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Top places to live in Oxfordshire Watlington

This small but perfectly formed market town has an impressive high street and foodie offering, plus stunning walks aplenty. Part of our Top 200 Places to Live series.

WHY?

It’s snuggled just under the western edge of Chiltern Hills and has a very cosy market town feel to it. And rightly so, as it claims to be the smallest town in England. Watlington was mentioned in the Domesday Book and was likely a settlement centuries before then, so it does have history in spades. People move here for its strong community vibe – it has over 60 community organisations and a well-used playground and skate park for the youth – and it often attracts young families from London who are looking to put down roots.

EAT

Surprisingly, for a small place, there’s quite a lot. For special occasions demand that little extra Olivier at the Red Lion is a dead cert (it’s British fine dining has had a nod from the Michelin Guide). For more everyday eating, The Granary Deli, on the High Street, is a great spot for breakfast or lunch or those multiple coffees in-between and you can stock up on local bread and UK cheeses while you’re there. The Spire and Spoke offers pizzas and craft alses, whilst The Chequers and The Fat Fox are two steady locals with reassuring pub food menus. 

SHOP

For big supermarkets, you have to jump in the car to Thame but that shouldn’t stop you making the most of an impressive high street offer. Calnan Brothers is the sort of butchers that people cite as reasons for not moving (maybe it’s the award-winning sausages?) and Peter Osborne Fine Wines will do a good job of keeping your cellar (OK, kitchen cupboard) stocked up – owner Martin Chapman has been in the business over 50 years so he’s worth listening to. The Orange Bakery is run by teen baking maestro Kitty Tait and her dad and does a fine line in sourdough and pastries. Stilla Hem is a delightful Swedish-style interiors shop, So Sustainable provides organic, plastic-free natural products and refills while Bella Luce Lighting make you dream of magazine-style interiors.

NEARBY ATTRACTIONS

Hike up the 235 metres to the top of Watlington Hill and you will be rewarded (weather dependent) with incredible views over the Vale of Oxford. Christmas Common sits above Watlington on the Chilterns and there are several walks (from two to 12 miles) that will keep you busy – and children expelled of excess energy; plus, go in late spring and you will find yourself in a sea of bluebells. The lovely privately owned 850 year old Stonor Park or the National Trust treasure of Greys Court (nowhere better for bluebells in spring) are a 15 minute car trip if you’re looking for a full, family day out. Nuffield Place is close too – the former home of Sir William Morris of Morris Minor fame.

AVERAGE HOUSE PRICES

Middling. The average price over the last year was £481,391. As a family-focused town, it’s not surprising that most of the sales last year were detached homes averaging out at £614,722. Semi-detached sold for around £497,806 and terraces for an average of £426,714.

HOT PROPERTY

A charming 2-bed brick and flint Grade II listed cottage in the heart of Watlington. On for £415,000 with local agent Griffith & Partners.

SCHOOLS

There’s top girls’ prep school Godstowe, of course. Then Watlington Primary School (‘Outstanding’) serves the town’s younger residents and Icknield Community college (rated ‘Good’) serves the older kids, while nearby Wallingford School rated good and Thame’s Lord Williams’s School rated ‘Outstanding’ are also strong secondary and Sixth Form options. Watlington is on the bus route for all the top in independent schools in the area such as Moulsford, d’Overbroeck’s, Oratory Prep, Magdalen College, The Manor Prep, Headington and Oxford High.

BEST KEPT SECRET

There is a chalk triangle carved into Watlington Hill, which, from the correct angle, makes the Church of St Leonard look like it has a steeple. All the whim of local squire Edward Horne back in 1764.

COMMUTE

79 miles. Unfortunately, Watlington doesn’t have its own train station so you can either drive to High Wycombe (20 minutes) where the fastest train gets to Marylebone in 26 mins, or to Haddenham & Thame Parkway (20 minutes) where the train takes 33 minutes (or up to 55 minutes off-peak). Season tickets from £4,340. Alternatively, you can hop on the Oxford Tube coach from Lewknor and it’s about an hour to London. Driving into London will take you 1 hour 13 mins.

View the full Top 200 Best Places to Live

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