The Head of the River Pub with rooms in Oxford, Oxfordshire

Prices from:
£105 per night

David Hancock says:

  • Stunning riverside spot; alfresco heaven
  • Restored to former glory by Fullers
  • Cool, contemporary bar & dining rooms
  • Menu – classics & modern dishes
  • Great rooms in hearty of city
  • Limited parking – use park & ride

Sticky FingersClose to WaterVisit a Stately Pile90 Minutes from LondonNo Car Needed15 Minutes from the Motorway

Real Time Booking Available

The Head of the River Oxford, Oxfordshire, OX1 4LB

The personal touch

Oxford brims with brilliant pubs but the Head of the River must surely boast the best location in the city – who can beat the stunning Thames-side frontage, the views of Folly Bridge, the fabulous alfresco dining area, and the central position, not to forget the super-comfortable rooms. Lucky Fuller’s Brewery, I say, who have invested good money in restoring this former 19th-century warehouse and boatyard (note the restored metal winch) back to its former glory in 2017. They have transformed this riverside gem, the once dated and drab bar and dining areas are now vibrant and smart, with cool, contemporary colours and furnishings and a relaxed vibe, and the bar is chock-full with great beers and premium spirits – expect to rub shoulders with academics and tourists. The vast alfresco Thames terrace is equally smart and rightly draws the crowds on fine days – be sure to arrive early or expect a long wait for a table. The pub is named after the boat in the lead during Oxford University’s ‘summer eights’ rowing competition that passes the pub.

Muddy paws

Dogs are allowed in the bar but not in the rooms.

Sticky fingers

Children are welcome throughout the pub; smaller portions are served and are welcome overnight, with a family room and extra z-beds and cots available


What’s the Damage?

20 doubles/twin: £105 – £175

What Else?

  • All credit cards taken
  • Alfresco dining
  • Disabled access to bar/dining room
  • Parking – very limited; use Oxpens car park on Oxpens Road or Redbridge Park & Ride (1 mile away)



The Head of the River Oxford, Oxfordshire, OX1 4LB

Do not disturb

Money has been lavished on revamping the 20 bedrooms, including the addition of eight new rooms in a building that once accommodated staff. All are named after famous figures connected to Oxford and come in three different types, Cosy, Comfy and Indulgent rooms, with the latter offering a tad more space, added extras (slippers & bathrobes) and relaxing river views. The décor and general attention to detail is spot on – all are smart and stylish with the big beds topped with the best linen and down, bold colours and statement wall coverings, think, a lunar map in the Thomas Hailey room, or books, or watches, plus retro lighting, phones and chairs, a Marshall digital radio, Nespresso machines and Smart TVs. Each room has a complimentary bottle of London Pride. Equally comfortable bathrooms have white bevel-brick tiling, posh Cole & Lewis toiletries, and huge walk-in showers. Book the dual aspect Sir John Betjeman room for flooding light and views of the Folly Bridge and the Thames.


What’s the Damage?

20 doubles/twin: £105 – £175

What Else?

  • All credit cards taken
  • Alfresco dining
  • Disabled access to bar/dining room
  • Parking – very limited; use Oxpens car park on Oxpens Road or Redbridge Park & Ride (1 mile away)


Eat & Drink

The Head of the River Oxford, Oxfordshire, OX1 4LB

Mastering the menu

(Starters: £5.50-£7.50; Main Courses: £12-£23; Desserts £6-£9.50) 

The pub heaves with drinkers and diners on fine summer days, with the terrace in full swing all day, yet despite the throng and pressure on the kitchen, head chef Thomas Berry delivers an interesting menu, one that combines popular pub classics with more adventurous main dishes. Enjoy a pint on the terrace with a tasty all day snack, perhaps salt and pepper squid, honey mustard sausages with Dijon mayonnaise, or a wild boar and apple sausage roll with chilli ketchup, or try the ham hock, piccalilli, baby gem and coleslaw sandwich, served with chips or a bowl of soup. Main dishes range from steak and ale pie to wild boar ragout with pasta, pecorino and truffle oil, and salmon with chargrilled fennel, heritage baby beets and dill vinaigrette. Puddings include fig and almond brûlée with almond biscuits. To drink, expect the full range of Fullers real ales and craft beers, a top selection of premium bottled ciders, beers and soft drinks, a raft of boutique gins, Scottish malts and American whiskeys, and 13 wines by the glass.

