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Social media overhaul – update April 2015!

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Hi everyone,

So I’ve been having a bit of an overhaul on all of my social media accounts lately and thought I’d bring you an up to date tally of my current number of followers across the board. I last did something similar at the start of 2015 with my post New Year News so thought I’d write a comparison article so you can see how fast my blog is growing month on month. I’m aiming to bring you these reports every three-four months so it’ll be Summer by the time the next one’s here!

Trip Advisor

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I’ll start with the site that actually has my biggest audience and is where I get a lot of my readers from. My Trip Advisor account is hugely successful; with over 40,000 readers and a 100% score for helpful votes (all 68 of my reviews have been voted as ‘helpful’ by other reviewers!). I have also consistently been voted in the top 1% of reviewers across the whole of Oxfordshire- not bad for someone who just writes as a hobby! My monthly reviews from the site detail the number of readers I’ve had per post, along with notifications of any ‘helpful votes’ that my reviews have received from my readers. I use Trip Advisor every single time I book a break away and so far it’s never failed to help me pick the best hotels/restaurants for my holiday destinations! I’m constantly reviewing places that I’ve been to and often link these back on my blog posts to increase my readership. I’m aiming to have close to 50,000 readers by the end of 2015, so here’s hoping I can get to that milestone!

Twitter

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My other large following is on my personal Twitter account which I use to promote my blog and I currently have over 800 followers which is growing on a daily basis. I’ve had Twitter since 2011 and think it’s a great way to connect with fellow social media users. Hash tags are incredibly effective for enabling my blog to be seen by larger audiences and I use this wherever possible when posting new links. I’m aiming to reach a massive 1000 followers by the end of the year and that’ll be a huge break through for me.

Instagram

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I’ve only had my Instagram page since the end of December 2014 but already I’ve grown a substantial following of over 320 users. Like my Twitter page, my Instagram account is a personal one and so I sometimes post things that aren’t necessarily related to my blog. Although at times this may not seem totally professional, I feel that having a personal account can actually help to widen the audience for my blog as it can instantly be seen by my friends, family and existing followers who may have liked other things that I have posted about. It’s all about the visual effects on Instagram and I love how I can edit some of my best photos and share them with my audience. I take part in #tbt (Throwback Thursday) probably twice a month and always link this to my Throwback features whenever I blog about them. I’d love to get to 500 followers over the next nine months and I think that’s an achievable target for me.

Facebook

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My Facebook page is relatively new but I’m almost at 100 likes already (only one more to go!!). I like that Facebook lets me create a timeline of events and I’m always posting milestones that I’ve reached or big occasions that I’ve taken part in. Datewise, it’s handy to refer back to and it’s visually very appealing to lots of my readers. I do however feel that Twitter & Instagram allow me to reach a wider audience because of the power of hash tags, but as the majority of my readers have personal Facebook accounts I couldn’t miss out on the opportunity to appear on their news feeds! I’d like to get to 200 followers by the time 2016 comes around.

LinkedIn

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This may not be an obvious choice for a social media account but, professionally, LinkedIn is by far the best out there. I’ve only had my account for a few months but already I’ve racked up close to 350 connections, had numerous job offers and am constantly being viewed by other users. The site is great for posting status updates and I upload photos and links to my blog whenever I have a new post to share. Although the audience is only as wide as the number of people that I’m connected to, it helps massively when getting new readers and LinkedIn is statistically one of the best referrers to my blog. I’m aiming for at least 500 connections by the end of the year.

WordPress

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Of course, where it all started! I wouldn’t have even set up my blog had it not been for WordPress and it’s brilliant free themes! I wanted to run a blog for free and WordPress gave me this opportunity so i grabbed it with both hands and have never looked back! In previous posts I’ve debated whether or not I should switch from my WordPress site to a more flexible self hosted site but for now I am completely happy with my blog and can’t see any reason to change it! My daily statistics give an in-depth insight into the number of readers I’m gaining as well as detailing information on which sites they were referred from so I can see where most of my traffic is originating. I’ve had over 3000 hits to my blog so far- I wouldn’t be where I am today without WordPress and for that I am eternally thankful!

I hope you’ve enjoyed reading this insight into the ongoing growth of my blog – thank you so much for your support as I’d be nowhere without you all! Please continue to like/subscribe to my posts and follow my social media accounts to keep up to date with everything that’s going on in the world of Journeys with Jessica!

Love Jess x

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Blenheim Palace: A brilliant family day out!

