Head of the River

Folly Bridge, St. Aldates, Oxford, Oxfordshire, England, OX1 4LA

Price from: £95

By Adrian Mourby, your Oxford expert

I write for Classic FM, Evening .... Read more
#20 of 21
expert-rated hotels in Oxford
Expert overall rating:3.5 out of 5
Location:
4.1
4.1
Bedrooms:
3
3.0
Eating/drinking:
3.4
3.4
Public areas:
3.9
3.9
Leisure facilities:
0
N/A
Service:
3
3.0
Value for money:
3.3
3.3
Recommended for:
Business travellers, Culture vultures, Stag / hen parties, Great views / scenery, Nightlife, No fuss, Relaxation

Expert review of Head of the River

Historic hotel with good food in a stunning Thameside location.

Head of the River is a converted 19th-century warehouse from the days when the Thames was still an industrial route. On a summer’s day its terrace – the old boatyard – is heaving with happy, noisy drinkers while in the winter its open fire warms those who come like to eat in the Victorian dining room. Head of the River is now part of the Fuller’s chain of 15 pub/hotels in south east England. Its other claim to fame was that it featured in the dubious 1984 Rob Loewe comedy Oxford Blues.

Location: 

Overlooking Folly Bridge, one of the most picturesque corners of 19th-century Oxford. Christchurch (the location for some scenes in the Harry Potter movies) is just five minutes' walk north. Alternatively there are beautiful walks, in both directions, along the Thames (or Isis as it is known in Oxford), especially in the early morning.

Bedrooms: 

There are 12 en suite bedrooms, including five superior rooms with river views and DVD players should you tire of looking at the Isis/Thames. Rooms 1 and 2 also have Jacuzzis. I would definitely pay the extra for a a river view. The décor is variable throughout - the superior suites take their cue from Victorian reproduction white-enamelled iron bedsteads while the cheaper rooms fall back on pine-strip.

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Public areas: 

The outside terrace is lovely in summer, but you’ll have to share it with half of Oxford. The bar and dining room are undoubtedly the best feature of the lobby if you like Victoriana. A big effort has been made to recreate the kind of cheery Dickensian world you get in Lionel Bart’s Oliver! It’s inauthentic but jovial. The walls, stripped back to the brick in a very un-Victorian fashion, are covered with old photos of collegiate life and the very serious annual competition to be Head of the River.

Eating and drinking: 

Landlords Brian and Carol McNish provide a good solid wine list on the back of the one-page menu but many people come here for the beer given that Fuller’s of Chiswick is famous for its London Pride, Chiswick Bitter, Golden Pride and London Porter. Food is solidly English – haddock and chips, grilled salmon, Oxfordshire rump steak – with a few continental intrusions like feta and pesto tart or the antipasti platter.

Breakfast is included in the room rate and is served in the same restaurant.

Service: 

Variable. If you catch Brian and Carol, the welcome will be warm. Some of the young Antipodean staff are cheerful and easy-going but there’s also a no-nonsense toughness among some of the other staff that’s better suited to controlling late-night drinkers than welcoming hotel guests. It depends who you get and when.

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Who stays there: 

Business in the week with some people visiting the University. There is a big change at the weekend when tourists flock in to enjoy the Thames.

Price advice: 

The twin rooms can sleep four in two double beds. The room rate includes the full breakfast menu.

Pros: 
Great dining room with river views and real coal fire for the winter
Great views and great location all year round
Good ales
Cons: 
Limited parking
Service could be improved

More information on Head of the River:

Price from:
£95
Type:
Hotel
Address:
Folly Bridge, St. Aldates, Oxford, Oxfordshire, England, OX1 4LA

Head of the River

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