Hotel of the Week: The Old Parsonage

A wisteria-smothered 17th-century building with its roots in the 13th century, located near the centre of Oxford, behind St Giles's church, between the Woodstock and Banbury Roads.

Where is it?

A wisteria-smothered 17th-century building with its roots in the 13th century, located near the centre of Oxford, behind St Giles's church, between the Woodstock and Banbury Roads.

What's it like?

The first thing you on arrival is a blazing log fire, and the second is a well-stocked bar. Once you're in, you know you won't be going anywhere for a while.


A haven of tranquility, the Old Parsonage is a thoroughly grown-up establishment which feels like a countryside retreat despite its urban location. Classics undergraduate Oscar Wilde checked in here when he came up late to Magdalen, and stayed a term, entertaining regally in room 26. The building also gave sanctuary to persecuted clergy from nearby St Giles. Nowadays it does the same for visiting academics.


As cosy as can be. A thick checked quilt, a mass of cushions, and a plump, pink sofa all contributed to the feeling that we were staying in the guest room of a particularly house-proud friend. There were even books on the shelves, though nothing you'd actually want to read. It's not cheap, though ­ single rooms will set you back £130 and double rooms start at £155. The bathroom was light and clean-looking and came with all those helpful bits and pieces: cotton buds, shower cap, a sewing kit. All in all virtually perfect, apart from an ill-fitting plug that made a soak in the tub annoyingly short-lived.


The staff are young and full of smiles. The service was slightly groggy at breakfast on Sunday morning, but spot-on for the rest of the time.

Food and drink

Thematically, the dining area lies somewhere between the Royal Academy and an old-fashioned gentleman's club, with its leather armchairs, and burgundy walls crammed with old manuscripts, prints and paintings. Still, the atmosphere was warm and comfortable rather than stuffy. It is a testament to the quality of the food at the Old Parsonage that a large number of diners are locals. The food is reasonably priced, fresh and unfussy. My golf ball-sized scallops were simply served with a light coriander pesto and a salad ­ absolutely delicious. The wine list was comprehensive and not too pricey.


The place is scattered with kindly eccentrics peering over their specs and idly leafing through books and newspapers. It is also frequented by middle-class media types and well-heeled Americans in search of some high-brow peace and quiet. Children are welcome, although I would suggest leaving them behind as they would be bored out of their tiny minds.

Things to do

Oxford's main tourist attractions ­ the Bodleian Library, the Ashmolean Museum, the Radcliffe Camera ­ are all within walking distance, as are the University's colleges. Alternatively, you could nip across the road to Little Clarendon Street, home to an array of appealing cafés, scandalously expensive furniture shops, and the much-vauntedGeorge and Davis Ice Cream Bar.


The Old Parsonage Hotel, 1 Banbury Road, Oxford. OX2 6NN (tel: 01865 310210; fax: 01865 311262;; email:

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