Boswells Blog - 2016

7th December 2016

Gifts To Get Excited About This Christmas

Gifts To Get Excited About This Christmas

Making someone’s eyes light up on Christmas day, as they tear back the paper to reveal the perfect gift, can be one of the most rewarding parts of this time of year. Sadly though, most of us don’t have a workshop full of elves at our disposal, and so tracking down that perfect present can take a little bit of work. But worry not, the Boswells elves are here to help! We’ve scoured our departments and put together a list of some of the products we’re most excited about this Christmas to help you on your way!

Read on or click one of the links below:

Christmas Fun                        Wining and Dining

Stylish Gifts                            Something to Snuggle Up With

Perfect for Pampering

Christmas Fun

Halilit Xylophone ImageIf it’s “the most wonderful time of the year” for many of us, then that generally goes doubly for the youngest among us. Here are a few toys that caught our eye that might help to make their day very merry and bright indeed.

The Halilit Xylophone is a great way to introduce the youngest member of the family to the fun of making a little music. Suitable from 12 months onwards, this instrument is both colourful and capable of producing magical sounding notes, and sure to be a "hit" (yes, pun intended).

Bubble Science Kit Image

In addition to all the tinsel and twinkley lights, we think that Christmas would definitely benefit from a few festive bubbles here and there. Luckily there’s an easy way to see to this, with the Kidz Labs Bubble Science Kit. It’s a box full of fun bubble experiments and even a recipe to make your own bubble mix. It really is the perfect gift for enquiring minds and bubble-fans across the land!

Live Pets Butterfly ImageLittle Live Pets are generally a fantastic idea, giving your kids a chance to learn about looking after pets while playing, and with (mercifully) less mess than a real pet. We especially recommend the Flutter Wings Butterflies, which flap playfully in your hand and respond to your attention…plus they come in such beautiful designs and colours!

Hexbug Spider Image

The Hexbug Spider, Scarab or Fire Ant are also great fun, as you get to make these colourful remote control creatures scurry around your home. There are also Hexbugs that you can put in water, such as the Aquabot Jellyfish, Seahorse or Angel Fish, which are all a bit of splashy fun.

Big Ben Image

For those that love to build and create, it doesn’t get much better than building your own LEGO® Architecture Big Ben! The finished thing is 19.6cm tall, so while it’s pretty detailed it's not such a gargantuan task that it’s likely to devour the whole of Christmas day. Alternatively, for some truly imaginative building fun, you could give a tub of LEGO Classic Creative Bricks a go, they are a classic for a reason, after all.

Strongarm Image

If you’re feeling bold enough, then we recommend the Nerf N-Strike Elite Strongarm, which fires foam darts and can hold up to 6 darts at any given time. A foam dart dual could be just the thing to liven things up while you wait for the turkey to be done, or to settle any of this year’s board game controversies, but they’re also great fun for throughout the year.

Stylish Gifts

Organiser Purse ImageIf you’ve been searching for the perfect gift for someone super-stylish we’ve got good news: we have two excellent new gift ranges by Ted Baker that are sure to make someone’s Christmas that bit brighter. The “You’ve Been Gifted” range features a variety of goodies, from notebooks and colouring pencils to a really handy looking organiser purse, all of which are covered in a gorgeous porcelain rose design. The “Gift That Keeps on Giving” range includes everything from a pen set to a glasses case, in a very nice leather brogue, as well as some very cool jungle print flasks. Both ranges manage to tick the useful box, but with that little bit of added class.

Van Gogh Umbrella

For all those art-lovers out there we have something a little extra special, and wonderfully practical, with an incredible range of art themed umbrellas. Yes, Fulton Umbrellas have teamed up with The National Gallery to bring you the masterpieces of Renoir, Monet, Turner and Van Gogh to brighten up those drab and drizzly Winter days. These umbrellas look fantastic, and fold up nice and small to fit in a bag…sounds good to us!


Wining and Dining

Spiralizer Image

If you know someone who loves to spend their time creating masterpieces in the kitchen we’ve got a great selection of gifts to help them to artfully slice and dice away. We highly recommend the La Vida Verde Spiralizer as a fantastic gift idea. This handy kitchen gadget can cut fruit and veg into noodles, ribbons and spirals for a variety of different types of dishes.

Global Knife Set

We also have some excellent knife sets this year—an ever-popular gift choice. The Taylor’s Eye Witness knives, for example, have anti-bacterial, carbon coated blades that make them very swish indeed. The carving set is a particularly apt Christmas present, which will no doubt prove useful on the day itself. We also currently have a very special 7 piece set of Global Knives on a particularly good offer, which we think is definitely worth taking a gander at.

Brandy Glass Image

If you're considering giving someone the gift of some excellent drinkware this Christmas, then we can't recommend the Dartington Wine and Bar glassware range highly enough. This fantastic collection includes some wonderful specialist glasses, such as those for brandy, port and sherry.

Grunwerg 5 Piece Wine Set Image

Speaking of drinkware, we have to say that we’re pretty impressed with the Grunwerg 5 Piece Wine Set, which includes a wine pourer, a bottle stopper, a corkscrew and a wine collar, as well as a beautifully crafted bamboo box for storing a bottle in—just the thing for any wine connoisseurs out there!

Kilner Barrel Dispenser Image

For those of you who are planning a Christmas or New Year party or gathering this year, you might want to consider getting your hands on a Kilner 1 litre Glass Barrel Drink Dispenser, which is both really useful and looks truly great. Simply fill it with your drink of choice, and you’re away!

Bodum Cafetiere Image

And for anyone who's serious about their coffee, it doesn’t get much better than a Bodum Cafetiere! The 3 cup and the 8 cup cafetieres both come in a stunning range of colours, which make tailoring the gift to the person nice and easy!



Something to Snuggle Up With

Thermosoft Throw Image ReindeerWe all know that one person who can never quite get warm enough this time of year, and so we thought it was worth spending a little time looking at some perfect gifts for warming anything from hearts to toes.

Snuggle Touch Throw Lagoon ImageFor those that love to snuggle up under a bundle of layers to stay warm, what could be better than a super-soft throw? We have lots of amazing throws to luxuriate in getting comfy under, and that look fantastic draped over furniture. The Theromosoft Throw range comes in several different print designs, including woodland animals and two superbly-festive Christmas designs—reindeer and snowflakes. These throws are perfect for adding a little something extra to the home décor, or for wrapping up warm. The Snuggle Touch Throw comes in an array of rich and vibrant colours and is sumptuously soft, and nice and warming too—a trusty friend on a cold, Wintry night.

Intelex Microwavable Dragon Image

There are also other, soft and cuddly ways to keep warm though, which also make fantastic gifts. These soft toys by Intelex each contain a wheat pouch that can be removed, heated in the microwave, and popped back in to the pouch for some super-warm hugs. The collection includes familiar characters such as Boofle, Gromit, Bagpuss and Shaun the Sheep, as well as adorable dinosaurs, elephants, monkeys and dragons. They also come in a plain corduroy or tartan wheat bag option.

Top This Hat Kit Image

If you fancy getting a little creative then why not have a go at one of these terrific Top This Hat Knitting Sets, which make a great gift with a personal touch. The set comes with a hat topper and all the wool you’ll need to create a cosy children’s Winter hat. There are lots of Christmas and animal themed kits to choose from, and each kit comes with instructions.

Perfect for Pampering

Roger and Gallet gift Set ImageIt’s always nice to get to pamper someone with something extra special at Christmas. Luckily we’ve got some cosmetics gift sets this year that are just the ticket!

Orange Blossom Travel Gift Set Image

The Roger & Gallet hand care range, for example, has some fantastic gift sets that are a great way to keep those hands soft and supple during the harshest of the cold weather. Or, if you know someone who’s always on the move, one of The Somerset Toiletry Company’s gorgeous scented travel kits could make the perfect gift. They come in 5 different scents, from Jasmine to Orange Blossom, and fit nicely in a bag for a trip away.