Time to Eat

Food all day: 8am – 9pm

Time at the bar

8am – 10.30pm (11.30 Friday & Saturday)

What’s the Damage?

20 doubles/twin: £105 – £175

What Else?

  • All credit cards taken
  • Alfresco dining
  • Disabled access to bar/dining room
  • Parking – very limited; use Oxpens car park on Oxpens Road or Redbridge Park & Ride (1 mile away)


Food Trail

Take it back home
Tour the brewery that brewed your favourite pint, visit the shop on the farm that reared your delicious Sunday roast beef, and seek out the roadside stalls selling the local crab and samphire on the inn’s menu, the Food Trail features the local artisan producers and suppliers where you can buy to enjoy at home.

Change of scenery
Looking for a pub for lunch following a country walk, a different venue for dinner, or a good café for coffee, light lunch or afternoon tea, then the best in the area are listed below. If you find a new and exciting eatery in the area that’s worthy of a mention on the Food Trail, then please to do let us know –

1 Inn Location - The Head of the River


Daylesford Farm Shop and Cafe, Daylesford, Kingham GL56 0YG

Known locally as 'Fortnams in the field' Daylesford Organic is so much more than an award-winning farm shop, with a cookery school, cafe, clothes shop and spa. The farm shop offers the best in organic and food produced with the best environmental and livestock husbandry credentials. They have their own bakery and serve up vegetables from their own market garden.


The Big Feastival, Kingham OX7 6UJ

An annual party on the farm owned by local pop star turned farmer/cheese maker Alex James of Blur. This August Bank Holiday weekend event is co-hosted by Jamie Oliver and is a festival of food and music, with famous chefs demonstrating their cooking skills while you listen to live music from some of the best musicians in the country. A cracking day out for all the family.


The Chequers, Churchill OX7 6NJ

Excellent gastropub where you can enjoy some fantastic modern British food from regularly changing blackboard menus. The beers are good, too, but you can also try a glass of wine from the very good menu or maybe a cocktail. The steak and chips is first class.


The White Hart, Fyfield, Abingdon OX13 5LW

Mark & Kay Chandler’s magnificent listed former Chantry house oozes historic charm and draws a discerning crowd for Mark’s delicious food. His daily, modern British menus champion local, seasonal ingredients, including fresh produce picked from the extensive kitchen garden. Great beers and ciders too.


Millets Farm Centre, Kingston Road, Frilford OX13 5HB

Established from a ‘pick your own farm’ with a shop, Millets has evolved in recent years to become an extensive retail operation, with a well-stocked farm shop (in-house bakery & butchery), a new Farmhouse Kitchen serving good food, seasonal pick your own fruits, and family attractions.

Out & About

1 Inn Location - The Head of the River



Heythrop Park Golf Club, Enstone, Chipping Norton OX7 5UE OX7 5UF

Make sure your SatNav takes you via the Drive, Church Enstone, or you’ll find you can’t get in. Weaving through the 440-acre Heythrop Estate, this 18-hole features ancient woodland, lakes and streams – it’s a quintessentially English setting. Visitors are welcome and there are all kinds of other facilities, including a spa.


Shooting, Enstone OX7 4NS

This comprehensive clay shooting school, situated amid the pastoral scenery of the Cotswolds, at Enstone, near Chipping Norton, offers great facilities and caters for beginners right through to experienced shots.


Rally Driving Days, Tracey Farm, Great Tew OX7 4JS

Family-run and welcoming rally, performance car and off-road driving centre situated near Chipping Norton. Here, you can try your hand at rally driving in authentic conditions and in the safe hands of trained professionals.



