-road stretch (Long)
At 23.5 miles, this ride takes a slightly different route from the one above and goes clockwise. The route as designed starts from Oxford station and goes west along the Botley Road and B4044 Eynsham Road through Farmoor, over the toll bridge and straight over the roundabout into Eynsham village. Continue through Eynsham along Oxford Road, which becomes the High Street and, further on, Acre End Street.
At the western end of Acre End Street, go straight over into Chilbridge Lane, which turns into a lovely off-road track. I managed it perfectly well on my thin-tyred road bike, although this was just before the long-needed rain, so it was dry at the time. The track brings you out into South Leigh (look out for the pop-up library in an old bus shelter on your left as you go through the village). This lane takes you up to the A40, which you cross by way of the roundabout underneath.
Follow the B4022 as it skirts the eastern edge of Witney, then turn right up the road to New Yatt, passing Wood Green Park with plenty of socially distant benches for a picnic lunch. Follow New Yatt Road all the way to North Leigh. Then it’s a short hop along the footpath on the A4095 before heading down Cuckoo Lane and back to the A40 where you have a choice of homeward routes: e.g. along the A40 cycle track all the way to north Oxford; along the A40 to Cassington, then Worton, Yarnton and the A44; or back through Eynsham (as shown on the map). (Karen)
Karen adds: We cycled this lovely route during the lockdown, so there was very little traffic on the Eynsham Road. An alternative from the centre of Oxford is northwards up the Woodstock Road and A44, through Yarnton, Worton and Cassington, crossing the A40 onto the quiet Cassington Road to Eynsham. At the roundabout, go straight over (Cassington Road, becoming Newlands Street), turn left into Mill Street, then right into Acre End Street to join the route proper.
Riding West to Akeman Street (Long)
I have decided to start this route in Eynsham, because it will depend where you live in Oxford whether you will want to head there along the A40 cycle track or the Farmoor Rd. You will need to add somewhere between 4 and 8 miles to the 28.2 miles of the route to take this into account.
The route starts by picking up the A40 cycle track to Barnard Gate. This allows you to ride up a lovely tree-lined road to the A4095. Cross over & turn left onto the cycle track to North Leigh. I’ve chosen a road route to Delly End, through New Yatt. However if it’s dry and you’re feeling adventurous, you could turn right on a left hand bend past The Woodman PH down Green Lane. You can follow this lovely (though stony) sunken lane till it meets the Wychwood way. Turn right here onto a hard track and you will emerge on road to meet the road route at Whitings Lane. You will now find yourself on narrow country lanes all the way to Minster Lovell. You can get glimpses of the ruined hall & church through the hedge to your left as you approach the village and you can ride down and explore them, or have a break there if you wish. It can be busy at weekends which can be a problem for social distancing though.
When you’re ready, descend the hill and turn right by the Swan PH and shortly afterwards branch left and enjoy(!) a steady climb to Asthall Leigh. There’s a bench on a bend near the top! Turn right and ride along the lovely dry valley to Fordwells, one of my favourites. From here head to Field Assarts. Ride straight across the next cross roads and coast downhill. Look out for a right hand bend. Akeman St, a restricted byway, is more or less straight on at the bend. The first 50m is stony and steep uphill and you may need to push (I did), but after that the track is fine in dry weather and offers wonderful open views into the Windrush Valley and you will be able to spot the spire of St Mary’s Church in Witney. Follow the track until you reach metalled road. Turn left and immediate right on a continuation of Akeman Street that takes you into Ramsden.
The route then heads to Wilcote and down past Bridewell Gardens and up Boddington Lane to meet the A4095 again. There’s a cycle track through Long Hanborough and I’ve chosen a route from there through Worton and into Yarnton and across another track by the cemetery which goes under the railway to emerge on the A40 cycle track not far from the Wolvercote roundabout where the route finishes. If you live in the west of the city, you may prefer to turn through Cassington and ride through Eynsham to pick up the Farmoor Rd back to Oxford. (Ellen)
Note: Akeman Street is a very ancient track which the Romans adopted to link the Fosse way and Cirencester with Watling St (Roman equivalent of the M1) at Verulaneum (modern St Albans and incidentally my birthplace!). Bits of the road have been incorporated in the modern road network and we sometimes ride a different section between Kirtlington and Chesterton.
The Big Estates: Ditchley and Cornbury (Long)
This is one of my very favourite routes and incorporates some lovely quiet lanes through two of north Oxfordshire’s big estates, Ditchley and Cornbury. The 35-mile route starts and finishes outside Costa Coffee on Banbury Rd, Summertown and begins by heading directly to Hampton Poyle and Bletchingdon via Kidlington. Not particular pretty, but it gets you on your way quickly.