Gold, Frankincense, Myrrh Gift SetFor something just a little extra festive for the occasion, though, we have to say we’re really excited about Heyland & Whittle’s Gold, Frankincense and Myrrh range, which includes a fabulous selection of candles, soaps and diffusers. This range seems like a pretty great way to put a smile on someone’s face, and make their home smell a little like the nativity at the same time, what's not to love?

Santa Image

These are just a few of the great gifts that we have available in store and online this Christmas, so why not click here and get inspired, or pop in and see us for lots more Christmas goodies? We hope that you have a wonderful Christmas and a fantastic New Year. Merry Christmas, from all of us here at Boswells!

15th November 2016

Have Family Fun This Christmas

Have Family Fun This Christmas

As we enter the second half of November, it really is beginning to look a lot like Christmas. And while the big day itself may still be a few weeks away, you’ll no doubt be tucking into a big juicy turkey, pulling crackers, and getting everyone together for a Christmas Day board game before you know it! To help you to sucessfully celebrate the latter of these annual traditions, we’ve been taking a look at some of this year’s best new games. Here are some of the highlights:

Family Fun Games

Pie Face

Pie Face ImageA huge hit this time last year, Pie Face is a quirky game of chance in which you attempt to dodge getting slapped in the face with cream—think Russian Roulette, but with dairy products. Pie Face is basically the best excuse you’re going to get for seeing your nearest and dearest get splattered with a face full of whipped cream this Christmas…be sure to have the camera on standby. This year, there’s also the new Pie Face Showdown game to have a go at, if you fancy your chances. Pie Face is tonnes of fun, and excellent for diffusing any tension caused by the standard, annual board game quarrels.

Googly Eyes

Googly Eyes Image

If you’re a master at drawing and fancy a bit of an extra challenge, Googly Eyes is exactly the game for you. Put on a pair of ridiculous glasses that distort what you see as you try to draw, and then see if your team mates have any idea what your work of art is supposed to be. Anne in our Toy Department had a go at playing the game and told us: "Once I'd got over laughing about the ridiculous look wearing the googly glasses, I was set off again by my poor efforts of drawing with limited vision." There are 3 levels of difficulty to try your hand at, each of which is sure to reduce you to fits of laughter as your artistic talents and spatial awareness are put to the test. Yes, you too can achieve looking silly and drawing badly with this great game.

Beat the Parents

Beat the Parents

For some great inter-generational fun, why not try playing Beat the Parents? In this challenging game parents and children are pitted against each other, as parents answer questions about things that their children should know, and vice versa. It's a fun way to find out who really knows more in your household.

Other great family games worth having a gander at this Christmas include Yeti in My Spaghetti, 5 Second Rule and the slightly off-beat, toilet themed game, Plop!

Single Player Games


Addict-A-Ball Image

If you’re a fan of a solo challenge then you might want to give Addict-A-Ball a try. More than just a simple puzzle of guiding a ball-bearing through a maze, Addict-A-Ball features several stages of highly addictive (the clue is in the name) puzzling that is sure to keep you occupied for the duration of the festive season. Shannon in our Toy Department gave it a glowing recommendation. She told us:

“This is a fab gift for anybody who loves a challenge. All you have to do is work a silver ball around a maze from start to finish without it falling off. Sounds simple, right? But there are lots of difficulties along the way. It’s great for hand-eye coordination, concentration and patience. You can also time yourself to see how fast you can complete it. I would recommend this to anyone who enjoys puzzles and likes to be focused.”

Other great single player games that you might want to take a look at this Christmas include Rush Hour, Balance Beans, Spot the Difference Mini and the Micro edition of the ever-popular Bop It

Suitable for Children Under 6

If you’re looking for something that you can play with the youngest members of your clan, then look no further, we have some suggestions to get you started!

Pass the Bomb Junior

Pass the Bomb Image

Based on Pass the Bomb, this is a great junior edition of the best-selling game. All you have to do is turn over a card and name something that belongs in the picture...except you do this while holding a bomb that could go off at any minute (don’t worry, it isn’t real). The objective is to not be holding the bomb when it suddenly goes off. It’s a lot of fun, and much harder than you expect to think up answers when there’s a ticking bomb to race against! Our Toy Department tells us that “It’s an extremely easy game to play and is hilarious fun as you frantically throw the bomb around. It’s also quite educational for young ones and I think it’s a really good value game that makes a wonderful gift.”

Bunny Jump

Bunny Jump Image

Bunny Jump is fantastic fun if your little ones enjoy a good game that will keep them on their toes with suspense. If you scare the bunny while pulling carrots from the vegetable patch he’ll hop high in the air, making everyone jump out of their skins. Try and pick as many carrots as possible before the bunny takes fright, and see if you can catch him too! We also recommend Squeak and Shopping list as great games for children under 6.

Games for Adults

Pass the Pud ImageNope, age isn’t a valid excuse for bypassing sitting down to a good Christmas game of something or the other. If you’re a fan of trivia, then you’re rather spoiled for choice, with both the excellent new Trivial Pursuit 2000s edition game, which tests your knowledge of the first 10 years of this Millennium, and the After Dinner Trivia game, which has everything from odd facts to tongue twisters to keep you entertained. If you like a bit of a challenge, then you might fancy a game of Name 5—a game in which you work your way around a board, trying to name 5 of various things to advance your way to the finish line. And, for a bit of after-Christmas-dinner fun, there’s always Pass the Pud—a Christmas Pudding themed version of Pass the Bomb, but this time you’re racing against the burp.

The Classics

Scrabble ImageBut let’s not forget some of those time-honoured family favourites as well. For many people this time of year means doing anything to purchase Mayfair in Monopoly, desperately rifling through the dictionary to prove that "quodibet" is a Scrabble worthy word, or circling their masterpiece of a Pictionary drawing one more time in the hopes that that will make it clear what on Earth it is. In my family, for example, it means my dad's annual, and often outlandish, attempts at getting out of his customary Connect 4 defeat (the game has been suspiciously "missing" since my victory last year). Yep, while there are lots of exciting new games out there to try your hand at, unsurprisingly, the classics remain popular and continue to rank amongst our bestselling games!

Cluedo Image

The Oxford Edition of Monopoly always proves a popular choice, and if you happen to know someone who’s always fancied owning Cornmarket, this could be just the gift for them. And, for many, it really wouldn’t be Christmas without having a go at solving the murder of Cluedo’s ill-fated Dr Black (they're all rather suspicious characters if you ask us). But if you’re just looking to be inspired then there's plenty of great games out there to get stuck into, such as the recent re-release of Classic Operation (beware the charlie-horse), the ever-popular Hungry Hungry Hippos (still peckish after all these years), and you can’t really go far wrong with a pack of Uno cards! All of these games, and many many more, can be found in our Toy Department, on the first floor of the store, and are available via our website too.

So why not gather your favourite people together for some great festive fun with a game or two of an old favourite or of a future classic, and make it a Christmas to remember!

15th October 2016

Boswells Gets Ghoulish for Halloween

Boswells Gets Ghoulish for Halloween

As the nights grow longer and darker and the eerie Autumn mist begins to settle and shroud the city it can mean only one thing: Halloween is nearly here!

Pumpkins Image

To help get you in the mood for all things gruesome and ghastly we’ve been digging up some chilling local ghost stories, and some of them are really quite brilliant.

Founded over 1000 years ago, it figures that the city’s history is full of grisly tales of horrific deeds and suffering spectres. It seems that most, if not all, of the older colleges have at least one spooky story to boast, and spirits supposedly abound in other key spots around the city as well! Here are a few of our favourite Oxford ghost stories, but the feint of heart should beware, severed heads abound…

Ty Beanie Ghost

The Playhouse Theatre

The Playhouse Theatre is apparently haunted by a white veiled lady, who lingers in its stairways. Who the veiled ghost might be is unknown, but some say she’s a manifestation of a ruined nunnery/friary that stood on the spot until about 500 years ago. Whoever she is though, she’s no doubt seen some incredible performances over the years! Keep an eye out for her on your next visit.

