Thankfully, the Midsomer Murders faced by inspector Barnaby are fictional, but the villages and market towns seen in each episode are not. Location teams spend hours finding period properties in locations full of character and charm, the real stars of the show.
These two driving tours pass through Midsomer Murders countryside in South Oxfordshire, an area easily accessible from the M4 and M40. Travelling without a car? Rail and bus routes to the area lead to many walking and cycle paths. An overnight stay is recommended to stop, eat and enjoy the routes at your leisure.
The Southern Trail, taking in Causton Playhouse and Badgers Drift Primary School, as well as opportunities to enjoy manor houses, village pubs, museums, river trips and a steam railway
Covers Henley on Thames - Nettlebed – Wallingford – Moulsford - Goring - Mapledurham - Rotherfield Peppard/Rotherfield Greys - Henley on Thames (total drive time approximately 3 hours). Download and print a PDF of the Southern Trail
From Henley, head out through Nettlebed, where the hotel and the village hall have appeared in the series. If you want to start the day with a walk, detour to the Warburg Nature Reserve or visit Stonor, one of England’s oldest manor houses, filmed in James Bond and featured in Simon Jenkins, ‘1,000 best houses’. (seasonal opening times)
Arriving in Wallingford, you enter the original ‘Causton’ in time for lunch. The Corn Exchange, in the much-filmed market place, appears in a number of episodes as Causton Playhouse. Maybe you’ll bump into one of Wallingford's actors, many are cast as extras in the series, or hear the local choir which grace many Midsomer services as the Midsomer Worthy Choir. The famous crime writer, Dame Agatha Christie, was President of the theatre in Wallingford and is buried at St Mary’s Church in Cholsey. For a step-back-in-time visit nearby Cholsey and Wallingford Railway, a GWR branch line still running steam trains on event days.
Period architecture typifies the market town of Wallingford, set on the banks of the River Thames. Bathed in history, take one of the town trails, perhaps starting at Wallingford Museum and finishing with the ruins of the 13th century castle and castle gardens.
Journey on through the pretty rural villages of Moulsford which featured in ‘Dead in the Water’ (an alternative lunch stop or boat hire is available at the Beetle and Wedge) and Goring- upon-Thames; then on to Mapledurham House and Watermill.
Mapledurham House has a history of filming, having caught the eye of location managers with The Eagle has Landed, Inspector Morse, Miss Marple and, recently, the new series of Midsomer Murders with Neil Dudgeon replacing John Nettles as DCI Barnaby. Historically it has been a scene of parliamentary and religious dissent and one or two past owners certainly met untimely deaths! Find out yourselves why everyone wants to film here and enjoy a cream tea made with flour from the last working watermill on the River Thames. Still privately owned, the family have lovingly restored this magnificent 17th century home, the water mill and its extensive grounds. (seasonal opening)
Heading back towards Henley, you have two detours to choose from: Rotherfield Peppard or Rotherfield Greys.
At Rotherfield Peppard, both church and primary school featured in the series. The school is ‘Badgers Drift Primary School’ and children from the school appeared in the filming. A good stop is the delightfully restored 18th century barn called the Herb Farm. Amongst its surprises are a beech hedge maze, pretty gardens, tea room and shop which demonstrates the versatility of herbs – be that food, drink, therapeutic or decorative.
Rotherfield Greys also featured and is home to Greys Court, a 16th century, wisteria clad, mansion managed by The National Trust and only recently reopened after a much-acclaimed two year conservation programme. (seasonal opening)
Back into Henley, head to your hotel or B&B and choose your culinary delight from over 20 restaurants, bistros and pubs in this vibrant market town. The Kenton Theatre is thought to be the 4th oldest working theatre in the UK, a Regency gem with a diverse programme ranging from the traditional to the one-off treat. Chill out at the cinema or enjoy a cruise to view this picturesque town in style from the River Thames. It's well worth an extra day to walk along the river and visit the Henley River and Rowing Museum where the Wind in the Willow's Ratty and Mole make a special appearance. Henley's festival season runs for four months of the year, taking in food, literature, film, music and, of course, the world famous Royal Regatta where Barnaby and Joyce attended the rowing in ‘Dead in the Water’.