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Hi everyone,

I hope you’ve all been enjoying the lovely sunshine we have been having lately! Last Saturday I went on a family day out to the beautiful Blenheim Palace in Woodstock, Oxfordshire (the birthplace of Sir Winston Churchill!) and had such a fantastic time. We had bought annual passes for my mum for her Mothers Day present so we took the opportunity to use them and spent the whole day at the palace and gardens.

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The arrival to the Palace is truly spectacular, it’s such a beautiful building and looks so impressive from the outside. The interior is equally as stunning and, as this was my first time going in to the Palace since a primary school trip, I couldn’t wait to start exploring properly! We were taken into the Palace bedrooms where Winston Churchill resided and learnt a lot about the history of the rooms. We then joined The Untold Story which outlined the heritage of the Churchill family and took us back in time to the 1700s. The tour was a walk round event but each room had interactive features including touch screen monitors, audio speakers and screen projectors. Lasting for around 30 minutes, the tour was really informative and I’d recommend attending to ensure you make the most out of your visit to the Palace.

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After a short stop for lunch at the on site Cafe we then headed to the Pleasure Gardens to enjoy the afternoon sun. The Pleasure Gardens are a 5-10 minute walk from the Palace or a short train ride away if you prefer to use this method of transport- bear in mind that it will set you back 50p per adult! The Gardens is home to the exotic butterfly house, model village, family maze and children’s play area. You could bring a picnic and easily spend a couple of hours here exploring, and there is a nice restaurant/cafe on site. The maze was brilliant, and yes I did get lost as it was much more difficult than I thought!

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We bought Annual Passes for Blenheim so we can come back as many times as we want and therefore we didn’t experience all that there is on offer. For our next visit we will be taking the dog and going on a long walk around the grounds, so I’ll be sure to write another blog post on this! Blenheim really is a beautiful place and is fun for all the family. As a tip I would definitely recommend getting an Annual Pass as it’s the same price as a 1 day ticket! Don’t forget to head over to the kiosk next door to the Palace Cafe to get your pass. For an extra £5 you can also upgrade to a prestigious card which will get you 15% off all purchases in the cafe and gift shop – definitely worth it!

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I hope you’ve enjoyed my Blenheim write up- have you ever been/ever wanted to go? Make sure you do – you won’t regret it! If you have any questions at all please just ask 🙂

Love Jess x

All about the stats!

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Happy Monday everyone!

I hope you’ve all had a good weekend?! I always like to take an extra day to catch up from my notoriously busy Saturday’s & Sunday’s so use Monday’s as a good opportunity to take stock of important things like blog updates & stat counts! When I logged in to WordPress this afternoon I was thrilled to receive a notification stating that my blog was attracting more traffic than usual.. Intrigued, i headed over to my stats section to see what had been going on..

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The weekend tends to be a good time to attract readers to my blog as people tend to be off work browsing the net and are likely to have more free time on their hands, and this weekend was certainly no exception. As you can see from the print screen below, my blog attracted 169 views with 5 visitors in just 24 hours yesterday (Sunday 29th March) – that’s 33.5 views per visitor! For me, that’s a massive achievement given that I’ve been very poorly lately and haven’t blogged in almost two weeks so haven’t had any new material to share with my readers.

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Surprisingly, my blog was viewed by readers in the US over 160 times yesterday as opposed to the minority of just 4 readers based in my home country of the UK which is where most of my audience are from. Although I don’t have the ability to see who my readers are or what area they live in, the country identifier is really handy and I’m always interested to know what parts of the world my blog is reaching out to. It’s incredible to think that my posts are being read internationally, and that’s something which I hope will continue for a long time to come. The table on the left also shows how many times previous posts were viewed, with some of my posts dating back to May last year, so it’s nice to know that people do still read them!

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Finally, referrals are a really important area for me to focus on and I’m constantly wanting to know whether people just happened to stumble across my site on Google or whether they follow me on social media and have linked to my blog via that avenue. Interestingly, most of the referrers in yesterday’s stat review were from WordPress itself which heightens my opinion that it’s best for me to stick with my current WordPress site rather than switching to a self-hosted page. (Read more about my dilemma on this matter here!) It’s also useful to know that Twitter & LinkedIn don’t feature on yesterday’s stat review although a lot of my posts are always shared on those sites. I’ve actually given up Facebook for lent so haven’t been expecting any traffic to come from that, but it’s good to know that at least one referral came from there yesterday!

As mentioned earlier in this post, I haven’t been very well at all lately and actually spent most of last weekend in hospital. I’ve used the past week to recover and focus on getting better which might explain why I haven’t been very active in the blogosphere lately! I’ve got some great posts coming up though, and lots planned for the Easter break which I’m very excited about. Thanks to my lovely readers, as always, for your continued support and I promise to be back to normal soon!

