Oh my goodness what a stunning town to visit!
And it’s only 90 minute by train from London, so if you are in London it’s so worth a day trip! Please do it 😀
For Adu and I it was a lot easier, we just caught a 40 minute bus from Thame at just under 10 pounds return for both of us. I knew I had to prepare a list of what we would try and see. No time for geocaches ! Adu actually came back by himself on another day to do this whilst I was teaching.
I used a lovely app called Gpsmycity. It allows you a free test turn and then you subscribe to the app for a nominal cost. You choose destinations based on a number of factors and then plot your route. You can also change your route back and forth if you want it to be longer or shorter. Ours ended up being just under 5km, and in fact we didn’t do the last two stops as we ran out of time and wanted to get back to Labrador Charlie. I really liked the fact that whilst walking around I could read history on things we were seeing.
Oxford is known as the oldest English speaking University where teaching starting in 1076. The number of students increased dramatically in 1167 when Henry II banned English students from attending the University of Paris. Oxford University is actually made up of 39 autonomous Colleges, six permanent private halls and a range of academic departments falling into four divisions. 28 prime ministers of the UK have attended Oxford !
University Church of St. Mary the Virgin
The bus dropped us on the High street and we went to see this Church. It’s the largest parish church in Oxford. It was very beautiful inside. The first church on this site was built in 1086 and when the university was founded in the 13th century it was considered to be its first building. In 1555 the Oxford martyrs were tried and condemned in this church. The church was used for graduation ceremonies up until the 17th century when church officials got fed up with the raucous behaviour afterwards and the Sheldonian Theatre was built instead.
Then we went onto the Radcliffe Camera. Camera is another term for chamber. This is the first circular library built in the UK. It is a library and reading room for students. There are over 600 000 books. It is part of the Bodleian Library and is sadly not open to the public.
When we were there the University term had not yet started. I think it will be so much busier in a few weeks. There were still lots of tourists as we wandered around, many a part of big groups. Our next stop was the Divinity School. This is attached to the Bodleian Library and sits opposite the Sheldonian Theatre.
You pay £2 entrance. We were very lucky as we had it all to ourselves before a big tour group arrived. In the Harry Potter movies it is used four times. Firstly as the setting for Hogwarts Hospital wing where Harry wakes up after a standoff with Voldemort. It is also where Professor McGonall teaches Ron some dancing moves. Interestingly in the movie with the hospital scene the windows are criss crossed but in the actual room the windows are rectangular. Adu noticed this. We asked the lady at the entrance and she applauded us for noticing and explained that the movie director thought the windows didn’t look old enough so he digitally added the criss cross. The architecture and design of the room is just so very beautiful and I think this was my highlight of Oxford.
Bridge of sighs
This bridge connects two parts of the campus. The real name of the bridge is the Hertford Bridge and it was built in 1914. The bridge links the Old quad to the New quad. It gets its name as it looks similar to a bridge in Venice.
According to legend the college closed the bridge to overweight students. They had to walk the long route from one building to the other to try and get them fitter.
Behind the bridge is a 200 year old oak tree that features in the Harry Potter movie where Harry and Malfoy have a duel.
The Blackwell bookshop
This bookshop is just incredible. It is the stockist of assigned books for all Oxford students. It was just amazing how many books there are. So many different sections. In this electronic age it’s interesting that textbooks are still paper. I think it’s much nicer. It is one of the largest book stores in Oxford measuring more than 10,000 sq feet (929 sq metres).
Saint Michaels at Northgate church
We first explored the old church. The priests of Saint Michael’s names are mentioned in the Domesday book that was prepared for William the Conqueror in 1086. The stained glass in the East window is the oldest example of its kind in Oxford and was created in 1290.
The Saxon tower
The tower was built in 1040 and pre-dates the Norman conquest of England in 1066.
I had read that the views here were nicer than at the Carfax tower as you were lower so really got a feel for the spires of the city surrounding you. There were also lovely views onto the famous Cornflower street. We climbed the 99 steps to The Saxon tower.
The Boccardo prison adjoins the tower and in 1555 the Oxford martyrs were kept there before being burnt at the stake. A martyr cell door has been preserved and you can see this on the second floor of the tower.
Christ Church Cathedral
We then went to the beautiful Christ Church Cathedral which is both a college Chapel as well as a Cathedral within Oxford. We didn’t pay to enter as we were running out of time, but rather enjoyed the views from outside. At the main visitor’s entrance to Christ Church and the Meadows is the Christ Church War Memorial Garden. This garden created in 1926 commemorates those members of the College who lost their lives or went missing in the First World War.
Merton College views
One can get into many of the Colleges and see their grounds and dining halls but they often cost £8 or so per person. We didn’t want to pay this with our limited time. So we elected to rather walk past the stunning Merton College. It was founded in 1264 by Walter de Merton, Lord Chancellor to King Henry III and later to King Edward I.
If one has more time the Botanical gardens and Magdalen College (slightly further out of the central part of the city) are meant to be lovely. Magdalen has amazing grounds and charges a nominal entrance fee. This will have to be for a future visit.
I hope this has inspired you to visit Oxford!