Chipping Norton in the Cotwolds – Things to see and do

The highest town in Oxfordshire and once an important centre for the Cotswold wool trade, Chipping Norton was given a charter by King John in 1205 to hold a wool fair. This later became a mop fair, a tradition still maintained as a funfair. 

Affectionately known by locals as “Chippy”, the town’s riches are reflected in the Guildhall and St Mary’s Church and its history is lovingly traced in the Chipping Norton Museum of Local History. On the west side of the town, Bliss Mill was built as a tweed mill by William Bliss in 1872. In 1913 to 1914 the millworkers went on strike for eight months. The mill closed in 1980 and has since been converted into flats. It remains a local landmark, clearly visible from Worcester Road. The town’s popular modern-day attractions include The Theatre and Chipping Norton Lido, the outdoor swimming pool. 

Chipping Norton is in the Witney parliamentary constituency, and its MP since 2001 has been David Cameron, who has been Prime Minister of the United Kingdom since 2010 and leader of the Conservative Party since 2005 . The growing number of celebrities who have homes in or around the town – including former national newspaper editor Rebekah Brooks and Top Gear presenter Jeremy Clarkson – has led to the city becoming associated with the so-called “Chipping Norton Set”. 

Although the expression may have raised Chipping Norton’s profile somewhat, it can give outsiders a rather misleading impression of the town, as the reality is that Chippy is a good, honest, working Cotswold town and most of its so-called “celebrity residents” actually live in their country homes a few miles away.

Things to see and do

Chipping Norton is a charming market town in the Cotswolds, offering a mix of history, culture, and scenic beauty. Here’s a guide with sub-headings for what to see and do in Chipping Norton:

Historical Attractions

Bliss Tweed Mill: This iconic building, once a textile mill, is now converted into residential apartments. You can’t tour the inside, but it’s worth a visit to appreciate its impressive architecture.

St. Mary’s Church: A fine example of a Cotswold church, this medieval building features beautiful stained glass and intricate stonework. Take a stroll through its peaceful churchyard.

Chipping Norton Town Hall: This historic building is at the heart of the town’s activities. It’s worth stopping by to see its unique design and catch any local events.

Cultural Highlights

The Theatre Chipping Norton is a small yet vibrant theatre that hosts plays, musicals, concerts, and films. Check its schedule for events during your visit.

The Rollright Stones: A few miles outside Chipping Norton, this ancient stone circle dates back to prehistoric times. It’s an atmospheric site, shrouded in legend and mystery.

Chipping Norton Museum: Discover the town’s history through exhibits showcasing local industry, farming, and everyday life from bygone eras.

Outdoor Activities

Ramble Through the Cotswolds: Chipping Norton is surrounded by picturesque Cotswold countryside. Walk along one of the many trails, enjoying the rolling hills and quaint villages.

Wildlife Watching: Head to nearby nature reserves, like Foxholes Nature Reserve, for birdwatching and a peaceful outdoor experience.

Local Shopping and Markets

Chipping Norton Market: Held on Wednesdays, this traditional market features local produce, crafts, and antiques. It’s a great way to experience the town’s lively atmosphere.

Unique Shops and Boutiques: Explore the independent shops along the town’s high street, which offer everything from artisanal crafts to vintage items.

Food and Drink

Pubs and Restaurants: Chipping Norton boasts a variety of traditional pubs and modern restaurants. Visit The Chequers or The Fox for classic pub fare, or try The Blue Boar for a more contemporary dining experience.

Local Tea Rooms and Cafés: Enjoy a quintessentially British experience at a local tearoom, such as Whistlers Café, which offers delightful teas and homemade treats.

Nearby Attractions

Blenheim Palace: A short drive from Chipping Norton, this grand palace and UNESCO World Heritage Site is a must-see. Explore the opulent rooms and beautiful gardens.

Soho Farmhouse: A luxurious country retreat with various facilities, including restaurants, spas, and activities. It’s an exclusive spot, but if you can gain access, it’s worth a visit.

Events and Festivals

Chipping Norton Literary Festival: If you visit in the spring, check out this annual literary festival, which features author talks, workshops, and more.

Chipping Norton Music Festival: A long-running music festival that combines talent from various genres. It usually takes place in March.

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