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18 venues: one hell of an end-of-lockdown party!

If holiday lets are anything to go by, you best bag your dream party venue now. Check out these spectacular venues - from rooftops to gastropubs, museums to boats, we're on our party A game

Picture this: you, decked out in your most outrageously stunning outfit (restraint is out, in-your-face excess is in), huge cocktail in hand, surrounded by waiters and canapés. It’s the knees-up to end all knees-ups, a drunken double finger salute in the face of lockdown, and a return to real life. It could happen in June! Ladies, let the party-planning begin. Whether you want a boozy blow-out in a fancy museum gallery, a full-on Bridgerton-style ball in a stately home, or an intimate dinner with friends long-missed, this is the list for you. Bank cards at the ready: book these now, before they’re all snapped-up.

OXFORDSHIRE

Temple Island, Henley

Image: Simon Atkin

The starting point for Henley Regatta, Temple Island knows how to throw a do. The building is neoclassical and surrounded by idyllic, rolling water meadows and wooded hills, and its bright Etruscan Room boasts restored 18th century frescoes. In a word – refined. Fancy something outside? How about an elegant marquee on the back lawn? Or go the whole hog and hire out a boat, catering for all sizes of party. Details of enquiry and brochures available here.

The Ashmolean, Oxford

Party with the Ancient Greeks, anyone? Or perhaps Madame would prefer a backdrop of 17th century European art? The Ashmolean lets you choose the setting for your party, ranging from classical to contemporary. The atrium has a sweeping staircase for bold entrances, the sculpture gallery is guaranteed grandeur, and the light dining room and roof terrace offer views across Oxford. Enquire here.

The Wild Rabbit, near Chipping Norton

The Chicken Shed at The Wild Rabbit is the kind of light, stylish private dining room that will peck your fancy. With space for 20, it has its own team of dedicated staff who will create a bespoke menu using seasonal, garden produce and fresh, ethical meat. South Devon rib eye steak served with braised leeks, mushrooms, and a red wine jus? That’ll do nicely. Enquire here.

Crazy Bear, near Wallingford, or Beaconsfield

Both Crazy Bears offer quirky, eclectic spaces and tented outside terraces, either situated within eighty acres of working farmland (Stadhampton), or in a fifteenth century coaching inn (Beaconsfield). The chefs offer both English and Thai menus, personally created for you, to be enjoyed in one of their quirky function rooms. The Stadhampton Moroccan lounge gets our vote – just soak up the souk vibes while you order another cocktail. Enquiries: 01865 893967 or by email (Stadhampton); 01494 673086 or by email (Beaconsfield).

The Varsity Club, Oxford

Boasting views right across the city, this roof terrace is what summer parties were made for. Soak up the sun, or enjoy the sights without cursing the breeze thanks to extensive awnings, heaters, and heated seats (England, eh?). The roof terrace holds up to 45 standing or 25 seated with table service from the kitchen – there are other floors inside, but trust us, this is the area to covet. TVC is happy to cater for events ranging from cocktails and canapés to fancy private dinners. Enquire here.

Modern Art Oxford

There’s something so chic about having a party in an art gallery: total Sex and the City vibes. The Modern Art Oxford offers a contemporary feel amongst cool, industrial features. Mingle by the bar beneath the café’s vaulted ceilings, dim the lights and dance in the basement, spill out across the yard, or enjoy the loft’s country and city views. The venue can host up to 240 people, and the museum can offer bar service, lunches, and canapés onsite for smaller events. It also recommends a list of preferred caterers. Enquire here.

The Perch, Oxford

Treat your friends to a slap-up private dinner in an historic, riverside pub. (Or, indeed, with room for up to 200 guests, call in the Facebook acquaintances, anything for a party!). The Perch’s dining room is perfect for traditional seated meals, but my heart belongs to the quirky garden with its huge weeping willow and boat planters, outdoor bar and twinkly marquee. The Perch can create a bespoke party menu for you, full of fresh, seasonal ingredients. Slow roasted shoulder of Cornish lamb with salsa verde? Whole roast hog? Well, if you’re twisting my arm. Call 01865 728 891 or enquire by email here.

Hobbs of Henley

Sail out of lockdown with a party on your very own private boat. Hobbs of Henley, which also conveniently owns a gin company, Mr Hobbs Gin, has a whole fleet of luxurious Thames river boats – brings a whole new meaning to the term, ‘gin palace’. Enjoy cocktails, seated dinner, and a dancefloor, available for up to 125 guests on board The New Orleans. The captain and crew, bar, and catering staff are all there to ensure smooth sailing, in every sense of the word. Call 01491 572035 or enquire by email here.

