Days out for every kind of Dad this Father’s Day
Go on, give the Dad in your life a treat this Father's Day - we've found some of the best local experiences for every kind of Dad, whether he's into sport, DIY, food, gardening, beer, cars, cycling and more...
No pasta pesto for Foodie Dad this Father’s Day – indulge his culinary cravings with the best Oxon and Bucks has to offer. Start with brunch – anything earlier will mess with his lie-in. If he’s Bucks-based, why not pop into Fego in Gerrard’s Cross (there’s also locations in Marlow and Beaconsfield), where brunch is served until 5pm so it doesn’t matter what time he gets out of bed. The breakfast burger (sausage patty with bacon, Monterey Jack, baby gem, smashed avo, fried egg in a brioche bun w/ hash browns on the side) is the obvious choice, though there’s pancakes, waffles, granola, smoothies and juices if he’s saving room for lunch. That lot will almost certainly need walking off so why not set out on the Burnham Beeches nature reserve loop.
If it’s a fine day in Oxon, it’s hard to beat brunch on the riverside – OK, so we’re a few hundred metres over the border here in Berks, but the epic weekend brunch menu at Coppa Club at The Swan in Streatley is worth it (served 10am-3pm Saturday, Sunday and Bank Holidays). Book early for a table outdoors. Then work it off with a stroll or cycle along the Thames Path from Goring to Pangbourne. It’s a little known fact that although most of the Thames Path is forbidden to cycle down, this stretch is a public bridleway so bicycles are allowed. You can then take country lanes to Tilehurst Station (via Mapledurham) – it’s around 9 miles (14.4km) all in all – where the train back to Goring takes eight minutes. Or if it’s a gastro picnic for Foodie Dad, stop in at Pierreponts in Goring for its divine home cooked quiches, salads, sarnies and cakes to takeaway.
You could also check out our guide to the best places for a picnic in Bucks and Oxon, as well as our top 25 pub gardens and best pubs for a sundowner, or for a real treat, why not go for a full foodie weekend break staying at one of these cracking restaurants with rooms (taking the rest of the family with him is, obviously, non-negotiable).
Big Kid Dad
Does the Dad in your life wrestle with the kids on the floor, push them off the computer console to have his turn, and is he just itching to have a go at the playground zip wire? You’ve got a Big Kid Dad, and boy, have we got some idea to make his Father’s Day.
Set in the rolling Cotswolds, Sudeley Castle, is a bit special, and history nerds will also be interested to know that it’s the only private castle in England to have actual royalty buried within its grounds – Henry VIII’s last wife, Katherine Parr. There’s an adventure playground, 10 award-winning gardens, lavishly decorated rooms, and as of this week, an exhibition called ‘Royal Sudeley 1,000, Trials, Triumphs and Treasures’.
In Oxfordshire, Wallingford Castle is a great site for walks and picnics, though little of the castle remains – likewise at Boddington Hill Fort in Wendover Woods, though the earthworks and woodland setting will be enough to set Big Kid Dad’s imagination alight. Check out our castles within 90 minutes feature for the full lowdown on where to give Dad the full knights-of-the-round-table day out. Meanwhile, if Dad likes to have a sneaky go on the zip wire or the tube slide when no-one is looking, check out our guide to 11 brilliant local playgrounds – that’s Dad and kids sorted in one.
Closely related to the Big Kid Dad, but likes to up the ante a notch, Adrenalin Dad loves nothing than scaring himself witless with high octane adventures. The outdoor climbing tower and bouldering area at Far Peak, just off the A40 on the way to Cheltenham, should float his boat. It is part of a camping complex that also has bike hire and a pizza restaurant, so you could make a whole dare-devilling weekend of it.
Nothing gets the palms sweating quite like a wobbly platform metres above the ground, so why not tackle one of the many high rope courses in Oxon and Bucks. The Go Ape course at Wendover Woods is a thriller, and if the rest of the family doesn’t share Dad’s love of heights, they can keep their feet on the ground with the many woodland bike, walking and running trails or just enjoy a cuppa at the new Wendover Woods Café. Also check out the high ropes at Black Park and Treetop Extreme at Willen Lake near Milton Keynes.
If Adrenalin Dad prefers a ground-based activity, check out our guide to the best local outdoorsy adventures, or try Neoprene-clad Dad, below.
The Cowley area of Oxford is DIY Dad’s idea of shopping heaven – Toolstation, Crown, Screwfix and Brewers all in close proximity. He can find any tool/paint/materials combo that will help him finish that niggling half-finished job or five around the house. If DIY Dad has a penchant for a good old-fashioned hardware store, drop him at the door of Colliers at Crowmarsh near Wallingford, where it’s over-the-counter service, like the good old days, or likewise Hildreth’s Ironmongery in Great Missenden, a home improver’s emporium. At Alfred Groves immaculately ordered DIY store in the Cotswolds, he’ll find everything he needs and more, while Oxford’s Objects of Use store, near the Covered Market, makes screwdrivers a thing of beauty (and you can get him a voucher to spend there).
