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Buildings & gardens

Exploring Oxford’s buildings and gardens

Oxford is a city that deserves to be explored at a leisurely pace. After all, it’s difficult to rush through a thousand years of history.

You can feel Oxford’s pulse along Broad Street with Balliol and Trinity colleges on one side just along from Blackwell’s famous bookshop and the Bodleian Library, which, with nearly 190 km of shelving, is the largest in the UK after the British Library in London. The Sheldonian Theatre is across the way, as is the Museum of the History of Science. Half way along is Turl Street, off which lead entrances to three colleges, Jesus, Lincoln and Exeter.

Through the looking glass

Around the corner on the High Street is the Covered Market, a good spot to stop for a drink or an authentic game pie. Then head down Magpie Lane, with Oriel College to the west and University College to the east, to Christchurch and stroll through the meadows where Lewis Carroll first met a little girl called Alice and began recounting her Adventures in Wonderland. Finally, pop into the Old Sheep Shop on St Aldate’s, the real site of the shop that appears in Alice through the looking glass.

Looping back up Cornmarket, with its brand-name shops, continue up past the side of the Randolph Hotel on Magdalen Street and at the Martyrs’ Memorial you’ll see the Ashmolean Museum, whose Egyptian rooms and collections of European art definitely shouldn’t be missed. At the end of Beaumont Street you could turn right onto Walton Street and walk up to pleasant Jericho, Oxford’s first suburb, which seems far removed from the bustle downtown.

A town full of tales

On the western edge of town you will find Oxford Castle, originally built for William the Conqueror and used as the local prison for 900 years. The visitor centre promises “tales of murder, romance, betrayal and execution.”

Elsewhere in town, at the end of the High Street and bounded by a curve in the River Cherwell, the lovely Botanic Gardens, are the oldest in England having been created in the early part of the 17th century.  They are protected by a high wall and divided into several different areas with a lily pond and a rock garden as well as six large glasshouses with carnivorous and tropical plants.

If you wander back along the High Street, passing University College on your left, carry on until Alfred Street for a drink in the Bear Inn, which dates back 800 years. But don’t wear your best tie – the walls of the pub are lined with 4,500 tie-ends snipped from past visitors!

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