I stayed at this hotel on Saturday 28th June for 1 night and loved it and would definitely return. I paid £190 total for bed and breakfast for 2 people, with free parking (*) and free wifi. I thought I was paying solely for location but they hotel delivered on the room and service and exceeded my expectations.
Location - 5mins walk into the centre of Oxford, 10-15mins walk to the main area of restaurants and bars. As it is right next to the river the setting is lovely too.
Parking - I rang the hotel the day before arrival to see if it was possible to reserve a parking space, and was told that this wasn't a problem and that I could arrive at any time. The parking is actually at the back of the hotel and there is a large locked blue metal gate across the entrance to stop anyone else using it. If you are approaching from over the bridge then the turning is on the right immediately after the pub and you turn in there and give them a quick call or jump out and they will then open the gate. The hotel's website says there is a £10 a day charge but as I booked through booking.com it was free*. I had no issues at all with the parking situation and would have been happy paying £10 a day as still a lot cheaper and convenient than the public car parks.
Rooms - we stayed in the AA Milne room (No 10), which is pictured on the hotels website homepage, in the Delightful dozen section. I believe this is one of their standard double rooms. It was quieter than I expected as we were above the pub, though we did go to bed after it had closed, but we got no noise from below when they were opening up for breakfast, or from the rooms above. Bear in mind this is an old beautiful building and there may be the odd squeaky floor somewhere. I loved the quirkiness of the room, the wallpaper is books on shelves, there was an old school desk and chair in which we found the hairdryer and a slightly out of date information book about Oxford. Both the bedroom and bathroom were quite small but we had everything we needed. There are no tea/coffee making facilities in the room though you are provided with a couple of bottles of water complimentary. The website advertises that tea/coffee can be brought to your room from 7.30am-10.30pm, though we didn't use this facility. There was only a small window, you can see it in the picture on their site, which meant the room was quite dark (though the bathroom was well lit) and it didn't open so you couldn't get the fresh air in, not a big deal for us though as the room was a nice temperature anyway. And we were only using the room to change and sleep in. I was impressed with the size of the towels, I often find that bath towels don't wrap round me but these did. I would happily stay in this room again.
Breakfast - we went down for breakfast at 9am, there a number of other residents already down there, and were warmily greeted by the staff, and offered tea/coffee immediately. There is a buffet table with juices, yoghurts and cereal that you can help yourself too as well as copies of the daily paper for you to read during your breakfast. Within minutes we had a menu, I was expecting to only have the option of a full English, but in addition there was Eggs Royale (my all time favourite and it was lovely), Eggs Benedict, Eggs Florentine, Crossaints and cold meats and porridge. My partner had the Full English which he said was great and that the sausages were full of flavour. The food got to us quickly and was well cooked and presented along with large slices of toast, and the waiter was attentive and chatty. We then got more coffee and went and sat out by the river in the sun, after being told about various places in Oxford we may be interested in visiting.
Other stuff - there is no reception and check in is done at the bar, some of the staff deal with the rooms and some of the staff solely deal with the pub/restaurant so from time to time you may ask one of the waiters a question about the rooms that he can't answer but they were always quick to get someone who could help. Check in is from 2pm, we arrived at 1pm and we did the necessary paperwork straight away and then were asked to get the keys (good old fashioned metal keys not swipe cards) from 2pm onwards. You can charge any food or drink you have at the pub to your room by showing your check in card. Access to the rooms is via a door inside the pub during opening hours, at other times there is a locked external door that you get a key for so you can come and go as you please. You, also, get given a 24hr emergency number to contact should you have any issues. Check out took a few seconds and again was done at the bar.
Bar/Restaurant - it is important to note that this is a pub/restaurant that has rooms, they have one of the only large outside direct river settings we saw and therefore it is incredibly popular so don't expect to get a table just because you are a resident. The bar prices are pretty pricey but again am happy to pay if I get to sit by the river and watch the world go by. We didn't eat there but the menu looked varied and the food we saw come out looked good. You can reserve tables so if you plan to eat there I would suggest booking prior to arrival. There was one waiter there who was great, I really wish I had got his name (I think he may have been French), he was always checking everyone was okay, would let people know who were hovering for an outside table when one was becoming free, taking orders outside, drying down chairs after the down pour so people could get back outside etc. He was brilliant, though all the staff were friendly, helpful and the place was incredibly busy. The bar stops serving at 11pm to the public and then residents can order up until 11.30pm.
If you fancy a punt then there is a place next to the pub that you hire these and various other boats from for a trip down the river.
Top tip - I prefer to research and chose a restaurant and book a table so I know we will get in rather than trapsing around with too much choice and ending up somewhere you don't really want to go to just becuase you are hungry. With this in mind I should actually have done this more than 2 hours before we wanted to eat, The Red Lion, Gloucester St looked perfect and was within walking distance (15mins) but was fully booked. There were a number of restaurants coming up in Summertown (OX2) which is the other side of Oxford to the hotel, this is too far to walk but is a 10min taxi ride (£5 fare, the hotel will call one for you). We decided we'd pick and book one of those and thank god we did, please see my separate review about The Oxford Kitchen.
- Official Description (provided by the hotel):
- Situated besides Oxford’s scenic River Isis, The Head of the River matches its food, drink and accommodation to the beauty of its surroundings. Whether you join us for an hour in the garden or for a night in one of our luxurious rooms, we’re confident you’ll hate to say goodbye. ... more less
- Reservation Options:
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- Also Known As:
- Head Of The River Hotel Oxford
- Head River Oxford