If DIY Dad loves a doer-upper project, perhaps his idea of a perfect day out is nosing around local salvage yards and reclaim centres, in which case, check out our guide to the best vintage and reclaim shops in Oxon and Bucks. If he wants some fresh inspiration for the house, why not give him an early Father’s Day present with a ticket to the Humble Country Summer Fayre, on June 18-19 – a winning day out for the whole fam, but Dad will be able to indulge his love of decorating and pick up some snazzy items to put the icing on the cake of his DIY efforts.
A ticket to Bremont Stonor Supercar Sunday slipped into his driving gloves will make Petrolhead Dad very happy this Father’s Day. It’s two weeks after Father’s Day so he’ll have plenty of time to get excited about the stellar line-up of motors as well as gastro food galore, plus there’s the gorgeous gardens to amble around and the Tumblestone Hollow adventure playground.
If it’s vintage motors that Petrolhead Dad loves best, you can’t go wrong with a trip to The Aston Martin Heritage Trust & Museum in Drayton St Leonard. It’s not an all-day thing: there is no cafe or toilets but you will see some amazing motors, loads of memorabilia and trophies, and plenty of scale models. Open Thurs-Sat, 10am-4pm. Pre-booked, timed tickets only.
If Petrol Head Dad likes a steadier motor, why not book him his own electric boat to take for a potter around the waterways of Oxfordshire? You could hire an electric boat at Wallingford’s Pure Boating for up to 11 people that you can drive down to Benson Lock or towards Moulsford for lunch or a pint at the newly renovated Beetle and Wedge, two hours downstream. There’s also a gorgeous self-drive fleet for hire at Hobbs of Henley with plenty of picnic or pub options along the way. If you’re ready for liveaboard life, Cotswold Boat Hire will offer shortbreaks on self-hire boats as well as day hire boats.
Green-fingered Dad needs the odd day out to drag him away from the weeding, mowing and edging, so why not take him where someone else does all the hard work. Oxford Botanic Gardens has glasshouses, herbarium, a rock garden, borders galore, and even a gin garden – what better inspiration (and you can buy him a bottle of the garden’s own Physic Gin as a souvenir). Nearby, Waterperry Gardens is fabulous for its meadows, orchards, borders, walled garden and water features, plus there’s a huge shop and cafe.
If you want to give Green-fingered Dad a Father’s Day Splurge, then a visit to one of the counties’ many fabulous garden centres is going to make his day with oodles of garden clobber and plants to indulge his passion. Haddenham Garden Centre is a Muddy Little Black Book fave, great for its plants, gizmos, farm shop, butchers and cafe. There’s also the rather splendid Burford Garden Company, with its bookshop, foodie section, cafe, lifestyle store and – his fave bit – the epic garden shed section!
History Buff Dad
The big hitters are all open and accepting visitors on pre-booked tickets, so take your pick of the grand piles of Oxon and Bucks for History Buff Dad to get stuck into, including Cliveden, Stowe, Hughenden, Waddesdon, Greys Court, and Blenheim. There’s also the lesser-known West Wycombe Park, the 18th-century creation of Sir Francis Dashwood, the 2nd Baronet, founder of the Dillettanti Society and the Hell-Fire Club. Or how about Broughton Castle, near Banbury, a house owned by the Fiennes dynasty (yes, that one) – that is fortified, moated and thoroughly impressive. It saw some serious action in the English Civil War, was repaired the the help of Sir George Gilbert Scott in the Victorian era and is now just a thoroughly splendid manor house – with a tearoom.
If History Buff Dad wants to gen up on the local history, he could do no better than head to The Oxfordshire Museum in Woodstock. This multi-faceted museum covers every period of history from the dinosaurs to the Anglo-Saxons and Victorians, told through local stories and exhibits. There’s also the Garden Café and gift shop. Next door is the Soldiers of Oxfordshire Museum – two in one – it doesn’t get better than that for History Buff Dad!
For Lycra-clad Dad, a wheelie (ahem) great day out has to involve two wheels and couple of pitstops. Choose from one of our pick of the local family friendly cycle routes if you want to take the whole gang, or send Dad off on his own and meet him en route.
The 25.4-mile Charlbury and Kingham Loop is a picturesque, intermediate ride that takes you through all the best sites of Kingham and Charlbury, including St. Nicholas Church and Wychwood. Stop for a refresher at Charlbury Cafe and Deli or The Kingham Plough. Alternatively, there’s the 37-mile Turville Heath and Barn Cafe route. The ‘no car cafe‘ is a hidden gem, and perfectly placed halfway round the route. It’s especially well received you do the route clockwise, as it comes at the end of a long climb up from Fingest and Turville. Cake comes as mandatory – for spectators and cyclists alike.
