Oxford and Cambridge were the only universities in England up to Victorian times. That is why so much of the nation’s discovery and innovation happened here. The City of Dreaming Spires has treasures around every corner.
Christ Church is famous for Reformation history and for Alice-in- Wonderland. The Hall became the Great Hall of Hogwarts. This is the grandest of Oxford colleges, breath-taking in its proportions. Entry to Cathedral services is free.
Magdalen, on the banks of the Cherwell, has cloisters, a world-famous chapel, a deer park, and Addison’s Walk. C S Lewis was a Fellow here. At 6.00am on 1 May, the chapel choir sings from the top of the tower, to welcome in the summer. Thousands throng to hear them.
These are the oldest Botanic Gardens in the country. The Cheshire Cat still grins away in a white mulberry tree. Tolkien would rest under an Austrian pine as his mind wandered to Middle Earth. And Evelyn Waugh features the gardens in Brideshead. An oasis of peace.
Blackwells is one of the few higgledy-piggledy university bookshops in the country. It has the best Oxford section of any bookshop. Its Norrington Room contains two-and-a-half miles of bookshelves, the largest book room in the world. You’re bound to find something you want there!
Ridley, Latimer and Cranmer were burned here, under the reign of Bloody Mary. These years of Reformation in the 16th century acted as the hinge between the medieval world and the modern world.
The tour looks pricey, but it’s worth it. NB there are a lot of steps. When Christ Church started to train students in medicine, the students would go down to the prison to collect the bodies of hanged men to use for dissection. The Oxford Castle Quarter is a very pleasant area for browsing and eating.