I’ve always been a fan of programmes where they take a tired old building and turn it into something special.
Not the ones with Laurence Llewelyn Bowen where they just light a few candles and get some new cushions, but the Kevin McLeod type where they rebuild castles or make houses out of straw.
That’s probably why I found the idea of staying at the Oxford Spires Four Pillars Hotel in Oxford so appealing.
Eastwyke House, in the grounds of the hotel, is a 16th century building that has been fantastically restored.
Since 1511, the house has played host to a rich tapestry of guests across the centuries, including Royalist soldiers led by King Charles I, fighting their battles against Parliamentarians led by Oliver Cromwell, during the English Civil War.
And now they can add my name to that list.
The restored building officially opened in December and has just 10 rooms, each named after bridges in and around Oxford.
We stayed in the attic of the building, which has lots of lovely exposed beams, a couple of old fireplaces and a nice roll-top bath.
The hotel says staying in Eastwyke House offers you the chance to follow in the footsteps of kings.
I would hope they were fairly short kings because while the wooden beams look charming there’s definitely potential for some head banging.
Particularly if you’ve spent the evening eating, and more to the point drinking, in the hotel’s popular Deacons restaurant. With 170 rooms at the hotel booking a table is essential, such is the demand among guests and non-residents, but having eaten there two nights in a row it’s easy to see why.
There’s a regular menu, with old favourites such as lamb stew with dumplings and mashed potato as well as a different fish and meat special each night. The dishes we tried included an excellent rib-eye steak and a delicious tuna steak.
I’d also recommend Branca, a lovely Italian restaurant in the Jericho area.
The hotel, which has free parking, is also in a great spot for getting out and about on foot. The city centre is just half-a-mile away and you could spend all day investigating Oxford on foot.
We started in Broad Street and headed to Blackwells Art and Poster shop where you can see a statue by Antony Gormley, the artist who created the Angel Of The North, standing on the roof.
Blackwells’ main bookshop is also worth popping into to see the Tardis-like basement stuffed full of academic books. Next door is the New Bodleian Library which is also worth a look.
Opposite that is the Museum of the History of Science, which contains the blackboard on which Einstein wrote when he visited Oxford.
I would also recommend walking through Oriel Square which leads to Christ Church College and Merton. Christ Church is a fantastic cathedral and there’s also a picture gallery.
The Ashmolean Museum of Art and Archealogy, which has undergone a £61m regeneration, is well worth a visit.
Named after Elias Ashmole, an aficionado of antiquities who studied at the University of Oxford, the museum offers a wealth of fascinating items including the lamp carried by Guy Fawkes during the Gunpowder Plot in 1605.
Just as important is the fact that on the fourth floor there’s a restaurant that serves lovely cream teas.
· Weekend breaks in March start from £59 per person, per night. Visit four-spring.co.uk to book, or call 0800 374 692.
· The Ashmolean Museum is in Beaumont Street, Oxford. For info call 01865 278000 or visit ashmolean.org.
· For information on tours of Oxford contact the Tourist Office, in Broad Street, on 01865 252 200.
· To reserve a table at Branca, Walton Street, call 01865 556 111.