Magdalen College

Spooky ImageOne particularly spooky Oxford tale is an account of a mysterious spectre spotted on the lawns of Magdalen College. When the story initially dates from is slightly murky, but the story goes that a student was walking across the College grounds early one morning when they spotted a figure dressed entirely in black. As it drew closer the student noticed that not only was the figure gliding, rather than walking, its face (or its head, depending on who’s telling the story) was altogether missing. As it approached the light, the apparition vanished. There have been alleged sightings ever since.

Charles I Execution Painting

Christ Church College

Christ Church College lays claim to a famous, in fact a royal, ghost, amongst its many other accolades. The spirit of King Charles I supposedly lurks in the College grounds, at times appearing with his head, and at others reportedly without. During the height of the English Civil War Oxford was a Royalist stronghold, and Charles made the Christ Church College Deanery his palace, and held Parliament in its Great Hall, perhaps explaining why many have claimed to have seen him there. Alternatively, he might just have developed a posthumous interest in Harry Potter, you never know…

(Image Credit).

Banbury Road

Skull ImageOne of the grisliest Oxford ghost stories features a headless wanderer on the Banbury Road, the late George Napier. Napier was hanged, drawn and quartered for being a Catholic priest at a time when a fervently Protestant England was still very fearful of Catholicism in the wake of the failed gunpowder plot, only 5 years before. Following his gruesome execution Napier’s quarters were separated and a piece was sent to each of the four city gates, while his head was apparently set on Tom Tower. The story goes that Napier’s ghost assembled the various pieces of his body, but could not find his head. He’s said to roam up and down the Banbury Road in an endless, and ultimately fruitless, search for his missing head.

Spider Web Image

St John's College

St John’s College Library is apparently host to the ghost of Archbishop William Laud, who was the Chancellor of the College from 1629-1633. He was rather unfortunately beheaded for treason in 1645, after spending several years locked in the Tower of London. Students have reported being disturbed by Laud while studying late in the Library. His ghost apparently wanders the library passageways a couple of centimetres above the ground, a candle in one hand as he kicks his ghostly severed head along the corridor before him. Some accounts have him removing his own head from his neck and aiming it at those unfortunate enough to cross his path. Incidentally, the library itself was supposedly built, in part, with the leftover bricks from the ruined friary where The Playhouse Theatre now stands—a somewhat eerie coincidence?


Cartoon Ghost ImageThat’s right, as a not-so-new establishment ourselves, Boswells of course has a few spooky tales of its own, and although (as far as we’re aware) no one has ever seen our resident ghost, George, he can from time to time be heard clattering about. There are numerous stories about who George was and how he died, but he’s believed to have worked as a pharmacist at Boswells in the 1920s or 30s. Some say he committed suicide, others that he fell down the lift shaft. Either way, whenever anything mysterious happens here at Boswells, poor George tends to get the blame. Of course he also gets the blame for little things like knocking stock off shelves and the frequent disappearance of people’s pens…couldn’t possibly be any other explanation…

But whether you believe in George or not, the staff have some great stories to tell, and so here are a couple just for you!

Stockroom ImageLaura from our Accessories department told us that she’d heard George wandering about a few times. On two occasions she was in a stockroom, in one of the older, creakier parts of the building, when she heard footsteps on the old wooden floorboards. When she looked there was no one else to be found on the entire floor. Laura said she’d also heard similar mysterious footsteps in the basement, and again there was no one around.

Ghost Bag Image

Anne in our Toy Department also had a particularly chilling story to share. She said that one day she got chatting to a customer who was staying in rooms adjoining Boswells. The customer told her “how noisy our night security guard was, banging about, walking noisily, and this happened over several nights.” The customer was somewhat alarmed when Anne told her that there was no night security guard. No one at all had been in the building overnight.

Happy Halloween!

Halloween Display Image

If all of this talk of ghosts has sufficiently whetted your appetite for some ghoulish Halloween fun then you’ll be delighted to hear that we’ve got a great new selection of costumes, make-up and decorations in store and online to help make your Halloween a hit. And why not pop in and say hi to George over the coming weeks, we’re sure he’d love to meet you...

Pumpkin Carving Image

Our special thanks to the Boswells staff for generously sharing their ghost stories with us, some of which we sadly didn’t get a chance to use. If you’ve got any great Oxford ghost stories of your own that you’d like to share with us we’d love to hear them!

Happy Halloween from all of us at Boswells!

Image Credit: Jake Bevan

25th September 2016

Our Guide to Finding the Right Umbrella For You

Our Guide to Finding the Right Umbrella For You

Ah, the British weather, predictably unpredictable, whatever the time of year, and often just determined to get you soaked for the fun of it. As we head towards Autumn it seems quite likely that we’ll see a fair amount of rain, and chances are it will start and stop whenever it feels like it, with very little warning…which is where our trusty friend the umbrella comes into the equation. A good umbrella is an ally against the weather, one that will do its best to keep you dry at a moment’s notice, whether the weather likes it or not.

Rain Image

But not all umbrellas are good umbrellas, in fact not all umbrellas on the market are even water-resistant (don’t worry, we only stock ones that are)! And so trying to find the right rainproof companion to shield you when the weather gets a little rocky can be a little puzzling, and there are so many different types of umbrellas out there to choose from! The trick, really, is matching the umbrella to your needs, so we’ve put together a guide to help you find the ideal one.

Keep reading, or click one of the links below.

Finding the Right Size...                                      Is It Easy to Hold?

Automatic Vs Manual?                                        How Strong is It?

What's It Made From?                                         Do You Like the Design?

Finding the Right Size...

The starting point with any umbrella buying quest is usually size, and there are a lot of factors to take into account when sizing up your new umbrella.

Golf Umbrellas

Cyclone ImageThe bigger the canopy, the more shelter from the rain your umbrella can potentially offer. Large golf size umbrellas are often very sturdy, many of them are even able to withstand high wind-speeds without giving up at the crucial moment. We particularly recommend the impressive Fulton Cyclone, as both the largest and strongest umbrella that we stock, and it comes with a shoulder strap to make carrying it a bit easier.

But while there are definite advantages to carrying around a huge golf umbrella, it may not always be the most practical option. Trying to navigate around the often busy, and sometimes narrow, streets of Oxford, for example, with your own portable roof over your head could be really rather tricky, and getting snagged on other passing umbrellas seems all the more likely. The very large golf umbrellas also tend to have a long handle shaft, which can make them somewhat cumbersome to drag around with you all day, and so are perhaps better suited for rainy jaunts into more open areas. If you’re often on foot in urban areas then a smaller and more easily portable option may suit your needs better.

Walking Umbrellas

Knightsbridge ImageA walking umbrella is a popular option, as these full length umbrellas offer a sizeable canopy for coverage, and are a bit more practical to carry around than a golf umbrella. It’s also worth noting that the fewer moving parts an umbrella has then the stronger it probably is, and the longer its life expectancy. Walking umbrellas then, are a good investment, as they have few folding parts that can break, and the handle shaft is generally very sturdy, since it's one continuous piece. They also look great, and are a smart solution to staying dry. Why not check out the Fulton Govenor, Knightsbridge or the iconic Birdcage design.

The walking umbrella, however, can’t fit inside a bag for easy storage, and may not be the lightest option for carrying with you all day—especially if you only need an umbrella just in case it does rain.

Folding Umbrellas

Tiny 2 Umbrella ImageThis common problem is, of course, where the folding umbrella comes in handy, and these come in a range of sizes and weights. While most folding umbrellas don’t offer a huge amount of coverage (and there are some exceptions), they do usually give enough to keep you dry if you get caught unexpectedly out in the rain, and they’re fantastic for storing in your bag, which means you can always have your umbrella to hand when you need it most. It’s worth bearing in mind, though, that because they can fold up conveniently small, folding umbrellas do tend to be that little bit more vulnerable to wind damage than some of their larger counterparts.