Bicester Village, Bicester OX26 6WD

One of the south of England's best-known and most popular retail centres, Bicester Village is where you can explore a wide range of chic boutiques stocking stylish lifestyle brands that are at the heart of world-class fashion.


Vintage & Paint, Stow-on-the-Wold GL54 1AQ

Nice interiors shop selling furniture, kitchenware, lighting, objet d'art and collectables They also sell Annie Sloan paint so you can have a go at creating this ‘look’ yourself.


Maybury, 4 Market Street, Woodstock OX20 1SX

Expect beautiful bedcovers, cushions and jackets and discover a striking collection of colourful furniture covered in vintage textiles and an assortment of rare and authentic rugs at this eclectic emporium in Woodstock, characterised by the irresistible, heady atmosphere of India and Central Asia.


Rosie B Home & Interiors, Horsefair, Chipping Norton OX7 5AL

All the items in this eclectic shop are personally sourced and chosen by Rosie herself. Situated in Horsefair in Chipping Norton, it’s a good place to get ideas and buy special gifts; you’ll find vintage and antique pieces for the home, mirrors, kitchenalia, glass and ceramics.


Iona House Gallery, 4 High Street, Woodstock OX20 1TF

Founded in 2002, this highly respected Woodstock-based art gallery exhibits paintings, sculpture, ceramics, glass, craft and jewellery from established artists and burgeoning talents. More than 100 English, Scottish and Russian artists are represented.


Teddy Bears of Witney, 99 High Street, Witney OX28 6HY

If you love teddy bears, a visit to this charming shop is a must. Established in 1985, Teddy Bears of Witney has the finest and most collectable teddy bears in the world. On permanent display, among other familiar old friends, is Aloysius, featured in the 1980s television series, Brideshead Revisited.


Aston Pottery, Aston, Witney OX18 2BT

Expect a varied choice of hand-stenciled pottery at Aston, near Witney - all of it manufactured and decorated on the premises. This is just the place to browse and buy, and there's a good and popular cafe, too.


The Old Pill Factory, 53 High Street, Witney OX28 6JA

Spread over two floors, the Old Pill Factory in Witney is the place to visit for furniture, glass, toys, clothes and garden pieces. You’ll find a group of dedicated antiques experts who are passionate about antiques and vintage homeware.

Places to visit


Hidcote Manor Gardens, Chipping Campden GL55 6LR

Hidcote is one of the country's greatest gardens, full of rare shrubs and trees, herbaceous borders and unusual plants from all over the world. In addition, there are superb views across the Vale of Evesham from the garden.


Blenheim Palace, Woodstock OX20 1PP

One of Britain's largest and most famous stately homes, Blenheim Palace offers a host of treasures to discover. There are guided tours of the staterooms and a chance to explore the estate's sumptuous parkland. A new Winston Churchill Memorial Garden and Footsteps Trail opened in 2015, taking visitors on a journey through the key achievements in the great statesman's extraordinary life and his early years in this area. Churchill's grave can be seen in the churchyard at nearby Bladon.


Rollright Stones, Chipping Norton OX7 5QB

An unusual circle of 77 heavily weathered, closely-set slabs of local Neolithic limestone, known as the King's Men, traditionally a monarch and his courtiers petrified by a witch. The Rollright Stones also include the Whispering Knights burial chamber, and single King Stone, which is on the other side of the road. They span nearly 2,000 years of Neolithic and Bronze Age development.


Rousham House & Garden, Rousham OX25 4QU

With the pretty River Cherwell flowing through the grounds, Rousham is one of Oxfordshire's loveliest mansions. Dating back to 1635, the house was remodelled over 100 years later and there is more than a hint of the Italianate about the garden with its cascades and ponds, groves, the Temple of Echo and the seven-arched portico known as Praeneste. A peaceful stroll along the tree-shaded Long Walk is a must.


The Oxfordshire Museum, Woodstock OX20 1SN

Based in Woodstock, the Oxfordshire Museum celebrates the delights of this varied county by focusing on local history, art, archaeology and landscape. There are events and activities for children and adults, four galleries of changing exhibitions and attractive gardens to explore.


