Oxford's an hour west of London along the M40, and 90 minutes from Bristol via the M4 and A420. If you want to hire a car, try www.hertz.co.uk - you get a 10 per cent discount if you're a Smith cardholder, just quote '635230' when you book.
London's Heathrow airport is about an hour away from Oxford by car, Gatwick a little further - about 90 minutes.
Trains run to Oxford from London Paddington every 20 minutes during the day. They're almost as frequent in the evenings; the journey takes about an hour. There are no direct services from Heathrow or Gatwick, but travelling via London, you'll still be in Oxfordshire within two hours.
Country code for the UK: 44.
Evelyn Waugh's darkly funny Decline and Fall draws on his rollicking student days at Oxford. Other Oxford University alumni include Percy Bysshe Shelley, Oscar Wilde, WH Auden and Philip Larkin.
Do go / Don't Go
This part of the country is beautiful whatever the season, but it can get a bit tourist-heavy during the summer. And keep away from Henley in the first weekend of July - the Regatta's on, and the place will be packed.
Some of the best food in the UK is on your doorstep, be it Raymond Blanc's fine French cuisine or gastropub grub.
Even outside Oxford train station, it can be hard to find a cab. Ask your hotel for details of a good local company and book ahead.
About 12.5 per cent is appreciated in restaurants.
Go on, take a deerstalker and a pair of boots so you can look the part when you try clay-pigeon shooting. Or bring some white-board pens for jotting down those inspired mathematical theories on a convenient window pane…For those of you who are not complete fantasists, an umbrella and some good walking shoes will be enough.
One of the world's most respected universities is here, so there's enough arts and culture to keep your mind and soul tingling for decades. The Ashmolean on Beaumont Street (+44 (0)1865 278000; www.ashmol.ox.ac.uk) is the world's oldest public museum, a beautiful building containing a cornucopia of artefacts. Pitt Rivers Museum on South Parks Road (+44 (0)1865 270927; www.prm.ox.ac.uk) houses an ever-growing collection of anthropological and archaeological treasures. Head to Modern Art Oxford for Tracey Emin and Gillian Wearing (+44 (0)1865 722733; www.modernartoxford.org.uk).
Head to Woodstock and take a walk around the beautiful stately gardens of Blenheim Palace, landscaped in the 1760s by Capability Brown or, if it's rainy, head inside for a look around the lavish palace rooms (+44 (0)8700 602080; www.blenheimpalace.com).
Pootle about in the smaller villages and you'll be rewarded with antiques shops and nursery gardens. The Swan in Tetsworth has dozens of traders, and will have you swooning over antique jewellery and vintage fashion (+44 (0)1844 281777; www.theswan.co.uk). For newer garms, try Lacy's and Sassi in the centre of Oxford.
Take a hot-air-balloon flight (most hotels, including Le Manoir aux Quat' Saisons, can arrange one for you; otherwise, try Virgin Balloon Flights on 0870 420 7300) and float above the dreaming spires.
If you crave a bit of intellectual hush, head to the Norrington Room, in the cellar of Blackwell's bookshop on Oxford's Broad Street, and browse its three miles of books.
May The Henley Food Festival includes cookery demos from Heston Blumenthal, Raymond Blanc, Tom Aikens and Antony Worral Thompson and their ilk (www.henleyfoodfestival.co.uk). The Oxford Balloon Fiesta at Cuttleslowe Park, where you'll spot dozens of the contraptions floating through the sky, and get the chance to fly in one yourself (+44 (0)800 052 1455). The Blenheim Triathalon sees thousands swim, cycle and run against the clock - but you can just watch if you like. July The Truck Festival near Abingdon (www.truckfestival.org) is a small but perfectly formed music weekend that has seen bands including the Magic Numbers and Piney Gir grace the (really quite small) main stage. The Henley Royal Regatta: like Ascot, but in boats instead of on horses (www.hrr.co.uk). For more details, see our European events guide Smith 52, or buy the book for the full insider lowdown.