The Fulton Superslim is our smallest and lightest umbrella when folded, closely followed by the Tiny 2. Both are fantastic for carrying with you at all times in case it rains, and they come in a range of colourful designs. For a folding umbrella with a larger canvas, though, take a look at the Minilite or the Stowaway, which give that little bit more coverage, or the Jumbo and the Tornado, which fold up to a length of 37cm, but open out to an amazing 120cm canopy!

Some Things to Think About...

Aside from the physical size of the umbrella, there are other factors that are worth thinking about in order to find an umbrella that suits your needs.

Automatic vs. Manual?

Open & Close Umbrella ImageIf you’re constantly finding yourself struggling to put your umbrella up while you get drenched then you might want to consider an automatic umbrella. These work so that your umbrella will spring open at the touch of a button, saving you the struggle and keeping you dry that little bit quicker. An automatic umbrella can be a great idea if you’re prone to catching your fingers in the mechanism, or generally if you’re popping in and out of the rain and want an easier, quicker way of putting your umbrella up and down. If you’re looking for a good automatic umbrella, we suggest a Fulton Open & Close folding umbrella, or the Knightsbridge walking umbrella.

Birdcage Umbrella ImageBut of course, as with any feature, there are also certain drawbacks to an automatic umbrella. Because the automatic function relies on a mechanism and a button it slightly increases the number of possible ways in which the umbrella might break, which can reduce its lifespan. The automatic mechanism may also mean the umbrella weighs a little more (although light ones are also available), which is especially worth thinking about if you’re looking for something convenient to pop in a bag and carry everywhere.

If a manual umbrella is your preference, you’ll be pleased to hear that many umbrellas now have safety catches and easy to use buttons, so you’re less likely to pinch your fingers trying to get out of the rain. Some umbrellas, such as the Fulton Birdcage umbrella, simply glide open, no need to fiddle with buttons.

What's It Made From?

Umbrella Spokes Image

Not all umbrellas are made out of the same stuff, and believe us, the materials used can have a big impact on the strength and weight of your umbrella. A fibreglass frame, for example, will be very strong, and often non-conductive (ideal for storms, as with the Cyclone). Aluminium, while not quite as strong as fibreglass, is nice and light, and so great for storing in your bag. Some smaller umbrellas use a combination of the two, so you get the best of both.

Handle Image

Is It Easy to Hold?

The last thing you want is an umbrella that’s uncomfortable to hold in the wind and the rain, so we can’t stress enough the importance of picking an umbrella with a handle that’s comfortable and easy to hold. This largely comes down to preference, and factors such as the size of your hands. It's often really a case of trying out different ones to see what feels comfortable—and bear in mind that you might need to be able to hold it in either hand.

If a walking umbrella or a golf umbrella are your preference then bear in mind the length of the umbrella when folded relative to your own height. If the umbrella is too long for you to comfortably carry, then it probably isn’t a good choice.

How Strong is It?

If you’re looking for something sturdy then we recommend taking a peek under the canopy, as not all umbrellas are held up in the same way. The rule of thumb generally is: the more spokes from the handle shaft holding things up, the better supported the canopy is likely to be (and better suited it is to enduring weather). For a small umbrella 6 spokes is fairly standard, but with larger umbrellas we recommend something with 8 or more spokes supporting the canopy against the weather.

Check, also, if the spokes themselves have other supports coming off them, as this can mean the difference between keeping dry or ending up wet, with an umbrella in the bin… Some umbrellas come with a little added reinforcement, such as polycarbonate joints that give it the extra strength sometimes needed against the volatile British weather. 

Cyclone Polycarbonate Spokes Image

If that sounds good then we suggest taking a look at the Fulton performance range, which comes in three different sizes: the Hurricane, the Tornado and the Cyclone (the latter of which is wind tested up to an impressive 78mph!).

It's worth bearing in mind that no umbrella is completely wind-proof (every umbrella has its limits, and this will vary), but many do offer wind-resistant features, such as a wind vent or the ability to turn inside out with the wind rather than immediately breaking as soon as a slight breeze comes along. We suggest finding out what kind of wind resistance your umbrella offers before you buy.

Do You Like The Design?

Umbrella Wall ImageAn umbrella with a colourful design can help brighten up those rainy spells, while allowing you to add your own personal touch to staying dry. Black remains a popular option, but there are umbrellas of all colours and patterns available on the market, as well as transparent ones. As well as Fulton’s wonderful, colourful designs we also stock designer umbrellas from Orla Kiely and William Morris, which feature sturdy Fulton frames. Take a peek also at our very own exclusive Oxford Skyline umbrellas, made especially for Boswells by Royal Warrant Holders, Fulton Umbrellas...they’re something really rather special, if we do say so ourselves.Oxford Skyline Miniflat

So if your current umbrella has suffered a recent injury, gone for a wander, never to return, or if you’re simply looking for something new, we’re well stocked with a huge variety of least one of which is bound to suit your needs. Our entire umbrella range is available online, or why not pop in to our Accessories department for a little extra advice before you buy?

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14th September 2016

LEGO® Minifigures Series 16 Has Arrived!

LEGO® Minifigures Series 16 Has Arrived!

Summer is over and it’s back to school for some, yet September also symbolises the release of more LEGO®, the most exciting of which is the brand new batch of collectable Minifigures, Series 16! A return to the standard formula after the last wave of Disney themed figures, Series 16 offers 16 original LEGO creations to collect, each individually wrapped in a yellow packet. From fairy-tale to sci-fi, there’s bound to be one for you…

Banana Guy Image

Banana Guy

Starting off the collection is what I would deem to be one of the most popular figures released to date, the Banana Guy. The main attraction is the new banana piece, making him similar to the Hot Dog Suit Guy from series 13. Perhaps they are the perfect pair?

Desert Warrior

Desert Warrior

With Disney still on the mind this guy looks like he’s walked out of the world of Aladdin with his green Turban and his large black sabre, a piece I don’t remember seeing used since the 2003 Orient Expedition theme.

Penguin Boy Image

Penguin Boy

This adorable little figure is the next in the so called mascot series: those figures that are dressed up as animals. This figure not only comes with a new head, but also a pair of skates. Also note that his arms have been replaced with flippers.

Ice Queen Image


Ice Queen

This figure is pretty impressive, with an array of pieces from a frozen tiara to blades of ice that she can hold. The most unique accessory is her jagged edged, silver dotted cape, which finishes off the imposing figure.

Spy Image



Start singing the Mission Impossible theme ‘cause this stealthy figure is ready to break in and out of any LEGO building. Equipped with goggles and a length of rope, this figure will never be caught on the job!

 Hiker Image


With a slightly more relaxing pastime than the spy, the Hiker has been given a map and compass, both of which feature unique printing, so he should never get lost. He comes with a brilliant double sided head with one face looking super pleased but the other looking a little lost.

Kickboxer Image




This fighter is highly detailed, with impressive printing to create shorts and shoes. The red gloves are brilliant combined with the helmet, and she even comes with a normal hair piece for after those fights, which must be tough seeing as she has a bead of sweat on her double sided face…

Spooky Boy

Spooky boy

The male counterpart to the Spooky Girl, this kid looks a little confused for some reason. He appears to be a vampire, as a fang is poking out of his mouth. He isn’t short of accessories, with both a spider and a spooky tales book in hand.

Rogue Image



This hooded archer is quite the fig. Sporting a bow and arrow, this green and brown clad warrior hides a nod to classic castle themes with a wolf pack broach. The new hood piece completes the figure.

Cyborg Images


Quite the striking character, the Cyborg has green and silver printing to represent computer circuits that have replaced part of her body. The printing is complimented by the striking blue hair piece and she is bulked up with an armour chest piece and a gun, giving her all she needs for combat.

Cute Little Devil Image


Cute Little Devil

This figure is already dressed up for Halloween and he even has a pumpkin bucket to collect those sweets. A plethora of pieces come in this packet, from tail piece to pitchfork.

Dog Show Winner Image


Dog Show Winner

Any Terrier fans out there? It seems LEGO picked up on the dog’s success at Crufts this year, for now you can buy the first ever Scottish Terrier dog. Don’t forget he comes with a trophy. Oh! And the proud owner (or possibly judge) who even has a treat in his pocket for the 1st prize winner.

