Oxfordshire beer gardens: My favourite spots for a pint outdoors

Good morning all, Happy Sunday! How are you all doing nowadays? How have you been coping with the easing of lockdown? For any of you that aren’t reading from the UK right now, we have recently had our pubs and restaurants open again. I personally, along with many others for sure, feel a bit uneasy about this after adamantly social distancing for so long.

Fairly soon I have to get go back to work, in hospitality too, so I have to start getting used to the ‘normality’ again whether I like it or not. If I am going to start anywhere, I will find it easiest in outdoor spaces, my favourite of those being beer gardens. So today, I want to compile a list of some of the best beer gardens in Oxfordsire has to offer.

This is going to be an ever growing post because there are so, so many lovely pub gardens in Oxfordshire. Follow me on instragram and I will add any updates there when they come.

Sunrise over the Nags Head, photo taken by Harry

1. The Isis Farmhouse

Filled with so many joyous family memories of mine. On summer days we would cycle along the river and if my siblings and I were lucky we would be allowed treats at The Isis.

I would always ask for a coca-cola but my Grandma was boycotting them so I would be allowed either lemonade or J2O. On the best days, we would share bags of crisps too.

The current owners run live music events, well before lockdown they did, and they were fantastic. It brings new life to the pub, making it one of the most precious of all Oxford’s hidden gems.

To get there, you can walk or cycle along the river from town, heading south. The pub is just before you reach iffley lock, roughly a 40 minute walk.

You could also get the number 3 bus to Iffley Turn, from there it would be roughly a 15 minute walk through the charming Iffley Village and over the lock. There is no car access directly to the pub, you might be able to find parking in the village though.

The fact that it is away from the road just makes it all the more idyllic. You might be lucky enough to spot deer on the other side of the river. If there are no deer, you can enjoy watching the rowers working away on the Thames.

Isis Farmhouse garden
Isis Farmhouse garden

Bonus Point- This pub is an independent

2. The Nag’s Head, Abingdon

Nag’s Head is the perfect riverside pub. It is on it’s own island, coming off the bridge and down into the water. The best place to sit is right at the tip of the Island where you have nothing obstructing your view of the water.

Order one of the stone baked pizzas, trust me on that one. The margarita is my favourite. It goes fantastic with chips (what doesn’t?) and a refreshing drink.

It’s a busy and popular spot in Abingdon, be sure to make a reservation. You actually need to have one right now due to Covid safety measure they are taking.

How to get there from Oxford?

Elle recommends- Cycle! You can follow the Sustrans route from Oxford to Abingdon, it is approximately 8 miles from centre to centre.

If you have bikes with good suspension and the weather has been dry for a while, you could also cycle along the river the whole way. This is roughly two miles longer but is double as beautiful. The path is a bit tougher though and you will be in for a bumpy ride.

Public transport- The X3 bus is the most convenient Abingdon bus. This recommendation is for anyone reading post-covid times. I don’t want to suggest you take public transport just to visit a pub right now.

Accessibility- There is a carpark on the other side of the river to the Nag’s Head called Rye Farm carpark. It costs £5 for the day.

Exciting secret option- Cruise along the river from Oxford to Abingdon with Salters Steamers. The scheduled cruises aren’t currently running like normal due to covid but it is a great option to bear in mind for future.

3. Head of the River

I worked here for a year from 2017. I spent many sweaty days running around this beer garden delivering Amstel and Rosé to people lucky enough to be spending their bank holidays relaxing in the sun (I hold no grudges).

However the reason it was such sweaty work, sorry I will stop saying that word now, is because the place is so popular. It is the number one riverside pub in Oxford city centre. The burgers are damn good too.

My favourite time was when the sun was setting. Folly bridge was painted with the beautiful golden and pink hues, by that point most of the customers had left too so I could slow down and enjoy the view myself.

An insiders tip- get there early on any weekend or bank holiday. The riverside tables tend to get taken by 11 and will be taken all day, they are in demand and you will have to watch them like a hawk to grab one. This is also a pub where you need to buy in rounds, minimise the queue time.

How do you get there? It is a ten minute walk from Carfax Tower. Stroll down St Aldates and you will soon see the Head of the River sign post.

4. The Perch

Possibly the most magical beer garden in Oxford, it definitely feels like a fairies hiding place to me. From port meadow you can access it through a secret passage that is made from a vine tunnel.

The pub has a thatched roof so it is the best choice for anyone looking for that traditional English vibe.

A trip to The Perch is perfectly paired with a stroll around Port Meadow, there are also some great swimming spots if it’s a warm day.

How do you get there? Well I find this one quite hard to explain.. but lets face it, you all have google maps and will probably use that over my directions. My recommendation is to walk through Jericho to Port Meadow and then to the pub from there. If you use a car though they do have a car park, it is located on Binsey Lane.

Bonus Point- This is an independent pub

5. Turf Tavern

A beautiful, traditional pub tucked away, only to be accessed though secret passages in Oxford’s city centre. This is the perfect hideaway from any windy British weather you might encounter.

Turf Tavern may be well hidden but the secret must have gotten out because it is a very popular spot. Luckily they have two little beer gardens to give you more of a chance. I recommend going on a weeknight if you can or, similar to Head of the River, getting in early to secure your spot. There is nothing wrong with committing to a full afternoon of day drinking anyway.

The secret passage that leads you here? Seen as you can google search this too, you may as well hear it from me. The way into Turf is through St Helens Passage, just under the Bridge of Sighes.

6. The Library

Whilst some of these other pubs have been in my life since childhood, The Library is a recent love of mine.

Located on the Cowley Road, just opposite Red Star (a restaurant you must try whilst in Oxford).

The Library looks very small at first glance but has a downstairs area and even a beer garden. They have a unique selection of Ipas, which is what I love AND Maoams at the bar.

Well, I can imagine they don’t currently the have the Maoams for safety reasons, hopefully one day they will be possible again. Don’t worry, their beer selection is genuinely so good it makes up for that. In fact, I would go as far as saying they have the best beer selection I have found anywhere in Oxford.

When you are there, head to the back to access the beer garden. Take a seat at one of the picnic tables and order one of their stone baked pizzas.

Bonus Point- This is an independent pub

Thank you for reading!

If you want to read more about Oxford, check out this one- Travelling at home: My perfect day in Oxford
This is actually not the post I had planned to publish this week, I actually thought of it very last minute which is why I have no pictures when it actually would be easy to get pictures for this. It is also why I have stayed up until this ridiculous hour.
The time, as I write this is half one in the morning the night before my Sunday deadline and I need my sleep, so I am going to keep this short and sweet.. Have a wonderful day, don’t forget to comment, like and subscribe. Lot’s of love.

3 Comments Add yours

  1. Melissa Roos says:

    To be honest, beer isn’t my favorite thing to drink but these locations look perfect! Do you think they’d accept me if I ordered a class of wine? Hahaha.


  2. Hannah says:

    This is a great guide! If I lived a little closer I’d definitely be trying these out for a bit of an escape from being stuck indoors all the time! I’m back in local lockdown in our area so the beer gardens will have to wait for a while, unfortunately!


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