Love Jess x

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European City Break: Prague!

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Hi everyone,

So I’ve just returned from my first city break of 2015 and I headed to the beautiful Czech capital of Prague for a quick getaway with my sister! Prague is such a beautiful city and, with so much to see and do, we had the most amazing time! We took off from London Gatwick airport on the morning of Friday 27th Feb and after a short 1hr35 flight (which literally flew by!) we landed safely at our destination. And as if by magic you can now BOOK the exact same trip I planned in one easy step – scroll down and read the last paragraph for details! In the meantime though, here’s what we got up to in Prague…

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During our adventure we stayed at the 4 star Hotel Louis Leger, located on Lergova Street a 15 minute walk from the famous Wenceslas Square. The hotel was clean and comfortable although a little old fashioned and dated in my opinion but I guess that’s just because I’m used to staying in big modern chain hotels, so this one definitely made a nice change! You can read my Trip Advisor review on Hotel Louis Leger here: http://www.tripadvisor.co.uk/ShowUserReviews-g274707-d510395-r258188149-Hotel_Louis_Leger-Prague_Bohemia.html#REVIEWS

DAY 1

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On our first day we spent some time checking out the local area, shopping in the various boutiques, and getting our bearings right before heading down to Wenceslas Square and then onto the Old Town to stop for some lunch. Food and drink prices in Prague are notoriously cheap and were amazed at how much we could get for our money; we definitely overindulged while we were there, but it was totally worth it! Once we had finished exploring and had been back to the hotel to freshen up we then headed to a nearby Italian, The Coloseum, for some yummy pizza, pasta & ice cream and enjoyed the evening together. The location of the hotel was quite a walk from the Old Town (30-40mins) but a manageable 15min walk from Wenceslas Square which wasn’t too bad. There were shops and restaurants lining the streets up to Wenceslas Square though so if your like us and didn’t fancy walking far on the first night you’ll have plenty of other choices for dinner a bit nearby! You can see my Trip Advisor review of The Coloseum restaurant here: http://www.tripadvisor.co.uk/ShowUserReviews-g274707-d795457-r258189275-Pizza_Coloseum_Original_Pizza_Pasta-Prague_Bohemia.html#REVIEWS

DAY 2

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We had booked a 4 hour tour for our second day and were so looking forward to seeing all the sights of the city. Martin Tours booked us on to The Grand Tour of Prague and we spent most of it on foot exploring everything there was to see. Trip advisor review here: http://www.tripadvisor.co.uk/ShowUserReviews-g274707-d4960295-r258190924-Martin_Tour_Prague-Prague_Bohemia.html#REVIEWS Our guide was very friendly and knowledgeable and gave us plenty of time to take photos and ask questions etc, there were only a few of us on the tour so it was very personal which was great. We started in a minibus that took us from Wenceslas Square through the New Town, past monuments such as The Dancing House and The Rudolfenium, all the way to the top of Prague Castle.

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We then made our way around the complex, seeing the inside of the stunning St Vitus Cathedral, passing the Presidential suite (the flag was flying so the President himself was home!) and enjoying panoramic views across the city before beginning our descent towards the Old Town. Once we’d reached the bottom of the castle area we headed on foot to our next star attraction, Charles Bridge, which was truly a wonderful sight. Dating back to the 13th century, the bridge spans the width of the River Vltava and it’s history is etched into it’s bricks. Walking across the bridge was quite an experience, with our guide giving us the background on it’s purpose and it’s origins, and we could see for miles down the river.

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Next we headed to Old Town Square and saw the Gothic Church of Our Lady before Týn and the picturesque Old Town Hall before ending up at the breathtaking Astronomical Clock Tower to watch the clock strike on the hour – definitely a sight not to be missed! The figurine of a skeleton below the clock face pulls a cord which in turn opens four windows above to show the 12 disciples rotating around and the chimes can be heard loudly. There’s something quite eery and mystical about the whole thing and it’s worth seeing just make sure you are there on the hour!

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Later in the afternoon we were booked on to a river boat cruise which sailed up and down the Vlatva. The cruise lasted for an hour, complete with English speaking guide who gave a running commentary, and there were plenty of photo opportunities throughout as we made our way up towards Charles Bridge and back. We passed Prague Castle, the Prime Minister’s residential home and a few other attractions on our way downstream and the boat then dropped us back at the port where we had to walk back into the city.This only took 5 minutes and we were back in Old Town Square before we knew it!