Scallywag Pirate ImageScallywag Pirate

This pirate harks back to the popular classic theme with his garish colours and classic sword. But now the pirate has a modern twist, with the new bald head/bandanna piece. Speaking of new, that map he comes with has a brand new design which must mean a new lot of treasure to find. X marks the spot!

Babysitter ImageBabysitter

With the 1st LEGO baby being made earlier this year it was only a matter of time before LEGO released another baby. This time he comes with an adorable blue bib, complete with a tiny elephant design. The Babysitter herself has a great pug design on her shirt and her hair is quite a rare piece. Well worth picking this one up for the baby alone, who also comes with a blue bottle.

Wildlife Photographer ImageWildlife Photographer

A personal favourite of mine, this figure comes set up in her arctic gear with a camera at the ready to take pictures of what is the first LEGO penguin (excluding Duplo). The penguin is adorable and goes great with the Penguin Boy from earlier. It even has a stud on its back so other figures can ride it, but you’ll need a stand to stop them from falling over!

Mariachi ImageMariachi

Last but not least is the Mariachi in his ornately detailed black suit, highlighted with intricate silver symbols. His hat and moustache create an authentic Mexican feel, but the best piece has to be his guitar (a brand new piece), which is perfect in every way.

This series has a great variety of figures, which have just been released. Find them in store or online in the little yellow blind bags. Good luck finding your favourite figure!

1st September 2016

The Ultimate Guide to Student Offers in Oxford 2016

The Ultimate Guide to Student Offers in Oxford 2016

There are shops, cafes and restaurants all over Oxford helping you save money with a variety of great student discount offers this Autum, and wiith great discounts being offered by a variety of both independent and high street shops you’ll find yourself going home with a bit more money to spare. Many places will accept your student ID card but some deals are exclusive to NUS Extra, UNiDAYS or Student Beans, all of which are worth signing up to to make sure that you make the most of the discounts that are available!

Books & Stationery

The Norrington Room ImageBlackwell’s (Broad Street) - Blackwells, one of the UK's biggest bookstores, loves students. They offer a number of deals, including up to 50% off text books. You can also get second hand books at a cheaper price as well as special course bundles. Pictured is the famous Norrington Room in the basement.

Paperchase (Queen Street) - Students get a 10% discount with a UNiDAYS code.

Ryman (Queen Street) - The famous stationer brand offers students a 10% discount with a UNiDAYS code.

Waterstones (William Baker House, Broad Street) - Our neighbour has a 10% student discount with a UNiDAYS code when you spend £25 or over. They also have a Student Rewards point scheme.

WH Smith (Cornmarket Street) - You can get 25% off stationery with an NUS Extra card until 30th September.

Fashion, Health and Beauty

Accessorize (Queen Street) - Get a 10% student discount with an NUS Extra card.

Ede & Ravenscroft ImageEde and Ravenscroft (High Street) - Providing ceremonial robes, menswear, womenswear and graduation gowns for generations, this specialist shop offers a 10% student discount on certain items.

Fat Face (Cornmarket Street) - Enjoy a 10% discount with an NUS Extra card.

French Connection (Clarendon Centre, Queen Street) - Students receive a 15% discount with a valid student card or UNiDAYS code.

Jack Wills (High Street) - Get a 10% student discount available with a UNiDAYS code or an NUS Extra card.

Karen Millen (High Street) - 10% student discount available with an NUS Extra card.

Moss Bros (Cornmarket Street) - Students get a 15% discount with a UNiDAYS code.

Oasis (St Ebbes Street) - Discount of 10% for students with an NUS Extra card or a UNiDAYS code.

Office (Clarendon Centre, Queen Street) - 10% discount for students with a UNiDAYS code.

Schuh (Magdalen Street) - Get a 10% student discount with a valid student card.River Island (Cornmarket Street) - You will soon be able to get a 20% student discount with Student Beans. Check the River Island website for the start of this promotion.

Shepherd and Woodward (High Street) - As the largest supplier of academic gowns and robes for The University of Oxford, and selling classic & contemporary menswear, you’ll be sure to be making a trip here. They don’t have a student discount but they do have different package offers throughout the year.

Cornmarket Street Image

Topshop/Topman (Queen Street) - Students get a 10% discount with a UNiDAYS Code or with Student Beans.

Anne Veck (St Clement’s Street) - This award winning hairdresser gives students with a valid student card a 20% discount on Mondays, Tuesdays and Wednesdays.

Specsavers Opticians (Queen Street) - Save 25% on the price of designer frames with an NUS Extra card or another valid student ID.

Superdrug (Market Street) - Show your NUS Extra card with a Superdrug Beauty card and get a 10% discount.

Vision Express (The Golden Cross, Cornmarket Street) - Save 20% on prescription glasses and contact lenses with an NUS Extra card and a voucher that can be downloaded from their website.


The Co-Operative - Get a 10% discount with an NUS Extra Card. Based in several locations around Oxford.

Cafés and Restaurants

You don’t have to stop eating out when you’re a student thanks to these great deals from local and national restaurants:

ASK Italian (George Street) - You can get 25% off your bill with an NUS Extra card on Wednesdays, Thursdays and Sundays.

Gloucester Green Image

Bella Italia (George Street) - Check out the student menu (including pizzas, pasta and 2 for 1 cocktails) and dine for only £5, Sunday-Thursday. Look out, also, for their student nights, which give you the chance to get up to 50% off the bill.

Castle Pub (Castle St) - Is Hook Norton's first Oxford Centre pub. Jem contacted us in January 2018 and is keen for you to know that Student's get 25% off food on presentatio of Student ID. 

Combibos (Gloucester Green) - This family owned and run coffee shop in the centre of Oxford gives students a 10% discount.

Dominos (Park End Street) - Deals include 25% off when you spend over £25 with an NUS Extra card.

El Mexicana (Gloucester Green) - 10% discount with a valid student ID card. You can also earn points for free food with their app.

Giraffe (George Street) - Students get a 20% discount with an NUS Extra card.

Gourmet Burger Kitchen (George Street) - A 30% student discount is available when you download their free app.

Jimbob’s Baguettes (Magdalen Street) - This sandwich shop has a huge variety of bread and filling options to choose from and gives students a 10% discount.

Las Iguanas (Park End Street) - Get a 25% discount Sunday-Thursday with a valid student ID.

McDonalds (Cornmarket Street) - With a valid student card or UNiDAYS code you can get a free Mayo Chicken, Cheeseburger or McFlurry Original when you buy an Extra Value or a Wrap Meal.

Noodle Nation ImageNoodle Nation (Gloucester Street) - A 15% student discount is available with a valid student card.

Pizza Express (The Golden Cross, Cornmarket Street and Castle Street) - Offers up to 40% discount on Monday and Tuesday, 20% on Wednesday and Sunday, and 3 courses for £11.95 on Friday and Saturday with an NUS Extra card.

Pizza Hut (George Street) - Get 20% off food when you show a valid student ID card.

Yeti (Cowley Road) - Get 10% off some great Nepalese food with a valid student ID card.

YO! Sushi (George Street) - Eating sushi doesn’t have to be expensive with 25% off when you join YO! Sushi’s student club.

Zizzi (George Street) - You can get 40% off the total of your bill on Mondays and Tuesdays with an NUS Extra card, and 25% off on Wednesdays, Thursdays and Sundays. Offer ends October 5th 2016.

Leisure and Travel

Taking some time out for a little fun is essential, and all the more affordable thanks to these great deals:

16-25 Rail Card (Oxford Station) - Save a 1/3 on rail fares within the UK. If you’re over 25 and in full time study you’re still eligible, you just need to get confirmation from your university or college.

Odeon (George St and Magdalen St) - Save money on the price of tickets with a valid student ID card, and get a further discount of up to 25% with an NUS Extra card! Prices and discounts may vary depending on the film, cinema and showing time.

Ultimate Picture Palace Image

The Oxford Playhouse (Beaumont Street) - Save £2 on ticket prices with a valid student ID card.

