In love with Broughton Castle, North Oxon
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I always get excited when I come across new bits of the county, and this week I happened across Broughton Castle in North Oxfordshire – gorgeous for a romantic stroll or a day out with kids.
Privately owned, the 14th century Broughton Castle, complete with moat, is prettily situated a few miles outside Banbury, and though not grand like Warwick, or a romantic ruin like Corfe there’s something really charming about it. I think the real pleasure in it is that it feels quite laid-back and untouristy and ‘do’able – because some days you’re just not in the mood to flog around a castle for 6 hours are you? It took me and Cass, my 3 year old, one hour to zip around the interior of Broughton (though obviously older children or adults less eager to spot frogs on the moat’s lily pads may well take longer!).
Even in that hour there was plenty to admire though, from the stunning handpainted wallpaper, below, and the cannonballs fired at the castle during a Royalist siege in 1642 to a ghostly Joshua Reynolds painting, or the armour on the walls of the Main Hall, and the tiny Council Chamber at the top of the castle – ‘a room that hath no ears’ – used in the 1630s by those who opposed Charles I’s autocratic rule. (Is your O level history coming back to you at this point?).
Broughton Castle has also had its 15 minutes of cinematic fame – several times over in fact – with Shakespeare in Love (the current owner is related to the Fiennes family) and The Madness of King George both using the castle as setting. Three Men and a Little Lady was also shot here, but there you go, you can’t win them all.
The grounds are gorgeous, with plenty of love seats, those goddam lilyponds in the moat, grandly-planted borders and elderly trees that offer just the right amount of shade on a sunny day and flat stretches of grass for children to bomb around on.
There’s also a tea room opposite the castle, selling fresh cakes and tea. The interior was a bit of a letdown – very dated and piney with, bright lighting and plastic sheeting – but take your coffee outside and look at the view as you ponder whether to go back for a second slice of coffee cake.
Parking is next to the 14th century church which forms part of the estate and is well worth going in if you like that sort of thing (Mr Muddy can’t stand it, I love it). There are original wallpaintings, and several effigies, including that of John of Broughton who died in 1315 and who built both the church and castle. It was repainted in Victorian times in the Medieval style.
Unfortunately I didn’t get time to check any nearby pubs out and there are no lunch options at the castle. If you’re taking kids, I’m sure no one would object to you bringing out some sarnies on the lawn (maybe call before you re-enact A Year In Provence on their private turf though).
The other thing you could do is head to Bloxham, about a mile and a half away. It’s a picturesque village and there’s a well-regarded pub there called The Joiner’s Arms with elegant interiors, a kid-friendly menu and pretty outside area with decking. I haven’t tried it myself so can’t vouch for the quality of the food, but the signs are good. Check out their website here and see what you think, and please let me know if you venture inside.
What a great day. That’s it. I’m exhausted. Pass me a Curly Wurly and the remote control.
Broughton Castle, Broughton, Banbury, Oxon OX15 5EB. broughtoncastle.com.