A Summery Day In Oxford

Last weekend, the south of England was blessed with gorgeous sunshine which is somewhat of a luxury on this small island of ours. To make the most of the lovely day I set off, along with my boyfriend, to the city of dreaming spires aka Oxford.

Known for its magical architecture, historical ties and of course the world class university, Oxford is one of the most iconic UK cities and is a perfect example of English traditions. The city is relatively compact and the centre can easily be explored by foot, although it is very easy to lose your way in the maze of small lanes and alleyways between the colleges.

On our arrival we decided to retrace the walking tour that we had covered many times whilst working for an International Summer School just outside of Henley-on-Thames, however this time, we did not have the stressful task of shepherding large groups of foreign children through the crowds of fellow tourists who flock upon Oxford in high summer.

The route began at the foot of Carfax Tower, practically the centre of the city. The tower is all that remains of the 12th century St Martins Church and stands 23 metres tall, offering great views of the Oxford skyline if you climb the 124 steps to the top.

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We then made our way down St Aldates, passing Christ Church College, definitely one of Oxford’s grandest colleges which has had its fair share of high profile students including Sir Christopher Wren, Albert Einstein, Lewis Carroll, and thirteen British prime ministers to name just a few. In recent years it has acquired a new ‘claim to fame’ for its connection to Hogwarts in a number of the Harry Potter films. Whilst no filming actually took place within the college, Harry Potter fans will recognise a number of locations which were replicated in the filming studios – namely the Great Hall and the impressive staircase.

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Foregoing a trip inside, we continued down the road and turned onto Broad Walk which took us through the picturesque Memorial Gardens towards the tranquil Christ Church Meadow. Not surprisingly, the grassy areas were crowded with students and visitors, who were also enjoying the warm sunshine (the students making the most of their freedom following exams no doubt).

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We followed the path around the back of Christ Church, admiring the Merton playing field on our right before passing through the so-called kissing gate, back towards the High Street.

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After heading down one or two of the pretty, honey-coloured lanes, we emerged not far from the famous Grand Cafe – England’s very first coffee house, now an Oxford institution. The Cafe serves lunch, afternoon tea and other gorgeous food, whilst guests enjoy the lavish decor of the marble pillared, gold leafed building.

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Further up the road, we turned into Brasenose Lane and wound our way towards the Sheldonian Theatre and ancient Bodleian Library, passing under the Hertford Bridge (commonly known as the Bridge of Sighs for its resemblance to its ‘twin’ in Venice) as we went. The bridge is actually a skyway, completed in 1914, which connects two parts of Hertford College over New College Lane.

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We entered the courtyard directly infront of us with the Sheldonian, Clarendon Building and Bodleian making up the three sides. Following the well trodden path of tourists, we then made our way into the courtyard of the Bodleian Librarythe University’s main research library which is also one of Europe’s oldest and Britain’s largest.

Through the other side of the Library’s courtyard, we were met with the sight of the stunning Radcliffe Camera. The 18th century building houses a Palladian-style academic library and reading rooms and is also connected to the library next door by an underground passage, allowing students to pass between the two with ease.

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By this time we were both feeling quite peckish so bee-lined for All Bar One on the High Street for some refreshment and a bite to eat. We then continued our tour by exploring the Covered Market, with its eclectic mix of shops – from cafes and restaurants, to florists, jewellers, health and beauty shops and even one or two pet shops!

Our final stop of the day was the Botanic Garden – which are well worth a visit! Oxford’s Botanic Garden is Britain’s oldest, with plants from around the world, both indoor and outdoor. For a small fee you can enjoy the serenity and explore one of the oldest scientific gardens in the world. We spent some time exploring the peaceful gardens and relaxing before hopping back in the car to return home.

As always, it was a lovely day out and nice to visit somewhere different for a change of scenery!

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Have you visited Oxford? Which part of the city is your favourite?

Do let me know in the comments below!