The Phoenix Picture House (Walton Street) - Sign up for student membership for £15 to get 2 free tickets and 10% off food and drink.

STA Travel (George Street) - Keep an eye out for great student deals and prices on amazing adventures throughout the year, after all, you'll need something fun to fill the holidays with!

The Ultimate Picture Palace (Jeune Street) - Students get £1 off standard ticket prices and £2 off Thursday matinees with a valid student ID card. Student membership (£20) will also get you lots of goodies like 2 free tickets and even more money off ticket prices.


You don’t have to leave the house to get access to great discounts. A huge number of online stores also offer student discounts.

Adobe - A valid student ID card can help you get up to 69% off the price of software.

ASOS - Students get a 10% discount with a valid student email address.

Apple ImageApple Store for Education - Save up to £339 off the price of a Mac and up to £50 off to an iPad with a UNiDAYS code.

Boohoo - 10% student discount available with a UNiDAYS code.

GHD - Students get 10% off certain products with a UNiDAYS code.

HP - Get up to 30% student discount with a UNiDAYS code.

I Love Fancy Dress - A 10% student discount is available with Student Beans.

Pretty Little Thing - Get a 15% student discount with a UNiDAYS code.

Spotify - Enjoy 50% off Spotify premium with a UNiDAYS code or NUS Extra card.

UniBulkBuy - Students get 25% discount with a NUS Extra card.

Treasurer’s Treats

Treasurer’s Treats is a card exclusive to University of Oxford students. Bought from The Oxford Union, this card gives deals and discounts at a variety of different businesses around the city. The treats change each term.

Department Stores

Boswells ImageBoswells (1-4 Broad Street) - We couldn't very well leave ourselves out, could we? Sign up to our Student Club and you'll get 10% off everything in store and online between 6th September and 16th October. This 10% is also available every Wednesday the rest of the year, and we'll provide other offers throughout the year too! 

We have everything you need to make your new room or flat feel like home in no time, including, cookware, bedding, desk lamps, rugs, plates and bowls, and of course those all important clothes hangers! For a few tips on what you'll need to get you started for your time at university, click here to read our blog.

You can join our student club here.

19th August 2016

The Story of the British Tea Room

The Story of the British Tea Room

Oxford is truly beautiful this time of year, but the city can get a little hectic over the Summer months, with people flocking from all over to come and see itwe can hardly blame them! So what better way to take a breather from the bustling streets than to sit down to a nice relaxing cuppa. Hurrah for tea rooms!

But where did all of these amazing places come from? And what exactly is the difference between a tea room and a coffee house? We've been doing some digging into the history of the tea room, so pop the kettle on, put your feet up and read on to find out more...

The Arrival of the Coffee House

Queens Lane Coffee House ImageAs it turns out, there are actually a lot of differences between a tea room and a coffee house, going back centuries. The first English coffee house was in fact right here in Oxford, on the site of The Grand Café on High Street, while across the road from it The Queen’s Lane Coffee House (founded four years later in 1654) is the oldest established coffee house in Europe! Needless to say, we highly recommend a visit to both of these incredible places.

The new fashion for coffee reached London late in 1654, and spread quickly, however the coffee houses of the 17th Century were not quite like the coffee houses and cafes we know today. 

These were boisterous places where people engaged freely in intense debate with strangers, with topics ranging from politics, philosophy and science to theatrical and literary criticism. 

Coffee Beans

In one London coffee house Isaac Newton is said to have performed a public dissection on a dolphin, and in another patrons would regularly conduct informal investigations into the nature of insanity. Anything was up for debate, and for the cost of a penny any man could enter, discuss and enjoy unlimited coffee refills. But while coffee houses were social spaces in which Enlightenment thinking flourished and democratic opinions were freely exercised, women were not permitted to enter.

Tea, Glorious Tea!

It was Catherine of Braganza, the wife of Charles II, who first introduced tea to England, making it fashionable amongst the aristocracy’s elite. 

Twinings Tea Image

But while coffee was by this time becoming relatively common place, tea remained a rare curiosity. It was considered unusual enough that Samuel Pepys documented his first sampling of the drink in his famous diary in September 1660.

But it was through coffee houses that tea first entered the wider public domain, allowing it to eventually become the British staple that it is today. In 1706 Thomas Twining opened what is generally considered to be the first tea room in Britain, which you can still find on The Strand in London, open for business to this day.

While coffee was a cheap beverage for the masses, tea began its illustrious relationship with the people of Britain as an expensive, excessively taxed commodity—taxation on tea at its height reaching 119%!

Tea Leaves Image

Such high taxation led to a country-wide surge in tea smuggling, and it’s estimated that by the late 18th Century such was the British affinity for tea that more was smuggled into the country than was actually legally imported. In 1784 William Pitt the Younger passed an Act of Parliament that reduced the tax on tea to 12.5%, making it significantly more affordable for people of all social classes, and the rest, as they say, is history.

The Trusty Tea Room

Afternoon Tea ImageThe 18th Century tea rooms were very different from coffee houses. While women were forbidden from the egalitarian conversations of the contemporary coffee houses, tea rooms were reputable public spaces that woman could enter unescorted by a man, a rarity at that time.

This meant that, much like coffee houses, tea rooms became social venues—places where people (particularly women) could gather and talk freely, but generally with a more relaxed atmosphere than the raucous coffee establishments of the time. And, with the creation of afternoon tea in 1841, this also became a part of the tea room’s custom and heritage.

By the late 19th Century large tea room chains, run by The Aerated Bread Company and J. Lyons & Co., began to pop up all over the country—A.B.C. Tea Rooms offering the first ever self-service tea rooms.

J. Lyons Coventry 1942 Image

During this period, and into the early 20th Century, suffragettes would often meet in tea rooms, gathering together to informally discuss their rights, and of course enjoy a nice cup of tea.

Even during the height of the Blitz, and wartime rationing, tea rooms remained a hub for people to come for refreshment and to socialise—a relief from the everyday stresses of the war.

(Image Credit)

Oxfordshire Tea Rooms Today

But of course the story of the tea room doesn't end there. These amazing places have endured into the 21st Century, and Oxfordshire has many wonderful tea rooms worth sampling. We particularly recommend The Rose on High Street and Annie’s Tea Room in Thrupp.

1738 Tearoom

The continuing popularity of the tea room is a testament to its relaxed atmosphere, the tradition of getting together for a chat, and, of course, the prevailing British love affair with an excellent cup of tea. Not to mention that taking a little time out to unwind in one of these great settings is a very special way to make your own little contribution to the long history of the tea room. 

For a great tea room right in the centre of Oxford come and visit our 1738 Tea Room (on the first floor of the store) where you can sit and relax with some Twinings tea (just as they did in 1706), some scrummy cake and, of course, a good natter!

For more information on Boswells' 1738 Tea Room click here to read Rosie from our Pharmacy's review.

28th July 2016

Top Tips to Beat the Holiday Heat

Top Tips to Beat the Holiday Heat

Summer is here, and many of us will be off to exciting and wide-spread destinations in the coming weeks. Chances are, those destinations will be mostly very hot. Because looking after yourself in the heat is so important, and an essential part of having a great holiday, we’ve put together a few tips to help you make the most of your time in the sunshine.

Stay Hydrated!

Water ImageThis is really the most important thing to remember in any hot climate, whether you’re visiting a beach, a city, a desert, or simply making the most of the sun at home. In the hot weather you lose fluids at a much faster rate than at other times, and you can become dangerously dehydrated very quickly if you don’t replace them as you go along.

It’s important to recognise the early signs of dehydration, and respond accordingly, as heat exhaustion and heat stroke can be very serious. Make sure you drink plenty of water, and regularly, even if you don’t feel thirsty! 

