Take a delightful walk across open country and through fine parkland to a splendid Tudor pile.
Distance 2.7 miles (4.4km)
Minimum time 1hr 30min
Ascent/gradient 82ft (25m)
Level of difficulty Easy
Paths Field and parkland paths and tracks, some roads, 6 stiles
Landscape Rolling farmland and parkland to south west of Banbury
Suggested map aqua3 OS Explorer 191 Banbury, Bicester & Chipping Norton
Start/finish SP 421384
Dog friendliness Under control across farmland and by Broughton Castle
Parking Limited spaces in Broughton village
Public toilets Broughton Castle, for visitors; otherwise none on route
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1 Keep Wykeham Lane on your right and parkland on the left and walk through the village of Broughton. Pass Danvers Road on the right-hand side, followed by Danvers Cottage on the left and, when the road curves right just beyond the cottage, swing left over a stile, signposted 'North Newington'. Keep ahead across the field to reach a stile in the next boundary, then carry straight on in the next field to cross a footbridge in the trees. This is sometimes obscured by foliage during the summer months. Continue ahead, keeping a line of trees on your right-hand side and, three-quarters of the way along the field boundary, look for a footbridge on the right.
2 Cross the footbridge, followed by a concrete track, to reach another stile, and head diagonally right across the field to a minor road. Take the right of way on the opposite side and follow a stretch of the Macmillan Way between fields to reach a stile. Cross the stile to the lane and turn left. Walk towards the village of North Newington, passing the entrance to Park Farm on your right-hand side. Pass the Blinking Owl pub and Wheelwright Cottage and then turn left into The Pound, opposite the old village pump.
3 Walk past Pound Cottage and look for a footpath which starts about 30yds (27m) beyond it on the right-hand side. Follow the footpath diagonally right across the field to reach a wide, obvious gap in the hedgerow on the far side. Turn left to reach another gap in the hedge, then head obliquely right in the field, making for the top corner, which is defined by trees and hedgerow. Pass through the gate and keep ahead, with the field boundary on your immediate left. Walk along to the next gate and then down the field to the road.
4 Cross over the road to a galvanised gate and follow the track towards some barns. Keep to the left of these buildings and look for a stile and footpath branching off to the left, running hard by a fence on the right-hand side. Follow the path to reach a stile in the far boundary and cross over into the parkland of Broughton Castle. Soon the spire of Broughton church and the outline of the castle and its moat come into sight ahead of you. Continue ahead across the parkland and down to meet the castle drive. Head for a gate into the churchyard and then follow a path to reach the B4035 on the outskirts of Broughton. Turn left along the road and return to the start of the walk in the village centre.
One of the pleasures of walking in the countryside is that initial glimpse of a ruined church, a wonderfully eccentric folly or a distant baronial hall. The first sighting of Broughton Castle usually provokes a gasp of surprise, too, as it edges teasingly into view across an extensive swathe of green lawns and classic English parkland.
The castle was originally built as a fortified manor house by Sir John de Broughton early in the 14th century. Later it passed to William de Wykeham, the famous founding father of Winchester College and New College, Oxford, who set about converting the manor house into a castle, designing battlements and a gatehouse among other additions. One of Broughton's greatest attributes is its 14th-century private chapel, approached by a stone staircase from the groined passage.
In the 15th century, Broughton passed by marriage to the Fiennes (pronounced 'Fines') family when the granddaughter of Sir Thomas Wykeham, great-nephew and heir of William, married William Fiennes, 2nd Lord Saye and Sele. During the Elizabethan era the house was transformed virtually beyond recognition into the Tudor building you see today.
During the Civil War, the Fiennes family were staunch supporters of the Parliamentarians and did much to defend this corner of Oxfordshire. The 1st Viscount Saye and Sele, demonstrating caution and common sense, was dubbed 'Old Subtlety', and it was within the walls of the castle, in the Council Chamber, that Puritan leaders such as Pym, Hampden, Vane and Essex met to plot the Great Rebellion and thwart Charles I. Saye and Sele raised his own regiment of dragoons, known as Lord Saye's Bluecoats after the colour of their uniform, from among his tenantry. Together with his four sons, he fought at the Battle of Edgehill in 1642, but soon afterwards the castle was besieged and captured. The distinctive compound title of Saye and Sele dates from the original creation of the barony in 1447.
Members of the Fiennes dynasty still live at Broughton Castle, which is open to the public (not daily - check for opening times), and today the name takes on even greater significance. Ralph and Joseph, both well-known and well-respected film and stage actors, are members of the family.
Not surprisingly, the castle often crops up as an imposing backdrop in film and television productions. Perhaps most notable on the list of credits is the 1998 film Shakespeare in Love in which Broughton Castle appears as Viola's stately home. The dance, where Will first meets her, was filmed in the Great Hall, with its beautiful plaster ceiling and hanging bosses, while it is in the Oak Room that Wessex tells Viola that she is to be married. For outdoor scenes, an artificial balcony, overlooking formal gardens, was constructed, representing part of Viola's bedroom.
The Saye and Sele Arms in Broughton, refurbished in 2002, is a popular, characterful pub offering everything from sandwiches to steaks. As well as the dining area, there is a garden where you can relax over a drink after the walk. Food is not available on Sunday evening. The Blinking Owl at North Newington is cosy on a cold winter's day, and has traditional ales and a good menu. There is a tea room at Broughton Castle.
Visit Banbury, the second largest town in Oxfordshire, renowned for its historic buildings and different architectural styles. Banbury's new museum occupies an attractive canalside setting and its modern displays illustrate the town's origins and colourful past. The Civil War and Banbury's manufacturing industry are covered.
As you cross the parkland towards Broughton Castle, look for the spire of Broughton's Church of St Mary, its imposing tower crowned by a fine spire. The church dates mainly from the 14th century and includes an elaborate painted tomb of Sir John de Broughton.