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Banbury is a market town located in Oxfordshire. It is 64 miles from London and 21 miles from Oxford. Its population is approximately 45,000 and Castle Quay shopping centre is in the heart of the town near to its main visitor attractions and travel hubs such as Spiceball Country Park, Banbury Museum and the train and bus stations.
The shopping centre was built in the style of a mall, next to the Oxford Canal and the town’s museum in 1977. In Medieval times, there stood a castle on this spot. In the 1990s it was further developed over the Castle Garden allotments. Nowadays, Castle Quay has 80 shops on two levels. It is open Monday – Saturday from 8.30am - 6.00pm, although some individual shops may vary. For example, Marks and Spencer opens at 8am. It is open on Sundays and Bank Holidays from 10.30am - 4.30pm.
The centre is modern, reasonably easy to navigate and has disabled and baby changing facilities. It has ample parking and the centre offers shoppers a wide range of shops such as the High Street staples of M & S, Debenhams, Boots and WHSmith as well as banking facilities, a post office, cashpoints and smaller shops offering fashion, jewellery, phones and tech, sportswear etc. It also has eating and dining facilities. The one thing it lacks is a supermarket.
There are six main entrances - three located on the Canalside Walk and three from the town centre. Along the Canalside is the Cherwell Entrance which the main access point for those arriving by car There is also an entrance by the Banbury Museum, which also has a lift for use by shoppers with mobility problems. It is a popular shopping destination and receives about 250,000 visitors a week.
The food and drink on offer ranges from fast food to the café experience. There is a Burger King for fast food and a Costa for coffees, drinks, and cakes. There are cafés in both the M & S and Debenhams stores for snacks and meals, including breakfasts. You can go to Greggs for hot pies, sandwiches and drinks to take away.
For those with more exotic tastes there is the Lebanese Wrap House takeaway, which offers Lebanese cuisine such as spicy lamb wraps with salad and spicy potatoes. It offers delicious healthy options and gives vegans a choice in the way of delicious falafels.
Tasty Bites is a takeaway outlet offering freshly made baguettes, bagels and breakfasts. BBs and Druckers, like Costa, offers coffee and muffins.
Near to Castle Quays, in the town centre there are many old pubs serving food and drink with a traditional atmosphere, such as The Olde Reindeer and The Three Pigeons Inn.
In my opinion the best dining experience, is at Café Red by the Canal. It is situated on the lower ground level of Banbury Museum next to the beautiful Canalside and has both indoor and outdoor seating. The food is freshly prepared and offers a children's menu. It is also licensed to sell chilled wine and bottled beers.
In the Museum, there are exhibitions and kids’ activities all year round. There is also a skate park, a play park and access to the new leisure centre in the adjacent Spiceball Country park. There is often an ice-cream van in the park for the kids. There is a park run group for the health conscious on a Saturday morning.
For nature lovers there are lots of fascinating birds, fish and even snakes to be seen by the nearby river Cherwell and the canal.
At Christmas, Castle Quay offers a festive experience with Santa and his elves visiting in their sleigh to greet the kids with a grotto, workshops, activities, and prize-giving competitions.
In the Spiceball Park, there is modern leisure centre with an impressive 25m swimming pool, a gym, a sports hall, a children’s soft play area, spa, and a pleasant onsite café.
There are 80 shops at Castle Quay that offer a wide selection for the consumer. It is essentially a High Street experience under one roof and offers an array fashion outlets, such as Monsoon, New Look and H & M. Hotter and Clark’s offers quality footwear, and there are accessory shops such as Accessorize and Claire’s.
Health and Beauty is well-catered for with Superdrug, Boots, Holland & Barrett and Vision Express. For perfume lovers, there is The Fragrance Shop extra to the mainstream department stores.
There are also plenty of mobile phone shops, such as O2, Carphone Warehouse, EE and Vodafone, and jewellery outlets such as Ernest Jones, F. Hinds, H, Samuel, Warren James and the independent Banbury Watch Company.
For computer games, there is Game, and for books and cards there is Waterstones, Clinton Cards and the Card Factory. The Entertainer provides children’s toys and for sports and leisure goods there is JD, Sports Direct and Trespass.