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Later on in the evening we made our way to Wenceslas Square for dinner and ended up in a delightful restaurant, Como, which was part of the Javert Hotel right on the strip. The food was incredible, I had a tradtional Czech beef goulash whilst my sister opted for the homemade lasagne. Although the restaurant was quite fancy the prices were great and we thoroughly enjoyed spoiling ourselves! View my review of Como Restaurant here: http://www.tripadvisor.co.uk/ShowUserReviews-g274707-d1568048-r258189073-Como_Restaurant_Cafe-Prague_Bohemia.html#REVIEWS

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DAY 3

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On our third and final full day we had booked an afternoon World War Two Tour with a different company, Prague Tours and were very much looking forward to seeing what was in store for us. In the morning though we needed something else to do for a few hours and so decided to climb to the top of the Astronomical Tower (as you do!) for a panoramic view across the city. We paid 120 korona each (just £3!!) to climb right to the top of the tower and when we got there we saw the most amazing sights and the views were incredible. Plenty of photos were taken and we made the most of our view by just enjoying the atmosphere and admiring the city for a while before we had to come down!

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After a short stop for lunch we met our tour guide, Marketa (who was fantastic), outside the historic Powder Tower and were taken round the streets of the Old Town for the first part of our tour, passing various parts of the city which were heavily involved in WW2. We were taken on foot through the Old Town and then gained access to the lower part of the Astronomical Tower, exploring the underground chambers which we learnt were used for hideout by members of the Prague Resistance. This was a fascinating part of the tour and it was so interesting to walk through the areas that were used in such an important historical time period. We also learnt a lot about the assassination of Nazi SS leader Reinhard Heydrich by local Czech residents, and the terror that Nazi occupation brought to a city desperate to be free from invasion although it was key to Hitler’s quest for world domination.

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Next we headed into the Jewish Quarter to see the areas known as Ghetto’s during WW2 and learnt about how badly they were treated by the Nazi’s. I found this part of the tour very emotional, and so did a lot of the others as Marketa explained the horror that was bestowed upon these innocent people during one of Prague’s darkest times. At points, Jews were shot at by Nazi soldiers if they so much as walked on the pavement! Shocked and disgusted, I couldn’t even imagine something like that happening in today’s world; Marketa spoke with such deep emotion when she explained things that had happened and it moved a lot of us in the group to tears. We ended up near Charles Bridge again and wound up our tour having an open conversation, raising questions and pointers about the main areas before saying goodbye and returning back to the city centre. My sister and I thought this was the best city tour we had ever been on and had real admiration for Marketa; she knew her facts, was very passionate and extremely friendly. You can view my Trip Advisor review on the tour here: http://www.tripadvisor.co.uk/ShowUserReviews-g274707-d2254923-r258191625-World_War_II_in_Prague_Tour-Prague_Bohemia.html#REVIEWS

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Dinner that night was at the incredible Hard Rock Cafe, the biggest one in Europe, and we certainly had a dining experience to remember! We each chose huge burgers for our main and had a couple of cocktails, the music played in the Cafe was shown on big TV screens on the walls and really added to the ‘rock’ vibe that was present. The food was great, the atmosphere was brilliant and we couldn’t fault the friendly service; we even wandered around the shop afterwards in search of some merchandise! Read my rocking review of this place on my Trip Advisor account: http://www.tripadvisor.co.uk/ShowUserReviews-g274707-d1516182-r258189525-Hard_Rock_Cafe-Prague_Bohemia.html#REVIEWS

On our fourth and final day we woke early for breakfast, checked out of our room, and headed to nearby Praha airport (a 30 min taxi ride away) to catch our flight back to London Gatwick. We had a brilliant time in Prague and I’d highly recommend it to anyone looking for a short European break in a cultural, historical and beautiful city. With so much to see and do you are certainly spoilt for choice, although three nights was plenty of time for us to explore everything we needed to.

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My next trips are concerts & day trips in Oxford and London so I’ll keep you posted on these, I have family down for a couple of weeks for Easter and then I’m heading back to Liverpool again in April so I’ve got plenty to be blogging about!

As mentioned above, you can now book the EXACT trip I did in one easy step – just click on the link below for more details and to request a quote!

Get a quote for this trip

Love Jess x

NEW FEATURE Top 5 Things to do in… Oxfordshire!