Kelmscott Manor, Kelmscott GL7 3HJ

This beautiful house, built from lovely mellow golden stone, was the Cotswold retreat of William Morris and his family, friends and colleagues. Kelmscott is home to fascinating and important collections of textiles, furniture and paintings, spanning more than 300 years and reflecting the ideas and creative legacy of those who lived and worked here.


Minster Lovell Hall, Minster Lovell OX29 0RR

Shrouded in mystery and with a haunting, tangible air of the distant past, the romantic ruins of Minster Lovell Hall stand on the banks of the River Windrush. The village of Minster Lovell captures the essence of sublime Cotswolds' architecture.


Cogges Manor Farm, Witney OX28 3LA

Cogges Manor consists of a 13th-century house and 17th-century farm buildings. These days it's a popular heritage centre with a strong emphasis on horticulture, rural crafts and family-friendly entertainment. It's also just the place to help understand the origins of early rural life and put the past into perspective.


North Leigh Roman Villa, Witney OX29 6QE

This English Heritage site at North Leigh, near Witney, consists of a large, well-constructed Roman courtyard villa with a historically important, near complete mosaic floor, which can be seen through a viewing window.


Bampton OX18 2NE

Located on the edge of the Cotswolds, Bampton is a bustling village with many fine buildings and a good range of amenities, including the West Ox Arts Gallery, based in the town hall. Renowned for its Morris Dancing traditions, Bampton is also regularly used for village scenes in the hugely popular television drama Downton Abbey.


Pendon Museum, Long Wittenham OX14 4QD

This meticulously detailed model of the Vale of White Horse in Oxfordshire is a breathtaking spectacle. Everywhere you look there are quaint thatched cottages, olde-worlde pubs and exquisite churches. Pendon is where the English countryside comes to life under one roof.



Just like London, Oxford can hold your attention for days. There really is that much to see and do. A walk through the ancient streets of Matthew Arnold's 'city of dreaming spires' is surely the best and most effective way to see this world-famous seat of learning. As well as the 12th-century Carfax Tower, with its memorable views, and the Botanic Garden - a quiet backwater in the heart of Oxford - there's the chance to visit many of the University's 38 colleges and even explore the familiar haunts of Colin Dexter's legendary detective, Inspector Morse.

The 102-mile Cotswold Way National Trail takes in some of the best scenery the region has to offer. There are thousands of miles of footpaths and the area has a reasonable claim to be a walkers’ paradise. The Oxfordshire Way starts in Bourton-on-the-Water in Gloucestershire and takes you to the banks of the River Thames in Henley. The route passes through a variety of contrasting landscapes and settlements including two Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty; the rolling Cotswold Hills and the Chilterns.

Not too hilly, not too flat – Oxfordshire’s a good place to cycle, with lots of lovely scenery and a variety of routes for all abilities. There are several long distance routes, plus lots of bridleways. The Hanson Way starts in Oxford itself and follows the Thames Path to Abingdon and Didcot. The Cotswolds are particularly good for off-roading, with a network of tracks, but road cyclists won’t be disappointed either, as there are some spectacular hills and very tricky climbs.

Look out for a great many festivals, special events, sporting fixtures and cultural evenings in the Cotswolds region. Cogges Manor Farm (see places to visit) hosts traditional festivals and theatrical performances, while Chipping Norton’s theatre boasts an eclectic programme of live theatre, music, dance and comedy, culminating in the renowned annual pantomime. Among other annual events are the Blenheim Horse Trials, Countryfile Live at Blenheim, the Stroud Food Festival in September and the Cheltenham Literary Festival in October.

Getting there

Location, Location, Location

By Road: The pub stands beside Folly Bridge and A4144 in the city’s St Aldgates, just a 5-minute walk from the city centre

By Train: Oxford railway station is just a mile away


St Aldgate's, Oxford, Oxfordshire, OX1 4LB

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