Bounded by the Chilterns and the Cotswolds, two spectacular upland Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty, Oxfordshire is a prosperous county within easy reach of London. Communications have been improved further by the M40, which runs from London to Birmingham to the east of the county.

In the centre of Oxfordshire is the flat countryside of the Vale of the White Horse, over which there are far-reaching views from the surrounding hills. This is where the county and university town of Oxford lies, on the banks of the river Thames, known here as the Isis.

The vale has many tracts of ancient woodland, marshland and water meadows, but relatively few villages. Although cottages and farmhouses are in good supply, there are a smaller number of large manor houses with spacious reception rooms.

Building materials vary from stone in the west to brick and timber in the east and south: there are also a number of early timber-framedhouses, often thatched. The most sought-after areas in which to live include the Chilterns, regarded by many as the nearest good countryside to London, and the Hambledon Valley.

Major towns

Oxford, Banbury, Henley-on-Thames, Didcot, Bicester, Witney, Abingdon, Burford, Charlbury, Wallingford.

Transport links

Train: Paddington to Oxford 1hr, day return £30.00; Marylebone to Banbury, 1hr 10mins, day return £41.80; Paddington to Henley-on-Thames 56min, £10.90 day return.

Car: Oxford is 57 miles from central London and Banbury 81 miles, via the M40. Henley-on-Thames is 28 miles, via the M4 and A423.

Public schools

Abingdon School +44 (0)1235 521563. Boys only, age range 11-18, day and boarding. www.abingdon.org.uk

Bloxham School, Banbury +44 (0)1295 720206. Co-educational, ages 11-18, day and boarding. www.bloxhamschool.com

Cherwell School, Oxford +44 (0)1865 558719. Co-educational, age range 13-18, day. www.cherwell.oxon.sch.uk

Dragon School, Oxford +44 (0)1865 315400. Co-educational, age range 3-13, day and boarding. www.dragonschool.org

Headington School, Oxford +44 (0)1865 741968. Girls only, age range 3-18 (boys, 3-4), day and boarding. www.headington.org

Magdalen College School, Oxford +44 (0)1865 242191. Boys only, age range 9-18, day. ww.magdalen.oxon.sch.uk

Oxford High School (01865 559888). Girls only, age range 3-18 (boys, 3-7), day. www.gdst.net/oxfordhigh/

Radley College, Abingdon +44 (0)1235 543000. Boys only, age range 13-18, boarding. www.radley.org.uk/

Summer Fields, Oxford (01865 554433). Boys only, age range 7-13, boarding. www.summerfields.oxon.sch.uk/

Tudor Hall School, Banbury +44 (0)1295 263434. Girls only, age range 11-18, day and boarding. www.tudorhall.oxon.sch.uk/

Leisure

Golfcourses: North Oxford (01865 554415); Southfield, Oxford (01865 242158); Chesterton, Bicester (01869 241204)

Hunts: the Heythrop; the Bicester and Whaddon Chase; the VWH.

Fishing: rivers Cherwell, Thame, Windrush and Thames.