(An alternative route from Wallingford to Mapledurham would take you through the villages of North Stoke with its pretty 13th century church and Ipsden, both of which are Midsomer Murder locations. Brought your golf clubs? Then North Stoke is a must for a stop at The Springs Hotel and Golf Club. Ipsden offers picture perfect scenes of village pub, village shop and post office, a cricket green and a great place to watch the red kites hovering overhead.
Northern Trail, taking in Midsomer Newton Museum and Causton Library, as well as pubs, churches and shops filmed for the series; with options to visit the gardens and nature reserves set in Midsomer countryside.
Dorchester - Wallingford - Ewelme – Watlington – Lewknor – Aston Rowant – Chinnor – Thame – the Miltons and the Haseleys – Dorchester (total drive time approximately 3.5 hours). Download and print a PDF of the Northern Trail
The trail begins in Dorchester, one of the prettiest Midsomer county villages. Become truly immersed in the Midsomer Murders experience by staying overnight. Your choices are a 15th century or two 16th century coaching inns, and make sure you visit the post office; all are film locations. Dorchester Abbey was re-founded as an Abbey for Augustinian canons in 1140 on the site of previous ecclesiastical buildings. It displays traditional architecture from 11th to 17th century. A ‘free’ must-see in South Oxfordshire, the Abbey is open all year round. Remember Joyce Barnaby’s visit to Midsomer Newton Museum? That's the Abbey’s museum. (Museum and tea room seasonal opening)
Next stop is Ewelme, overlooked by many but not the Midsomer Murders film crew who have used this delightful, tiny village a number of times. With a village shop, tea room, church and school it’s worth a stop to take a walk around Ewelme Watercress Beds and nature reserve and to watch the video of watercress being farmed in the 1970’s.
Move onwards to the market town of Watlington, where you can see buildings spanning the period from 15th century to modern day. The library featured as Causton library in ‘OrchisFatalis’ and it is worth taking time to see the church, pubs and shops before setting off towards Lewknor, a pretty brick and flint village complete with pub and village school.
Driving towards Thame, you enter the Chilterns Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty and there are a couple of options depending on your interests. Download a walking leaflet and enjoy the Aston Rowant nature reserve or visit the train station used in ‘Death in a Chocolate Box’ at the Chinnor and Princes Risborough railway (steam and diesel trains run on event days).
On arrival in Thame several locations are immediately recognisable from the series, particularly the Spreadeagle Hotel, 16th century on the outside with cosmopolitan comfort on the inside. Thame's independent shops and tea rooms have traditional frontages, there's a spectacular 13th century church, a museum, walking trails and a 700 year old pub. It is likely you will arrive on market day, with weekly markets, annual food fayres, festivals, fetes, cattle markets and the Thame Show. Time it right and play a championship golf course at The Oxfordshire Golf Resort, dine at one of the world’s finest restaurants, Le Manoir aux Quat'Saisons or stroll through Waterperry Gardens to learn its remarkable story.
Head in the direction of Warborough, passing the Midsomer countryside of the Haseleys and the Miltons where a number of scenes were located. But make sure you arrive in Warborough in time for a ‘swift half’ at the Six Bells on the Green; a thatched 16th century pub which features in so many episodes of Midsomer Murders, regulars will recognise it at once!
Returning to Dorchester there will be time over dinner to decide tomorrow's agenda. If it’s more Midsomer (or Morse) you’re after, then Oxford is very close. Sticking to the countryside your local options include Wittenham Clumps, a walk along the Thames Path, or the Oxford University’s arboretum at Nuneham Courtenay.
(A detour at Watlington could take you to Turville to one of the most filmed pubs in England where the clues are found in the menu of Dibley Pudding, Chitty Chitty Bangers or a Midsomer Burger! The pub website also details a lovely walk through some of the finest Midsomer Murders countryside).
Not keen on selfguide / self drive?
Then why not take a guided/escorted Midsomer Murders tour. Among the companies offering such a service are Absolute Touring Limited, Detective Tours, Sho4Travel and Brit Movie Tours. They are happy to discuss your detailed requirements.