From Bletchingdon the route descends to Enslow along the A4095, crosses the river Cherwell and climbs the short, sharp hill to bring you out at the A4260 north of Shipton on Cherwell. Go straight over and pick up Sustrans NCN route 5 in a northerly direction on a pleasant mile or so of green lane. Then turn left, descend the hill and branch right past Ludwell Farm.
Turn right at the cross-roads and take the next left turn. Descend, bearing left in Kiddington and climb and cross the A44. You are now in the Ditchley Estate. Keep straight on till you meet the private drive to the house. Turn left here and enjoy open views and usually deserted lanes to meet the B4037 which you follow to Charlbury. You will arrive on a swooping descent at Fiveways.
Take Park St, which is the second turning. Soon you will see the driveway to Cornbury Park on your left. Cycle down this grand drive, crossing railway and the river Evenlode. The permissive track through the park (NCN 442) in on your left through a gate. Follow this route through the parkland and onto an estate road to meet the B4022 near Finstock Station.
Turn left and then right on an awkward bend to Fawler. Ride through the village and take the right fork on a road parallel to the railway which is down in the valley. Soon you will bear right, cross the railway and descend to Ashford Mill. Turn left and ride up the spectacular climb to East End and from there the A4095.
The route now takes Cuckoo Lane to pick up the A40 to return to Oxford. As usual, if it’s more convenient return to Oxford via Eynsham and the Farmoor Rd instead. Because much of this route passes through small hamlets rather than big villages there are not many benches for refreshment breaks, so we usually sit down on one of the wide verges on the green lane north of Woodstock or in the Ditchley Estate. However, further on at Fawler there is a tiny road off to the right before the road forks which takes you to the railway bridge and footbridge over the river Evenlode. You can sit on the bridge; it’s a lovely spot for a picnic. (Ellen)
Burford from Eynsham (Long)
When you’re designing a route to Burford, a problem is how to cross the very busy A40, as there are almost no locations where you can do this safely west of Witney. This 31-mile route, which starts in Eynsham, avoids that problem by crossing the A40 close to the start and keeping well north of it until towards the end, after you’ve passed through Witney.
Starting from Eynsham church, go west through the village and up to the A40, crossing at the pedestrian lights. Then ride north up Cuckoo Lane to North Leigh via the A4095. From North Leigh pass through New Yatt and Delly End, brush the top of Crawley and continue through Field Assarts to Fordwells. A sharp turn uphill leads you through a lovely quiet stretch of road, dipping down into a picturesque valley leading to the top end of Swinbrook. Another sharp turn uphill before you reach the main village takes you up onto a ridge, from which there are some super views across the Windrush valley to the distant Berkshire Downs (a bench near a farm on the right is perfect for a refreshment stop on a sunny day).
Descending onto Fulbrook (care!), join the A361 for a short stretch into Burford, but soon after the bridge you turn off the High Street and wiggle through to Witney Lane. You’re soon back into quiet country lanes and continue through Widford and Asthall (the manor was home to the Mitford sisters) and uphill into Asthall Leigh. Then swoop down into Minster Lovell and up again, eventually reaching Crawley. This is more or less the end of the really quiet part of the ride: you enter Witney along West End and continue up and over Oxford Hill, passing under the A40 before turning off to South Leigh. The route takes you back to Eynsham via the B4449, but in fine weather (i.e. no mud!) you can take the left turn in South Leigh to join the bridleway that brings you into Eynsham along Chilbridge Lane and Acre End Street. (Liz M.)
50-MILE CHALLENGE ROUTES
Every year since 2014 Isis Cyclists has organised a 50-mile challenge ride in early September. If you feel you would like to stretch yourself a little further than allowed for by the routes in the previous sections – or if you would like to re-ride a previous challenge – here are the routes for the challenges from 2015 to 2019 (all designed by Ellen):
2016: Evenley (Northants)
The ride starts in Radcliffe Square and heads north through Oxford on quiet roads to the roundabout at the top of the Woodstock Rd. It then heads west along the A40 cycle track to Eynsham, before taking quiet roads to Standlake, Old Shifford and Cote, to cross the River Thames at Tadpole Bridge. You then climb up to Buckland before descending into the Vale of White Horse to Faringdon, which was the location of the lunch stop on the original ride. You may also wish to walk up to the Faringdon Folly, from which great views of the surrounding countryside (including White Horse Hill) can be had. The return route takes you through Fernham, Hatford and into Stanford-in-the-Vale, before returning to Oxford via Charney Bassett, Fyfield, Appleton and Cumnor.
The route is generally flat, with three noticeable climbs, two on the way out and one on the way back.