The River & Rowing Museum, Henley

Lush trees, verdant meadows, a river running by… it’s practically The Wind in the Willows. Henley’s River & Rowing Museum has a selection of light, airy rooms available for hire, with the loveliest being the Thames Room: glass front, a lovely private terrace, and picturesque river views. Enjoy daytime drinks or pull out the stops with an evening dinner, with catering included. Call 01491 415631 or email here.

Aynhoe Park, near Banbury

Some parties are so big, the only thing for it is to rent out an entire stately home. Aynhoe Park offers modern quirks and bonkers interiors in a Grade I Listed Jacobean building, and is available to rent in its entirety for properly posh parties. Enjoy a show-stopping multi-course dinner, party the night away, hole up in the games room, or enjoy specially crafted cocktails in the secret cellar bar. Oh, and if you want, you can simply ask your butler (your butler!) to set up the hot tub. Then, once you’ve partied as no one’s ever partied before, you can retire to one of 28 opulently decorated bedrooms. Better than a kip on the floor, eh? Enquire here.

The Tythe Barn, near Bicester

Set on the working farm of the Deeley family, the Tythe Barn is a relaxed but elegant backdrop for weddings and parties. It’s a quintessentially English farm that offers picturesque gardens, pergolas, and an old stone barn, for both indoor and outdoor celebrations. Passionate that food should be at the heart of parties, the team can create a bespoke sit-down dinner, whip-up stone baked pizzas, or craft little canapés. Enquire here.

BUCKINGHAMSHIRE

Tip Top Venues, near Milton Keynes

Set in 1400 acres of working farmland in North Buckinghamshire, Tip Top Venues is a tucked-away location for weddings and events. There are lakeside tipis of varying sizes available to hire — you could make it an overnight stay, and throw in Sunday brunch for up to 30 people — or a marquee in the paddock, which holds parties of up to 150 guests. The styling team will work with you to decorate the space however you wish, and there’s a list of recommended caterers for excellent food. Enquire here.

Grove Farm, Chiltern Hills

This beautiful period house sleeps 15-17 and promises the ultimate private house party. Art-Deco-meets-country-chic, the design is stylish and comfortable, with large living spaces (decked out with squashy sofas, a huge TV, and games room) and extensive kitchen and dining room. There are seven warm, inviting bedrooms, two sofa beds, and a further pair in the lodge. Go on: get the whole family together. Enquire here.

MK Gallery, Milton Keynes

Parties in futuristic cubes are automatically cool. The iconic building of MK Gallery hosts a range of rooms available for private hire. Their Sky Room auditorium overlooks Campbell Park through large, airy windows, and can fit 275 for standing reception, or up to 100 for seated dinner. The gallery can provide a team of award-winning bar staff, and excellent food created in its onsite kitchens by its brilliant head chef. Options range from breakfast through to supper, from canapé receptions to dinners, food stations to BBQs, birthdays to weddings. Call 01908 676 900 or inquire by email here.

Phyllis Court, Henley-on-Thames

The Grade II listed Riverside Pavilion at Phyllis Court will hold up to 130 of your nearest and dearest for a knees-up on the water. The venue has floor to ceiling windows overlooking the Thames, or head to the top deck for panoramic views of the water, club grounds and Chiltern countryside as you toast to freedom. Enquire here.

Stoke Park, on the Bucks border near Slough

If you really want to pull out the stops, you can hire out rooms at this gorgeous five star hotel, set in 14 acres of private gardens. The ballroom is elegant, with high ceilings and ornate detailing, and can fit up to 100 guests. It’s just one of eight rooms available to hire: for slightly smaller dos we heart the south-facing Fountain Room, which overlooks the private terrace, fountains, and garden, and can fit up to 50 guests. Or take over the exquisite Humfrey’s fine dining restaurant for a catered evening that will knock your socks off. Enquire here.

Waddesdon Manor, near Aylesbury

dairy at waddesdon on river exterior large wooden hut reflected in water night sky

Gather with up to 30 of your nearest and dearest in Waddesdon Manor‘s 19th century dairy, for a charming waterside setting amongst pretty gardens. Or, for bigger parties, you can put up a marquee in the landscaped National Trust gardens, and get merry against the backdrop of the fairy-tale château. Enquire here.

Chenies Manor House, near Amersham

If it was good enough for Henry VIII and Elizabeth I, it’s good enough for us. This Grade I Listed 16th century Mansion, where the Tudors once roamed, is another fairy-tale setting for your party. The house can host up to 180 guests, or the smaller Garden Room has space for 90 guests, more with a marquee extension. Enquire here.

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