Image Credit: Vegan Liftz

Keeping a bottle of water with you at all times is a very good way to keep on top of your hydration. There are also various apps that you can download to help you monitor your water intake, which is a helpful way of staying safe, and makes it easier for you to concentrate on enjoying yourself. Find out more on heat exhaustion and heat stroke at

Malta Image                         Gondola ImageDubai Image

Pace Yourself

If you’re off on a sightseeing or an adventuring holiday it’s only natural to want to see and do as much as you possibly can in the limited time that you have away. But if you’re going somewhere sizzling hot, you might want to plan a more laidback approach. 

Hammock Image

We expect that the reason that siestas are so popular in Spain is because running around in the baking heat is much less enjoyable than taking a leisurely lunch and basking in the air conditioning during the hottest parts of the day. If you really don’t want to waste a moment when you could be off exploring, though, take things slowly, rest often in cool places and keep drinking that all important water! 

Remember that you might not be able to cover as much ground as you’re used to in a day, so visit the must-see places first, and then see if you’re still feeling up to trapesing around the rest. 

Blue Mansion

Pack light for the day too, as you’ll use extra energy lugging around more than you need. If you’re visiting somewhere humid bear in mind that it’s much harder to cool down than in dry heat, as sweat can’t evaporate into the already moist air.

Alternating between hot outdoor locations and cool air conditioned museums and restaurants can be a great way of keeping your energy going, and so can taking a taxi…or a gondola, a tangah, a tuk-tuk or a rickshaw, depending on where you are…

Image Credit: Elena Woolley

Air Conditioning is Your Friend

Camel ImageIt sounds silly, but the importance of air conditioning really can’t be understated, and many hot countries even recommend seeking out public places with air conditioning to wile away the baking hot days in safety. If you start to feel the heat while you’re out and about, try to find somewhere nearby with beautifully cool air-con to take a little R&R (even if it’s just the local supermarket).

If possible, make sure that wherever you’re staying has air-con fitted too, especially if you aren’t used to the heat. The trick is not to get too carried away with the colder settings, however, as you'll feel the heat more when you head outside. It can take a couple of weeks for the body to acclimatise to the heat, so if you're staying long enough to adapt then try not to get too over-dependent on air conditioning, perhaps try it in shorter bursts or not having it quite so cold, but of course never force acclimatisation at the expense of your health. If you feel at all unwell due to the heat, always find somewhere cool for refuge, and as soon as possible.  

There are plenty of other little tricks you can try to cool down throughout the day, though. 

Athens Image

Running your wrists under a cold tap for a few seconds is a great way to get immediate relief, and a cold, wet towel is frankly amazing if you’re too hot. Some recommend soaking a hat or a bandanna in cold water too to keep your head nice and cool. Keep a fan, or something with good wafting capabilities, close to hand and never underestimate the power of good old fashioned ice cream at cooling you down! That said, its important to eat fairly healthily in hot weather, as eating too much (especially proteins) causes the metabolism to release excess heat, making it harder to keep cool.

Dressing for the Climate

Sunglasses ImageKnowing what to wear in a hot country can be tricky. Natural fibres are always best—they’re much, much cooler than polyester clothing, and won’t cling so uncomfortably when you sweat (loose fitting clothes are a great choice in this respect). They also dry quicker, which is always appreciated when it’s hot and sticky.

Penang Image
Image Credit: Elena Woolley

The instinct is often to go for shorter sleeves, shorts etc., but this does leave you more exposed to the sun, and many who live in hot countries actually recommend long sleeves. This is especially good advice if you're going anywhere that has mosquitos—from Venice to Vietnam—as these flying pests will assume that any exposed flesh is fair game for dinner! Read our blog on protecting against malaria here.

Be mindful, also, of what is considered appropriate dress at your holiday destination—do a little research beforehand to see what is and isn’t acceptable wear. This is worth doing even if you’re visiting somewhere fairly close to home, such as the Mediterranean, and also if you’re planning on visiting any religious buildings and temples.

Sunscreen Image

And finally, sunscreen, we can’t stress the importance of this enough! Remember to stay well protected against both UVA and UVB with a high factor sunscreen (at least spf30-50 is wise), and re-apply throughout the day. Applying sunscreen about an hour before heading out into the heat is a nice trick so that you don’t just sweat it all off the minute you step outside! Some sunglasses and a hat will also help protect you from the harsh sun, so make sure you remember to pack these.


Planning Ahead

Mini Fan ImageBefore you set off on your adventures, be sure to do plenty of planning and research. Have a look at what kind of temperature you can expect for the time of year (also what time of day it will be at its hottest), and whether it’ll be dry or humid heat.

We also suggest popping in to speak to our friendly pharmacist if you have any questions about staying healthy and safe in the heat, or about what vaccinations you might need for where you’re headed. If you’re short on general travel supplies, our Luggage Department is well stocked with goodies. For advice on picking the right suitcase for your needs, click here to read our blog, or pop in and speak to our Luggage staff.

Accessories Department Hats ImageWe also have plenty of other travel essentials in stock, such as sunscreen, hats and sunglasses, and you may want to consider investing in a trusty refillable drinks bottle, a mini fan, or good supply of mosquito repellent.

And if you're simply enjoying the best that the British Summer has to offer this year, we have plenty of fans to choose from, both in store and online, although hurry, they do sell fast! Take a look at our blog on ways to keep your home nice and cool here. 

But wherever you’re off to and whatever you've got planned for the Summer ahead, be sure to take care out in the sun and the heat. Once you've got the weather sorted, though, go have fun, and remember to make the most of every wonderful moment of it!

22nd July 2016

Oxford Activities and Events This Summer

Oxford Activities and Events This Summer

Image Credit: Elena Woolley

Whether you’re new to Oxford, or just looking for exciting ways to keep yourself or any guests entertained over the Summer, thinking up new and interesting things to do can get a bit trickier once you’ve ticked off the more obvious sights such as the Radcliffe Camera and the Bridge of Sighs (impressive though they both are). We’ve put together a few suggestions to help you get your Summer started.


The Ashmolean Museum

Amongst its other impressive claims, Oxford is the birthplace of the public museum, the Ashmolean Museum being the first of its kind when it opened its doors in 1677. Now located on Beaumont Street, the Ashmolean is still going strong and is stuffed full of amazing antiquities and other interesting artefacts. Theres lots to see, and keep an eye out for their great Summer exhibitions too.

Read more here.

Museum of History of Science

The site of the original Ashmolean on Broad Street now houses the Museum of History of Science and, although it's relatively small, it's definitely worth the visit to look around this amazing building and its collections.

Read more here.

Oxford University Museum of Natural History  

Oxford is of course home to other noteworthy museums, and no Oxford Summer would be complete without a trip to the Museum of Natural History and the Pitt Rivers Museum (which are adjoining).

We suggest taking a peek at the Museum of Natural History’s impressive collection of dinosaurs and other fossils (many of which were found right here in Oxfordshire). They're also hosting a range of family friendly events and activities over the coming weeks, as well as their regular tour of the building's fascinating neo-gothic architcture.

Photo credit,_Oxford,_UK_-_Diliff.jpg

Read more here.

Pitt Rivers Museum

Possibly Oxford's quirkiest museum, with its extensive anthopological collections there's something different to spot with every visit. Pop in this Summer to check out their exhibitions on amulets and on adventuring in Siberia! And be sure to seek out the famous shrunken heads while you're there!

Read more here.

Oxford Castle Unlocked

Oxford Castle UnlockedOxford Castle is a great location for a day out in the city centre. As well as their usual tours and sights, if you have a large group of guests (8-15 people), and you fancy unleashing your inner puzzler, you might want to give their Jailbreak Escape locked room puzzle a go. 

Read more here.


Outdoor Cinema

If you know the museums well and are looking for something a bit different, then why not go to one of the many fantastic film screenings taking place at some of Oxford's museums this Summer?

Picturehouse Pop-Up Cinema

The Ashmolean has teamed up with the Picturehouse Cinema for a three-day Pop-Up cinema event on the 5th-7th August.

Read more here.

Cult Screens

Meanwhile, The Pitt Rivers has joined forces with Cult Screens for a showing of Baz Luhrman’s Romeo + Juliet on August 24th.