2018: Thame and the Chiltern foothills
The ride starts in Radcliffe Square, Oxford and leaves Oxford through Marston and Headington. You then make your way through Stanton St John, Worminghall, Ickford and Shabbington to Thame (the original coffee stop). Next, the route takes you along the Phoenix Trail as far as Towersey before you return to ‘proper’ roads to ride through some of the pleasant villages at the foot of the Chiltern Hills (Sydenham, Adwell, Wheatfield and Stoke Talmage). You then progress to Benson (the original lunch stop) via Cuxham, Brightwell Baldwin and Ewelme. The route back to Oxford after lunch is fairly direct and takes you through Berrick Salome, Chalgrove, Little Milton, Cuddesdon and Horspath.
The route is either on metalled road or good quality track. In terms of hills, there is a climb up to Headington and Stanton St John, but the remainder of the route to Benson is undulating. The hills are not particularly long or steep, but there’s not that much flat riding once you pass through Sydenham. The section after Benson is flat until you approach Little Milton and Cuddesdon (hills we know well!).
2019: Ardington and the foothills of the Berkshire Downs
The ride starts in Radcliffe Square and goes south to explore some of the spring-line villages of the Berkshire Downs. You begin by riding to Abingdon via Kennington, Bagley Wood, Sunningwell and Shippon. The original ride stopped for coffee at one of the cafés in Abingdon’s Market Square. You then pick up Sustrans route 5 to Sutton Courtenay and Didcot, riding around the perimeter of the power station (interesting, but perhaps not scenic!). Riding through Didcot past the train station you join Sustrans route 544. This takes you to the village of Upton on a disused railway track which is also a local wildlife site. After Upton there is a climb to the top of Harwell Hill where – weather permitting – you should get panoramic views back towards Wittenham Clumps.
That is the highest point of the ride, and you then descend to ride through the Harwell campus before going across country and through the lovely villages of Ginge and then East Lockinge before arriving at the original lunch stop in Ardington.
The return route starts with a small climb up to the A417 which you cross and descend into the Vale of White Horse, passing Lain’s Barn as we go. You then ride through East and West Hanney, Lyford and Garford before arriving at another refreshment stop at Millets Farm. The final leg back to Radcliffe Square goes through Tubney, Fyfield, Appleton and Cumnor.
This 50-mile ride is unusual in including quite a lot of off-road paths and tracks in the route. Almost all the off-road is in the 17-mile section from Abingdon to lunch at Ardington. However, all but 2 miles of that is paths with hard surfaces, either tarmac or the usual Sustrans hard surface with compressed gravel. There are 2 miles divided into three sections (the longest of which is 0.8 mile) consisting of tracks with a hard base but loose surface.
On the route back you will unfortunately need to ride several miles of main road in three or four sections. Most of the main road riding will be on the A338 which isn’t generally too busy and has relatively little commercial traffic at weekends. There will also be short sections of A415 to get to and from Millets Farm. The route has been chosen to avoid right-hand turns off the main roads.
Most of these routes are taken from a book of 24 one-day routes in Berks, Bucks and Oxfordshire, compiled by Nick Cotton and published by the Ordnance Survey in 1994. The book has since been superseded by an updated version, which may well contain the same – or similar – routes. I re-created the print version of the routes in Ride with GPS, changing some of the start places to make them more convenient for riders based in and around Oxford, and finding alternative sections where roads have become busier in recent years (e.g. around Buckingham). (Liz M.)
All the routes fall into Isis Cyclists’ ‘Long’ category.
Villages to the north-east of Chipping Norton
32.8 miles: an exploration of North Oxfordshire, taking in the Tews, Sibfords and Hook Norton. The route starts in Chipping Norton, but you could park in one of the villages instead. When we rode this route in 2011 we left the car outside the church in Heythrop and left out Chipping Norton altogether. (That ride was memorable for an embarrassing reason: I was caught by a speed camera driving into Woodstock on the way back!). Be prepared for hills! (Liz M.)
Charlbury to Chastleton, Chipping Norton and Wychwood
35.6 miles and hilly! The route starts from the car park behind the Co-op in Charlbury, but since the station is nearby, so if you don’t have a car, you can pop your bike on the train. The road past the Rollright Stones has become quite busy, so take care along that stretch. Take all day over the ride so that you can stop off at Chastleton House (National Trust), a splendid Jacobean pile with a magnificent long gallery; it’s also remarkable for having been conserved, rather than restored, so it’s amiably shabby with 1950s artefacts left by the last owners, alongside older pieces. In Shipton-under-Wychwood The Shaven Crown Hotel is an erstwhile guest house of Bruern Abbey. (Liz M.)
