Punting in Oxford

This week we are turning our attention once again to what you might like to do after your Walking Tours of Oxford tour.

After your tour, your head will be full of fascinating information. You may fancy a rest from walking so that you can mull over what you have so recently found out. Then again, you may just want to sit back vacantly and watch the world drift gently past whilst you trail a weary hand in the cool waters of one of Oxford’s rivers…

How to achieve this sublime state? Find yourself a punt. Or alternatively …. sign up for a Walking Tours of Oxford ‘Walk and Punt’ tour and we’ll source a ‘chauffeured punt’ for you.

Punting on the Cherwell

What is a punt?
A punt is a flat-bottomed two-directional boat which you propel along a river by means of a long pole. The pole is for pushing, because you use the shallow river-bed for propulsion. Punts are equipped with seats and cushions and there are no rapids on our rivers, so expect a relaxing ride.

Yes, Oxford is on the Thames (known locally as the Isis) and there are some lovely areas to punt on the Isis, notably alongside Port Meadow, but for our money, one of its tributaries – the Cherwell – is the place to go.

This also seems to be the conclusion of the City of Oxford’s two punt-hire companies, one, The Cherwell Boathouse, situated on the Cherwell to the North of the city and boasting its own excellent restaurant and the other, Magdalen Boathouse, predictably located at Magdalen, just beside the bridge and below the tower.

Our punt-hire companies offer options – you can either punt yourself or be ‘chauffeured’. When considering these possibilities bear in mind the following: a) How much are you planning to drink? And b) Would you mind falling into the river?
You might also take into account your crew’s level of punting expertise. If you haven’t punted before, do you just want to lie back and watch the world glide by or are you up for learning a new skill which will probably make you slightly wet? (Even if you don’t fall in, the water is apt to run down your arms and a novice punter may inadvertently splash any companions several times.)

If you have junior crew members, it is definitely worth going for the ‘do-it-yourself’ option because it is a lot of fun, it’s good exercise and it will tire them out. If you are more ‘senior’ and just want a quiet afternoon which doesn’t involve extricating yourself from the riverbank or constantly apologising to other boats for inadvertently ramming them, then go for the ‘chauffeur’. You may even get an Oxford student who can tell you all about college life.

Ideal provisions for the journey are Pimms and lemonade (or just the lemonade for junior/tea-total punters) and a cream tea. Kit yourself out with a packet of scones (or bring some homemade ones for a more authentic experience), a jar of jam and a tub of clotted cream. Make sure you have a knife and something to drink out of. If you actually want tea, a thermos flask is advisable too.

Delicious Pimms – before, after or during!

The wonderful thing about punting in Oxford is just how quickly you leave the hustle and bustle of the city behind and find yourself out in the countryside. You can even stop and have your tea on a river bank. For naturalists, this is a great way to silently approach wildlife and it is ideal for birdwatching.

For a complete contrast to touring and an escape from the city, punting is the perfect way to spend your afternoon. Our ‘Tour and Punt’ offering combines a 90-minute tour with a 30 minute chauffeured punt. Alternatively, you can come for a longer tour and hire a punt for a few, restful hours on the river.

@copyright Victoria Bentata

The Perfect Oxford Visit

The Perfect Oxford Visit

‘I want to see Oxford University…. and I only have one day in my schedule. What should I do?’
At Walking Tours of Oxford, we are used to answering this question.

We have lots of ideas, but one of our favourites is to combine our own ‘Simply Oxford Tour’ with a visit to Oxford’s most magnificent college – Christ Church – or one of our fine museums (see previous blogs).

Getting here
Perhaps you are staying in London? If so, you can have a leisurely breakfast and still make it to Oxford in time for our Simply Oxford Tour at 11.30 a.m. Take the train from either Paddington or Marylebone Station and arrive for 11am.
We meet at Christ Church, which is to the south of the city, so from the Train Station, head for Carfax Tower in the very centre of Oxford. Then walk down the hill on St Aldate’s street, staying on the left hand side of the road. First, you will see a very imposing 17th century tower. This is ‘Tom Tower’ and it is the everyday entrance to the college for students and academics. Continue down the road to a large set of gates with a shield above it which leads into the beautiful War Memorial garden. This is where your Walking Tours of Oxford guide will meet you.

The Simply Oxford Tour
Click here for further information
This is led by our Institute of Tourist Guiding qualified guides, which makes all the difference!
We will give you the perfect introduction to the City and the University of Oxford and answer all your questions. