Top 10 Literary Spots To Visit In Oxford
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Having nurtured some of the world's most famous authors it should come as no surprise the the City of Dreaming Spires has one of world's most vibrant and robust literary cultures. Because of the scale of it all it can be slightly difficult for a casual fan to wrap their head around. That's why we decided to put together this concise list of introductory sightseeing spots that fans of Tolkien, Lewis, Carroll and more are sure to enjoy.
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1) Merton College:
- Address: Merton Street, Oxford OX1 4JD.
Merton College is where author JRR Tolkien held the post of 'Merton Professor of English Language and Literature'. While the hall and residential areas are normally off limits to the public the rest of this renowned institution open to visitors. Entrance fees are £3.00 per person and this includes a brochure/map of the college.
Merton College | Photo Credit: Phillip Capper.
- Address: 20 Northmoor Rd, Oxford OX2 6UR.
Tolkien lived at 20 Northmoor Road from 1930–47, and it was here that he wrote The Hobbit and a large part of The Lord of the Rings trilogy. A blue plaque commemorating the author now crests the gable facing the main street, so you should have no problem spotting the right house.
- Address: 49 St. Giles, Oxford OX1 3LU.
The Eagle and Child was where the 'The Inklings' used to meet, a writers group consisting of Tolkien, C.S. Lewis and friends. Here they'd debate various issues and read excerpts from their latest literary projects. Consider dropping in for a pint and a classic English pub lunch at some point during your visit to Oxford.
- Address: Banbury Road, Oxford OX2 8EE.
Take a journey up the length of Banbury Road until you reach this quaint and leafy graveyard. Wandering amongst the interred it won't be long until you stumble across a humble little headstone bearing the names 'Beren' and 'Lúthien'. Anyone who's familiar with the lore of Middle Earth will recognise this as the burial site of JRR Tolkien and his wife Edith.
As simple as the memorial is it does serve as an exceptionally touching tribute to this private yet hugely influential couple.
- Address: University of Oxford, St Mary's Passage, Oxford OX1 4AJ.
Its design provided C.S. Lewis with inspiration for various elements in the ‘The Lion the Witch and the Wardrobe’. The engraved fauns are reminiscent of Mr. Tumnus, the nearby gas lamppost harkens to the one outside the entrance to Narnia, and the door into the church often reminders passers-by of the wardrobe itself.
St Mary's Passage, Oxford | Photo Credit: Sturla Berg-Olsen.
6) Magdalen College:
- Address: Oxford OX1 4AU.
C.S. Lewis was a fellow here for 29 years. As well as being the place where he conducted his academic research it was also where he penned his most famous works. Refer to the link above for details on visiting Magdalen College as a tourist.
7) Christ Church College:
- Address: St Aldate's, Oxford OX1 1DP.
Travelling in a group of 10 or more? You might want to check out one of Christ Church's interactive guided tours. Lewis Carroll studied here during his academic years and remains one of the institution's most notable alumni. Each tour is conducted by an experienced custodian and offers fascinating insights into key areas throughout the buildings and grounds.
You'll encounter the cloisters, quads, main hall stairway, stunning gardens, and more. Most importantly your guide will shine a light on every area synonymous with the Alice In Wonderland author.
He/she will also point out shooting locations from the Harry Potter films, and for a small additional fee the group will be shown around the Picture Gallery. Follow the link here for information on how to book and pricing.
- Address: Binsey Lane, Binsey, Oxfordshire OX2 0EX.
Take a half-hour or so walk from central Oxford and visit the little village of Binsey. At its heart sits the Parish church of Saint Margaret, alongside which you'll find St. Margaret's Well, a Grade II Listed Building that served as the model for the 'Treacle Well' in Lewis Carroll's Alice in Wonderland.
9) Bodleian Library:
- Address: Broad Street, Oxford OX1 3BG.
Besides the fact that it 'is' a library, the Bodleian has a number of interesting features that are sure to charm sightseeing bibliophiles.
Following a 2009 school design competition organised by the Oxford Preservation Trust and the library itself the building's outer walls now sport 9 carved figures inspired by various children's novels. Take a stroll around the Bodleian's exterior and see if you can spot Tweedledum and Tweedledee, Aslan, The Green Man, Three Men in a Boat and more.
Once inside the library you'll be faced with two options. If you're interested in the building's heritage you might like to take one of their daily guided tours. If your interest is more casual then you might prefer to wander the Old Schools Quadrangle at your own pace. Whatever you choose to do, however, don't miss a chance to see the old reading rooms, marvellous spaces where the likes of Oscar Wilde and Tolkien once studied.
- Address: Rose Lane, Oxford OX1 4AZ.
Given the vibrant scenery alluded to in some Oxford writers' stories it's safe to assume that they drew inspiration from equally impressive sources. Well the University of Oxford Botanic Garden is one such place. Situated between Magdalen College and Christ Church Meadow this 2 hectare green space is compact yet dazzling in its floral diversity and elegance.
It used to be the site of a gigantic black pine tree that JRR Tolkien greatly admired and would often relax beneath. Sadly it had to be felled because of age related damage in late 2014.
You can, however, still see the bench that Will and Lyra promise to visit in Philip Pullman's The Amber Spyglass.
If you're thusly inclined then note that the Botanic Garden is another Oxford institution with its own guided tour.
Port Mahon Pub:
Once you're satisfied with your exploration of the Botanic Gardens why not take a short walk down St. Clement's Street towards the Port Mahon Pub (82 Saint Clement's Street, Oxford OX4 1AW). This comfy gastropub serves home cooked meals every day of the week and bares a wonderfully authentic old-school nautical atmosphere.
They even have a large summer terrace and a real log fire for the winter months. Welsh poet Dylan Thomas was once a Port Mahon regular, so consider dropping in for pint or one of their Sunday night quizzes.