Charlbury to Stow-on-the-Wold
34 miles and hilly! This route has been adapted from the long rideon the 2019 weekend away, and starts from the car park behind the Co-op in Charlbury. Take the B4022 north out of Charlbury up Banbury Hill. Turn left onto Sustrans route 442 through Taston, Spelsbury, Chadlington and Sarsden to Kingham. From Kingham head along the B4450 through Bledington. Shortly before Stow, left onto a minor road through Maugersbury which brings you into Stow on a quiet road. There are plenty of eateries in Stow, as well as places to picnic. Suitably refreshed, retrace the route back to the B-road for a short stretch before turning off to climb up through Icomb to the A424. At 220m above sea level, this is the high point of your ride. After about ½ mile on the A-road, turn to take lovely minor roads through Church and Nether Westcote, Idbury and Fifield before riding through Milton, Shipton and Ascott-under-Wychwood. Then, climb up to the B4437 which we follow back to Charlbury. If the weather is good, the route should provide some fantastic views. (Ellen)
Woodstock to Charlbury and the Cherwell Valley
35 miles: a super route along very quiet lanes, but with a lot of hills! Free car park in the centre of Woodstock The café in Charlbury makes an early lunch stop, although you could hang on until North Aston, provided that The Yurt at Nicholson’s is open. (Liz M.)
Burford to Lechlade
28 miles: generally easy cycling apart from one short and steep climb out of Eastleach Martin. Quiet lanes and lovely views. Free car park in Burford town centre. Alternatively, start in Lechlade. (Liz M.)
Cotswold Ridges and Valleys
33.2 miles with 2,000 feet of climbing. This has to be the most stunning ride in this section with breathtaking views south to the Berkshire Downs and north towards Rollright and Northamptonshire. Starting in Combe, the route goes clockwise to Burford via Long Hanborough and Minster Lovell. It returns via Wychwood Forest, Charlbury and Stonesfield. If there is no space to park on the street in Combe, drive on to Stonesfield and park either in the square outside the church or on one of the streets. If you don’t have a car, you could take your bike on the train to Long Hanborough or Combe. It would also be possible to cycle out and back from Oxford (50+ miles in total), but you’d need to have a lot of stamina with all those hills! (Liz M.)
From Bampton to Bibury (and a little beyond)
41.3 miles of glorious Cotswold scenery, with a few sharp ups and downs especially in the second half. The ride starts and ends at Bampton Church, where there is plenty of on-street parking. It might be possible to start at Clanfield instead (thereby avoiding a stretch of the A4095), but we haven’t located a good parking spot. The ‘there and back’ segment includes a lovely quiet lane between Clanfield and Broadwell, which you’ll appreciate riding twice. From Clanfield, you go west to Broadwell, then north to Holwell and Westwell passing Cotswold Wildlife Park (the giraffes are an incongruous sight in the English countryside)!) before turning south to the Eastleaches. The churchyard at Eastleach St Martin provides a picturesque riverside refreshment spot. On to Hatherop and Coln St Aldwyn’s, which has a shop with tea garden if you want to avoid the crowds at Bibury. From Bibur you go a little further west Ablington, before turning for home via Ready Token, Quenington, an exhilarating stretch of Akeman Street, Southrop, Little Faringdon, Langford and Clanfield. Hopefully you’ll be in time for tea and cake at Blake’s Kitchen in Clanfield. (Liz M.)
Small Villages South-West of Buckingham
36.9 miles. Starting in Stratton Audley (plenty of on-street parking), this ride enables you to explore the lanes and villages in the Buckingham area. It also takes you into Buckingham itself, and a highlight must surely be pedalling the along the impressive Stowe Avenue with the Corinthian Arch dominating the distant skyline. (Liz M.)
Middle Claydon Circular
34.8 miles. A foray into Buckinghamshire. The route starts in the car park at Claydon House (National Trust), but there is a layby close to the south gate on the road towards Botolph Claydon. Principal villages visited on this route are Quainton, Winslow, Padbury and Steeple Claydon (hill alert!). reduce route by 5.6 miles by going direct from Padbury to Steeple Claydon (2.5 miles instead of 8.1 miles via Gawcott). (Liz M.)
Kennet Valley and Downs North of Hungerford
31.4 miles. It’s a long way to the start of this ride, but worth it (although you could begin it in Chieveley). Eastwards along the Kennet valley, then a reasonably gentle climb up onto the Berkshire Downs through Chieveley and a string of villages including Leckhampstead and Chaddleworth. Eventually a sharp-ish descent leads to a short stretch along the fairly busy A338 before you turn off onto quieter roads at Great Shefford. So far, the ride may have seemed relatively undemanding, but it has a sting in its tail: a steep climb from East Garston to Poughley before you glide back down to Hungerford. (Liz M.)