Cult Screens also has an array of amazing films showing at Oxford Castle over the Summer, and if watching The Shawshank Redemption in a genuine prison exercise yard sounds like fun, then get busy booking…tickets are likely to sell fast!

Read more here.


Shakespeare OxfordWilliam Shakespeare

Fans of Shakespeare will be delighted to find that there’s no shortage of plays over the Summer, and since this year marks 400 years since Shakespeare’s death there’s some extra special treats too, including lots of great open air performances at various Oxford colleges, Oxford Castle and Oxford University Press.

Read more on all Shakespeare related events here.

Creation Theatre

Creation Theatre are up to their usual inventive tricks, and are combining their performance of A Midsummer Night’s Dream with a treasure hunt/quest held in secret locations around the city centre…we have to confess, we’re suitably intrigued.

Read more here.

Weston Library

We suggest checking out the Shakespeare’s Dead exhibition at the Weston Library, which is running until September 18th. It includes first editions of 2 of his plays that are rarer than the famous first folio. Which ones? Visit and find out.

Read more here.


Our friends down the road at Blackwell’s are also running a fantastic Shakespeare themed walking tour, which includes the location of the first ever performance of Hamlet!

Read more information on Blackwell's walking tours here.


Walking Tours

Bill Spectre's Ghost TrailNew College Passage Oxford

If its walking tours you’re after, you’ll be pleased to hear that you have one of Trip Advisor’s top 10 ghost tours in the world right on your door step. Hurrah! Bill Spectre’s Ghost Trail takes you through the city's ghostly history and down its spooky hidden lanes. A proven hit with visitors and Oxford residents alike, and is really not to be missed!

Read more here.

Treasure Trails

Treasure Trails can also be a fun way to spend some time together, following clues and seeing the sights in one go. The Treasure Trails company provides murder mystery, treasure hunt and spy themed trails of varying lengths. You pay for the trails, but once you have them they can be used multiple times and they also double as a map. Simply download the trail you like the sound of and you’re away…

Read more here.


Boating Experiences

Oxford River Cruises

A trip along the river can also be a fun new way to see the city, especially if you already know it well, and is really very relaxing. A spectacular 2.5 hour picnic boat tour leaves from Folly Bridge twice a day and passes through Port Meadow, Osney Lock and shows off great views of some of the Oxford Colleges. Be sure to book in advance.

Read more here.


Punting in Oxford

If you fancy trying your hand at boating, though, you could always have a go at a spot of punting. Perfect for a lazy summer’s day, we suggest you bring a picnic and someone with good balance to steer as you gradually wind your way along the river. It’s also a fantastic excuse to pay a visit to The Victoria Arms in Old Marston, which sits just on the banks of the Cherwell. Start your punting adventure at Cherwell Boathouse, Folly Bridge or Magdalen Bridge.

Information on how to punt can be found here.

Image Credit: Elena Woolley

Outdoors Oxford

University of Oxford Botanic Gardens

For those looking for a touch of nature in their sightseeing, the Botanic Gardens are at their most beautiful at this time of year, and offer a nice peaceful break from the bustling city centre. Picnic fans will be pleased to hear that the Botanic Gardens are hosting a couple of picnics over the Summer, complete with crafts and face painting!

Read more here.

Parks and Meadows

If its green spaces you particularly crave, Oxford is certainly well equipped with scenery to better than whet your appetite. And whether you’re entertaining guests or just looking for a pleasant spot on a sunny day, why not explore University Parks or take a walk along the river in Christchurch meadow?

Christchurch Meadow Oxford
 Image Credit: Elena Woolley

To truly lose the busy crowds of Oxford, Port Meadow is the perfect peaceful place to go for a wander, and there’s all sorts of treasures to discover including nature walks, atmospheric pub, The Perch (where Lewis Carroll gave his first reading of Alice in Wonderland), and cattle…lots and lots of cattle.

The Oxford Visitor Information Centre

Not just for tourists! The Oxford Visitor Information Centre is where many of the various walking tours start and finish and is a great way to get up to date information on Oxford's attactions. Located on Broad Street it's easy to find and just down or up the road from Boswells depending which direction you are coming from.

Read more here.

Afternoon TeaCome Visit Us!

If all of that sounds incredibly hectic and exhausting, why not come and take a break in our 1738 Tea Room and treat yourself to a well-earned cup of tea and a piece of cake!

15th July 2016

Take Some Time for a Summer Picnic

Take Some Time for a Summer Picnic

Picnic Drink ImageSummer is here! And with it comes the perfect excuse for getting outdoors, swatting away those pesky wasps, and having a good-old picnic! As a time-honoured tradition, and a favourite warm-weather pastime for generations, what better way to enjoy the Summer sun? It’s a tradition that actually stems back centuries, to mediaeval hunting parties, which would lay on a spectacular al fresco feast during the day’s festivities. Even Robin Hood and his Merry Men are reported to have enjoyed a good picnic from time to time.

Picnic ImageBut the continued appeal of the picnic is really rather simple: it’s about time spent with great people and the freedom to take your party anywhere you like. The humble picnic offers an escape from the mundane demands of daily life, replacing them instead with relaxation and good company. And the beauty of it is that every single aspect of a picnic can be tailor made to suit you and your own individual tastes, whether it’s the food, the fun or the people you surround yourself with. But let’s start with the where

South Park ImageHere in Oxford we’re really rather spoilt for choice when it comes to magnificent locations in which to settle down to eat, with so many fantastic parks and meadows to choose from. What this means is that a day of lounging in the park becomes much more a matter of, for example, choosing between South Park’s view of the dreaming spires or heading off to dip a toe in the river out in the open expanse of Port Meadow, than a struggle to altogether think up ideas for where to go. But, picnics are portable, so they’re also perfect for a day out—perhaps a long drive in the country to nowhere in particular, or to nearby points of interest, such as Blenheim Palace or White Horse Hill.

Supersoaker ImageWherever you set down your blanket, though, be sure to plan some fun activities to take with you. These are a great way of having fun, but also to keep you active, and it’s a fantastic way of keeping the kids entertained if you’re out with the family. A Frisbee to throw around is an old favourite, and a football or a game of cricket are also popular choices. If its scorching hot it could be the perfect opportunity for a Super Soaker duel, or if it’s a little breezy, why not take a kite out for a whirl?

But the weather may present other issues altogether. Rain (yes, I said it). No one wants to acknowledge the possibility of the “r” word on the day of a picnic, but the British weather does like to keep a few dastardly tricks up its sleeve, regardless of what season it technically is. 

Leaf in Rain Image

So, perhaps your chosen day will be wet, or the sun may not make an appearance as hoped, and these are important factors to consider. A large and sturdy umbrella may be just the thing to save the day, or you may want to take full advantage of the portability of your feast and find a nice indoor spot to settle down—it is, after all, the company and the food that’s shared that makes or breaks a picnic, so why let a little precipitation ruin the day?

Boswells Picnic Basket ImageThe good news is that you can now a have your picnic at Boswells, regardless of what the weather is doing outside. Our 1738 Tea Room is offering a picnic basket chock full ‘o great picnic favourites as part of our new Summer menu, and it can be eaten in the Tea Room or taken away to be enjoyed in the sunshine too (find out more here). But if you prefer to plan your picnic from scratch you’ll be needing a few supplies, starting with must have items such as a blanket, a basket and a cooler to keep your food and drinks chilled and fresh, and then of course there’s the plates and cups…and some napkins never go amiss. 

Picnic Display Image

To make the planning a bit easier, our Cookshop is well stocked with lots of goodies to get you started, and a trusty picnic blanket can be found in our Linen department, freeing you up to concentrate on the most important parts of any picnic: what to eat, and who to invite?! (Read our blog on what picnic essentials to pack).

A picnic is really just a great, relaxing excuse to get everyone together, though. It’s an opportunity to catch up, to bond, and to talk over things, big and small. It has the cathartic benefits of sharing food, making memories and putting your cares to one side for an hour or two. So pack your basket, rally the guests and find a nice spot to really make a day of it!

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