Dad spends so much time in the water that he’s grown webbed feet? Open water swimming has got to be top of his list for a Father’s Day treat. Berinsfield’s Queenford Lake is open from sunrise-9.45am – not everyone’s cup of tea for a treat, but Neoprene-clad dad will be there with bells on (he’ll also need a brightly coloured swim hat, and will have to register and pre-book). The lakeside café, The Wandering Kitchen is on hand with hot drinks and butties for the support crew on the bank. Willen Lake at Milton Keynes is another open water swimming not-so-hot-spot with sessions running on Saturday and Sunday mornings and Tuesday and Thursday evenings. Or there’s swimming at four of the lakes at the Cotswold Water Park and at Marlow Open Water.
For more watery fun, there’s kayaking and canoeing galore in Oxon and Bucks. One is Thrupp Canoe and Kayak, just outside Kidlington, from where you can explore the Oxford canal and River Cherwell. And watersports are very much a go at Willen Lake with windsurfing, sailing, kayaking, pedalos and wakeboarding all possible.
Dog’s Best Friend Dad
If Dad loves nothing more than a day out with his pooch, you can’t go wrong with a great dog walk and the Tylers Hill and Ley Hill near Chesham is a winning for Bucks-based Dads. The walk is great for water-loving hounds, as finishes along the river Chess, while Dad will appreciate the picturesque route through the little villages of Tylers Hill and Ley Hill and Cowcroft Wood nature reserve.
Just over the border in Herts, Ashridge Estate is a dazzling 3,000 acre site with ancient trees, rolling chalk downlands, and lush meadows. Dogs can go off-lead if well-trained, but you do have to be aware of deer and ground-nesting birds. The Ivinghoe Hills butterfly walk is a three-hour loop route, famous for its butterfly habitats. Dad and the team can refuel with a coffee or scone from the Brownlow Café afterwards.
Shotover Country Park is a hidden gem and unbelievably it’s just minute’s drive from Oxford city centre. The woodland has a magical feel to it (and a murky history of highwaymen) and Dad’s dog will love the springs, ponds and bracken, just don’t expect to take a clean pooch home with you. It’s open all year and free to park. There are three marked trails around the park, all starting in Mary Sadler’s Field near the car park and around 2km, 2.5km and 5km long.
Does Dad enjoy the odd drinkiepoos? Hey, and why not? Whatever his tipple, we’ve got the perfect day out in Bucks and Oxon. Wine Buff Dad could pop into Hendred Vineyard, a 3-acre Oxfordshire vineyard that’s open on June 19, where the flagship sparkling wine is Hendred Brut, a crisp and zesty number. Meanwhile, the super-fruity Hendred Rosé won Best Rosé at the Thames and Chilterns Vineyards Association competition 2019. Check out our guide to local vineyards for some more ideas of local vineyards offering tastings and tours, including Brightwell Vineyard, which covers all bases with red, white, rosé and sparkling, and even produces one of the first English brandies!
If Dad prefers pints to pinots, he’s spoilt for choice in Oxon and Bucks. Brakspear concocts its popular Oxford Gold and Gravity beers at its Wychwood Brewery in Witney. Tours are usually available but haven’t restarted since COVID, though Dad can still buy beer to takeaway, and you can even get him the t-shirt from the online shop. Tap Social in Oxford offers custom tours so phone to book, and has a Tap Room, open Thurs-Sat and often accompanied by some tasty street food van.
Perhaps Dad’s more of a mixologist? Never fear – gin is here! The Amersham-based Griffiths Brothers Distillery offers intimate behind the scenes distillery tour and tastings. The Oxford Artisan Distillery is another one that’s restarted it’s tours with just six people per group exploring the vodka, gin and rye whisky making kit, including a tasting of all three – better make sure Dad has a designated driver.
When Sporty Dad talks about sport, what he means is watching it – whether that’s live, down the pub, or from the sofa – the perfect day out for Sporty Dad is to indulge his passion for watching other people break a sweat. It’s not been a great year for Sporty Dad thanks to the COVID restrictions, but there are live matches on – with spectators – albeit at reduced capacity.
Outside of Bucks and Oxon, there’s the England vs USA rugby match at Twickenham Stadium on July 4th – pop a ticket for that in his Father’s Day card and you’ll be the favourite all year. For racing fans, the closest fixtures on Father’s Day weekend are in Surrey at Ascot, Lingfield Park and Haydock Park on Saturday 19th, which leaves Dad free on the Sunday to catch the Euro 2021 fixtures on TV at 5pm.