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Hi everyone,

Welcome to a BRAND NEW monthly feature of mine: Top 5 Things to do in…! I thought I would compile lists of top five things to do in some of my favourite areas across Europe so I can share my experiences with you all and pass on some handy info! This week I have chosen to share my home county with you all; Oxfordshire really is a beautiful place to live in and I definitely take it for granted at the best of times! I think it’s because I’m always planning my next adventure and I’m always itching to travel to different places so I end up feeling bored if I have to stay home all weekend, but there’s so many things to see and do around here that I really should get out and make the most of it! As you may have seen from one of my previous posts, I was recently a ‘tourist for the day’ in my home city of Oxford and had so much fun! So, without further ado, please see my list of top five attractions below:

1)     University Parks, Oxford

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Take a stroll round one of the most famous universities in the world and soak up the history by walking round the colleges and grounds where people such as Lewis Carroll, Oscar Wilde, Margaret Thatcher & Hugh Grant once studied. The Uni Parks are particularly beautiful in the summer, so why not grab some of your friends together for a picnic and catch up over some Pimms & lemonade whilst you relax in one of the prettiest parts of the country! What’s more, the parks are totally free to walk around so you can just rock up whenever you fancy and can spend as little or as much time there as you see fit! The parks are right in the centre of Oxford so you can easily go shopping throughout the day and make the most of it, this is a must on my summer list as soon as I have a free weekend and the sun looks set to last!

2)     Blenheim Palace, Woodstock

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I adore this place simply because of how beautiful it is! Located in the picturesque village of Woodstock, this amazing building was the birth place of the great Winston Churchill and is the only building in the UK to be named as a palace despite not having any connections to the royal family. It is now home to the Dukes of Marlborough and the grounds and parts of the house are open to the public between February and November throughout the year. The grounds are amazing, we used to go and take the dog who was in heaven running round all the grassy areas and making friends with the other canines! We also used to collect conkers during the autumn months when the trees looked incredible and the leaves would all fall off creating a blanket across the whole area; it was even more beautiful in the snow too! Over the years, Blenheim Palace has been host to a number of high profile events, including half marathons & triathlons, battle of the proms, game fairs and celebrity weddings (Marvin & Rochelle Humes and John & Toni Terry both got married here). I haven’t been to Blenheim in a long time but am super excited to plan another day trip here with my family when the weather starts to improve in the Spring!

3)     Cotswold Wildlife Park, Near Burford

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I have been visiting the Cotswold Wildlife Park every year since I was a baby and even now I still adore it and love it just as much as I did when I was a kid.  The attractions keep on getting better and better each year, with new animals and enclosures added all the time to enhance the park. A particular favourite of mine has always been the penguin pool with the daily talks and feeds from the keepers which make the experience so interesting. The best thing about the park is that you can explore totally at your own leisure, following lots of different paths towards all the enclosures so you get to see it all throughout your trip. Make a day of it and stop for lunch – thats what we do everytime! Take a picnic and park up on the various benches and greens that are present throughout, or visit the cafe which serves numerous hot meals at decent prices. My last trip to the park was in September 2014, where I had a lazy Saturday but an incredibly busy Sunday!

4)     The Radcliffe Camera, Oxford & Bodleian Library, Oxford

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These two landmarks are located side by side and so go hand in hand; they are definitely a must see when visiting Oxford! They are truly beautiful and I am in awe every time I pass themwhen visiting Oxford for the day; it definitely doesn’t get old! These iconic buildings situated in the heart of Oxford should definitely NOT to be missed. After building began in the 1700s, the camera was inherited by Dr John Radcliffe (the royal physician) and was home to a stunning library housing around 600,000 books. Today they are used in connection with each other but sadly the Camera is not open to the public so must be marvelled at from the outside only. The Library is in use though and students often make the most of the serenity and go there to revise in peace! The Library has also been used in some major TV and film projects and is probably most famous for being home to The Hogwarts Infirmary in the blockbuster Harry Potter movies.

5)     White horse Hill, Uffington 

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This unique spectacle is certainly something to be marvelled at and can be seen from miles and miles away! The internationally-renowned Bronze-Age Uffington White Horse can be seen leaping across the head of a dramatic & beautiful landscape. As part of the National Trust, the house is situated in miles of rolling countryside and is a perfect place to head off for a long country walk or to park up for the day and enjoy a picninc. As kids we used to come here to fly our kites on a windy day and would spend hours getting lost in the expansive valleys. The horse is part of the unique complex of ancient remains that are found at White Horse Hill and beyond, spreading out across the high chalk downland. Bring the whole family for a day out where you really can escape in this stunning countryside.

So there you have it, my list of Top 5 Things to do in Oxfordshire. Next month’s feature is London and it’s going to be a gooden so make sure you keep an eye out for it!

Love Jess x

 N.B. Photos of Uni Parks, Blenheim Palace, Cotswold Wildlife Park & White Horse Hill are courtesy of Google Images. All other photos are my own.