Walking Tour of Oxford, England
Oxford, England is, of course, immediately associated with the great University, one of the world’s best. The town of Oxford is a typical university town, in that all life seems to revolve around the people and events of the college. The “campus” is fairly spread out but extremely pleasant to stroll. One can’t help but feel somewhat spiritual or awed by the fact that so many of history’s greatest scholars, writers, scientists, etc., walked these same streets and pathways. Oxford is known as the city of “dreamy spires” since so many steeples stretch heavenward here. Notable structures include Christ Church and the Radcliffe Camera. Oxford even has its own “bridge of sighs.”
My walk begins at Oxford’s Town Hall, on Cornmarket Street, near the intersection with High Street. First, walk south on Cornmarket St (which soon becomes St Aldates Street) to visit Christ Church College, on the left. Its quadrangle is the university’s largest (look for the statue of Mercury at the center of the fish pond), and its Great Hall reminds one of the dining hall at Hogwarts, in the Harry Potter movies. The Chapel, actually the Cathedral of Oxford, is particularly inspiring. Tom Tower has a huge bell, called Great Tom, which peals every night at 9:05 PM.
Backtrack to the Town Hall and then beyond it, to High Street, and turn right, and then turn left on Turl Street to see Lincoln College, founded in 1427. Continue on Turl Street, and then turn right on Brasnose Lane, which leads to Radcliffe Square, the location of Radcliffe Camera, reading room for the Bodleian Library (nearby) and one of the most distinctive buildings in Oxford. Explore this entire block of Catte Street before proceeding. To the north is the Sheldonian Theatre, designed by Christopher Wren, and the library itself, which dates to 1320. At the southern end of the square is St Mary the Virgin Church. Its tower provides wonderful views of the university and its towers and spires.
Exit the square onto High Street and turn left. All Soul’s College is on the left, and University College is on the right. The latter is one of the oldest colleges, dating to 1249. There is a memorial, on this campus, to the famous poet, Percy Bysshe Shelley, a former student.
Continue east on High Street and then turn right on Logic Lane. Ahead is Merton College, Oxford’s oldest. Turn right on Merton Street to reach Corpus Christi College, another charming section of the university.
Now walk back to High Street via Magpie Lane and turn right. Further ahead, on your right, off Rose Lane, is the Botanic Garden, a lovely, quiet place to wander. After your exploration of the gardens, walk back to High Street and look for Magdalen College, on the opposite side of the street. The grounds of this college may be the loveliest in town; they even include a Deer Park.
Next, reverse direction on High Street and then turn right on Queen’s Lane. Queen’s College is on your left, and New College can be reached from New College Lane, up ahead. Continue on Queen’s Lane to walk beneath the Bridge of Sighs, Oxford’s reproduction of the famous sight in Venice, and emerge on Catte Street. Turn right, heading north on what soon becomes Parks Road, and then turn left on Museum Road, and left again on St Giles Street. St John’s College is on your left and the Ashmolean Museum is at the corner, on your right. It is well worth an hour or so. In the island on Magdalen Street, to the east of the museum, is the Martyr’s Memorial, dedicated to three Protestant reformers who were burned at the stake for heresy. Continue south on Magdalen Street, then straight ahead on Cornmarket Street. The Carfax Tower, all that remains of a church that previously stood here, is on your right. Climb the tower for a parting look at the “dreamy spires” of this fascinating town, and then continue south to the Town Hall, where your walk started.