Oxford – the not so concrete jungle where city break dreams are made

Together with Cambridge, the city of Oxford is one of the finest university cities in the country. Of course, we’d recommend you pay a visit to at least some of its colleges, but there’s plenty more to explore. Our Oxford Club Site is easily within walking distance at just two miles from the city centre leaving you free to explore without having to waste precious time on looking for somewhere to park. What follows are a few of the attractions that we’d consider unmissable experiences for visitors to what Matthew Arnold nicknamed “the city of the dreaming spires”.

The University

The numerous colleges that comprise the University of Oxford have a long and varied history. Choosing which to visit is a tough decision and be warned, some charge an entrance fee. Christ Church, founded in 1524, has become quite the star of the big and small screen. Its dining hall doubled as Hogwarts’ Great Hall in the Harry Potter film franchise and its Tom Tower featured in the classic TV series Brideshead Revisited. Magdalen is a real treat, especially in winter and spring when it’s common to spot fallow deer in its grounds. Keen gardeners are advised to make a beeline for Trinity’s Durham Quad, where the groundsmen create a chess board pattern in the grass which you’ll be dying to try out when you go back home. And if you love Venice, you’ll be sure to notice the mistake at Hertford College. Two of its buildings are conjoined with what’s called the Bridge of Sighs, but the walkway actually more closely resembles the Italian city’s Rialto Bridge.
The Bodleian Library

Here’s a challenge for you: think of your Top Ten favourite British books of all time and then head to the Bod, as it’s locally known, to see if Oxford’s most famous library has them all in stock. Unless your choices were published abroad, you see, they should all be there. This is a legal deposit library; so the Bodleian is legally entitled to a copy of every book published in the UK and Ireland. However, you might need to ask a member of staff to confirm that, because much of its stock is held underground in a vast space off limits to the general public. While you hang around, check out the crests representing each one of the Oxford colleges on the wooden doors at the main entrance.

Oxford University Museum of Natural History

The phrase “as dead as a dodo” is a big clue. You’re never going to see one of these extinct birds in the wild, but you will find a replica stuffed and on display in Oxford’s Natural History Museum where it has resided since it was shipped over to the UK from the Indian Ocean island of Mauritius. Once you’ve had your fill of fossils, skeletons and stuffed animals, visit the Pitt Rivers Museum. Adjacent to the Natural History Museum and accessed only from inside it, Pitt Rivers’ most unusual exhibit surely has to be a series of shrunken heads from South America.

The Ashmolean Museum

As befits the world’s oldest university museum, the Ashmolean houses an outstanding collection of world-renowned works of art, antiquities and historical novelties. Amongst them you’ll be able to see what’s thought to the sheet iron lantern Guy Fawkes carried during the Gunpowder Plot, and the outfit worn by Lawrence of Arabia when he fought with the Arab army. It is also worth seeking out one of the violins made by the acclaimed Antoni Stradivari and a bust of the architect of St Paul’s Cathedral, Sir Christopher Wren.

Tolkien’s grave

Have you ever wondered what the initials R and R stand for in J.R.R. Tolkien’s name? Though he neither was born nor died in the city, the author responsible for the popular Lord of the Rings trilogy is buried close to central Oxford in Wolvercote cemetery. His fans regularly leave gifts in the form of figurines and letters and if you’re as keen on his work as they are, you might want to make the pilgrimage yourself. As for those initials –we’re not going to spoil the surprise. But even if you plan to stick to the city centre, you can still find out if you try asking in The Eagle and Child pub. J.R.R. Tolkien and other author pals including C.S. Lewis met there when the pub hosted their Inklings writers’ group.

The Turf Tavern

If you’re the kind of tourist who’s happiest when chewing the fat with the locals, then there’s no place better to do so than at The Turf Tavern. First though, you’ve got to find the place and that’s not easy as it’s down the narrowest of alleyways known now as St Helen’s Passage. Next, you’ll need to visit in winter when the fires are lit in the pub’s courtyard. Finally, you’ll need to take with you a bag of marshmallows to toast, the perfect ice-breaker. Frequent this pub and you’ll be following in the footsteps of many a famous name, including Morse creator Colin Dexter, former US President Bill Clinton and Hollywood royalty Liz Taylor and Richard Burton. How the conversation goes, though, can be entirely of your own making.

Camping in Oxford

As you can see, there are so many things to see in Oxford you’ll be hard pushed to tick them off in a single day. Thankfully, as our Oxford Club Site is conveniently located, and open year round, so you’ll be able to make more than one visit for a long weekend.

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