Oxford is full of amazing literary experiences and film references. Explore the city of dreaming spires with the Book Film Travel Oxford walking tour. After going on many Oxford walking tours over the years, this is the half day tour I have developed to show visitors my favourite things about Oxford.
Parking in Oxford is limited so it is advisable to either travel by public transport (bus or train from London) or, if you are driving, park at Get off the P&R bus (from Thornhill) on High Street, or walk there from the station.
Go up the tower of the University Church of St Mary the Virgin and imagine yourself as Lyra Bellaqua on the rooftops of Oxford in Phillip Pullman’s The Northern Lights. The photo at the top of this posts is taken from the tower. If the queue is long and you’re desperate for coffee, you can also leave climbing the tower until the end of the tour.
Walk up High St and turn right into Turl Street. Before you turn in look up the High Street and see Carfax Tower, the remains of a 12th century church. I usually stop here for the excellent coffee at the Missing Bean cafe in Turl Street.
After the coffee break, carry on up Turl St and look into the entrances of Lincoln College and Exeter College on the right. The thing with Oxford colleges is that they are working academic institutions so you never know whether they will be open to visitors or not but you can still look in the ornate gateways and see the pretty courtyards within.
Turn left onto Broad St and have a quick browse in Blackwell’s Books opposite. This is the largest academic and specialist bookseller in the United Kingdom and started trading in 1879. As you walk along Broad St you can see Trinity and Balliol Colleges on the right. Across from the Tourist Info there is a plaque and a strange marking on the road. This shows where protestants Hugh Latimer and Nicholas Ridley (both bishops) were burnt at the stake by Mary I in 1555.
At the end turn right into Magdelen St, which becomes St Giles. There is a memorial to the above mentioned martyrs here. Walk up St Giles. The world-famous Ashmolean Museum of art and archaeology is down Beaumont St on the left if you have time to take a look at the impressive collection of everything from Egyptian mummies to contemporary art, founded in 1683.
If it’s the right time of day you could stop for a drink at the Eagle & Child pub on St Giles. This historic drinking den is where CS Lewis and JRR Tolkien used to meet for their writers’ group ‘The Inklings’ in the 1930s-1950s. The Lamb & Flag pub opposite is also deliciously historic and has literary connections (Thomas Hardy, Graham Greene) as well as featuring in the Inspector Morse television series. Both have been owned for several hundred years by St Johns College.
Turn right down Lamb & Flag Passage by the pub and keep going until you get to Parks Road. Turn right into Parks Rd and keep going straight ahead (Wadham College is on your left) until you get to New College Lane, where you’ll see the Bridge of Sighs, which is part of Hertford College. This is a copy of the famous bridge in Venice and was completed in 1914.
After you have snapped the bridge of sighs, come back onto Cattle St and cross to see the Sheldonian Theatre and Bodleian Library. Look out for the gargoyles around these buildings, can you find the Dodo and Tweedledum & Tweedledee from Alice in Wonderland?
Walk through the Bodleian courtyard into Radcliffe Square to see the iconic Radcliffe Camera, which houses the Radcliffe Science Library.
Pop briefly out onto Cattle St again (to your left) to see the beautiful entrance to All Souls College. This college is only open to graduates of other colleges via the ‘world’s hardest exam’, which used to involve an essay on just one word e.g. ‘chaos’. Lawrence of Arabia was a fellow here and more recently the author Katherine Rundell.
Return to Radcliffe Square and stop for lunch or tea & scones at the St Mary’s café. If the weather is fair you can enjoy a lovely meal looking out on the Camera.
After refreshments, return to High Street via St Mary’s Passage (to the righthand side of the church), looking out for the lamppost and the Mr Tumnus doorway that may have inspired CS Lewis when writing Narnia.
Turn right onto High Street, cross the road and almost immediately turn left into Magpie Lane. This continues into Merton Grove, goes through a gate and then continues straight past Christ Church. This college and cathedral is probably the best known in Oxford. As you walk, look right into the garden where the original Alice would have played; her father was head of the college and Charles Dodgson/Lewis Carroll taught maths here.
Enjoy views across the fields and water meadows, which stretch down to the Thames River (which is called the Isus here in Oxford). Then turn right along Broad Walk to Christ Church.
If it is open and you have time it is well worth taking a tour here. As well as beautiful art works and stunning architecture, there are lots of Harry Potter location scenes in Christ Church and another Alice reference in the fireplace. I particularly love the Edward Burne-Jones stained glass windows. The dining hall has a little stained glass tribute to Alice and flanking the fireplace are a set of brass firedogs that inspired the elongated neck of Alice when she ate the cake.
Continue along Broad Walk until you hit the High Street again. There is a charming Alice in Wonderland souvenir shop across the road.
If you have time on your Oxford walking tour, you could walk left to Folly Bridge for views of the river and you can rent a boat to follow in the oarstrokes of Lewis Carroll and the Liddell sisters where the story of Alice in Wonderland was first created.
If your day tour of Oxford is coming to an end, turn right along High Street, looking through the gothic entrance into Tom Quad, the great quadrangle in Christ Church on the right, and the bell tower named after its bell Great Tom.
Now the Park & Ride bus stop is just a few minutes walk away and I hope you have enjoyed your Oxford walking tour from Book Film Travel!