With two ground-breaking universities and 38 colleges, it's little wonder that academic Oxford has its finger on the pulse in publishing, science and medical research. Graduates include Nobel Prize winners, royalty and prime ministers. Drinks receptions impress when held al fresco in historic college quadrangles and events wow guests at Blenheim Palace, a UNESCO World Heritage site with breathtaking Capability Brown gardens. Oxfordshire has a slice of Michelin-starred restaurants with Le Manoir aux Quat'Saisons' home-grown cuisine and exquisite pub grub at Chiltern-based Sir Charles Napier. The pace slows down in the nearby Cotswolds. This of Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty harbours some best-kept secrets like cream-stone stately homes and castles and the goverment's communications headquarters (GCHQ).