Other outlets include an Anne Summers for lingerie and Flying Tiger, Copenhagen is a popular retail outlet selling a unique and stylish range of innovative products for homeware, kitchenware and stationery, toys and hobbies at astonishingly low prices.
The Magical Story brings to the centre, home furnishings, accessories and gifts at low prices.
Other shops include Hallowood, and Trade Secret for furniture, Electro Mist for E cigarette equipment and there is even a car cleaning facility called ICC.
The mall has two department stores: Marks and Spencer and Debenhams. There are also useful shops also such as Eurochange, to exchange foreign currency, a Halifax bank and a post office. It may not be a shopping entre that has an attractive theme but Castle Quays does offer a wide choice and good value.
Castle Quays is the major shopping centre in Banbury town centre with flagship stores, Marks and Spencers, and Debenhams with many few other high street names. It is clean, modern and enjoyable although it can get busy at the weekends and during Christmas and the January sales. Most of the shops are very useful but it could benefit from a supermarket, although Banbury Market operates nearby every Thursday and Saturday selling outdoor market items such as meat, fish, fruit and veg.
The Grape Tree shop in the arcade sells nuts, seeds, dried fruit, snacks, confectionery, cooking and baking ingredients, so it is possible to buy certain food items
The mall does have an excellent Debenhams branch and many locals believe Castle Quays is a superior shopping experience to that in nearby Leamington Spa. This shopping centre has the usual mix of stores shops and eating places but it does lead on to either the lovely canal side or the town, to enhance the experience especially for families.
Castle Quay has plenty of inexpensive parking, a good variety of shops, lots of places to eat but not a lot of proper restaurants. It is inexpensive however, as the shops and eating places are cheap, child-friendly with free Wi-Fi and near to the free entry museum and Spiceball park.
Many of the stores offer handy click and collect services in Castle Quay, allowing orders to be made online and then collected. The centre also has Facebook and Twitter pages with information regularly updated advising of special offers and discounts.
The centre is safe and secure with security guards and CCTV on site. It is disabled and parent and child friendly. There is also lift access from the car parks to each of the two floors. There is free Wi-Fi in the shopping arcade and cafes to enjoy.
There are Baby Changing Facilities to be found in both Boots & Mothercare, which offers infant clothing and accessories and also in Castle Court entrance of Castle Quays. There are Parent and Child parking spaces designated in both car parks.
Castle Quay shopping centre supports the national Shopmobility scheme, with a wide range of customer service facilities to make shopping easier for those with a disability or injury affecting mobility and access to public facilities.
Disabled Parking is provided in both the North and South car parks at Castle Quays, totalling 38 spaces. Disabled toilets are located next to New Look store off the Castle Court and next to the Bus Station.
Wheelchairs can be hired from the Shopmobility shop located on the ground floor of the South Car Park. It also sells mobility aids and equipment such as scooters, wheelchairs, beds, bathroom equipment, stair lifts and walkers, as well as offering a repair service.
The entrance to Banbury Museum is stepped but it does offers a lift to those who need it.
There is an online Kids' Club is open to everyone between the ages of 3 - 10 years, offering members newsletters and a membership pack. There are opportunities for young members to enter competitions and win prizes. Also, for young visitors there is the Museum, which offers free activities such as history trails. In the nearby Spiceball Park, there is a kid’s play area, a skater park and recreation facilities for ball play, bike riding etc.
Located in the park there is also a new leisure centre offering swimming activities and classes. Like many shopping centres, Christmas is a special time at Castle Quays and kids flock to see Santa and his elves at the centre every weekend in the run up to Christmas each year and there is a grotto, workshops, activities, and prize-giving competitions.
There is one ATM on Bridge Street (next to Debenhams) and further cashpoints inside Debenhams, M&S and the Halifax bank. Public toilets can be found at Castle Court and Disabled toilets are located next to New Look off Castle Court and next to the Bus Station. There is free Wi-Fi for all visitors.
Banbury Tourist Information Centre is situated in Castle Quay. Also in Castle Quay, there is a Eurochange shop for changing foreign currency and a branch of the Halifax bank. There are several banks and ATMs in the nearby town centre also.
The Tourist Information office is the place to go to find out more about the historic buildings in the old town and beyond and where to stay. It stocks a wide range of leaflets for North Oxfordshire and the surrounding area, an accommodation booking service and information and tickets for sale for local events. There is also a little shop selling gifts, crafts, local produce, guidebooks and maps.
Banbury is not a typical tourist magnet but it is very local to a lot of tourist attractions and does cater for visitors in the way of affordable hotels and Bed and Breakfasts. A popular choice is The Holiday Inn Express Banbury which is ideally located on junction 11 of the M40, just 12 miles from the Silverstone Circuit, home of British Grand Prix.
If “Olde Worlde” style is more to your taste, The Mercure Banbury Whately Hall is a 17th-century coaching inn, set in its own gardens with a croquet lawn. The Tourist Information Office can assist visitors in booking suitable accommodation.
It can also offer information on events and attractions such as the infamous Banbury Cross, which is located near to Banbury town centre, or the Edge Hill Battle Museum which commemorates the first major battle of the English Civil War, and is just over a mile away. Within a ten-mile radius there are castles, priories, museums to visit as well as the city of Oxford and the picturesque Cotswolds.
The Banbury museum which is located next to the Castle Quays shopping centre by the Canalside Walk is a free museum housing local collections and is a great place for visitors to go.
If visiting by car, Castle Quay has 830 parking spaces in the North and South Car Parks next to the shopping centre. There are spaces for Parent & Toddlers as well as Disabled.
In addition, there are another 370 spaces in car parks nearby. All parking is well signposted on all main routes into Banbury.
Access to Castle Quay is level at almost every entrance. There are six main entrances. Three are accessed from the Canalside Walk and three from the town centre. Along the Canal, you will find the Cherwell Entrance (the main access point for those arriving by car) and the Canalside Entrance by H&M. There is access at the Banbury Museum, the Cornhill Entrance and the Market Place entrance. There is also the Bridge Street entrance next to Debenhams, located at the front.
Banbury's Bus Station was re-developed at the same time as Castle Quay and gives easy pedestrian access to the shopping centre, either via the Canalside Entrance by H&M or via the Bridge Street Entrance next to Debenhams. There are 66 local bus routes serving Banbury and the town is also a stop for National Express Coaches which has two routes serving the North, South and Midlands.
Banbury’s Train Station is a short walk along Bridge Street to Castle Quay and its timetable serves Bournemouth, London, and Manchester.
The nearest Taxi Rank to Castle Quay is also on Bridge Street; there is also a Taxi drop-off point by the entrance to the South Car Park, just off Castle Street.
Banbury is a market town on the edge of the Oxfordshire Cotswolds with a centuries old history. It is now also an important industrial centre that has undergone much recent redevelopment. It still has remnants of its past boasting the infamous Banbury Cross and it still has a few old passageways away from the main hub. It is a growing town, however, with new housing estates cropping up on the outskirts. It now has a population of about 45,000. Its main industries are producing car components, electrical items and plastics. There are also a heavy prevalence of food processing and printing. It is home to Douwe Egberts coffee manufacturers and has the world's largest coffee-processing facility.
The town is also famous for its so-called Banbury cakes, which are similar to Eccles cakes but oval in shape.
Near to the junction 11 of M40 which circles the north of the town is another shopping park called the Banbury Gateway park which has a selection of retail outlets such as Marks and Spencers, Next and Primark as well as food and drink outlets and offers 600 parking spaces.
The town is very well-connected to the rest of the country such as London, Oxford and Birmingham via the M40.
Although there is nothing particularly exceptional about the shops and cafes at Castle Quays, I would recommend visiting it as a family day out. The shops are great for clothes and shoes and other necessities and everything is really affordable. The parking is cheap and it is a good idea to take a picnic with the kids to eat at Spiceball Park, where there are parks and recreation areas. Afterwards a trip to the museum is an option: it is free to enter and there are some really great historical displays and activities that appeal to youngsters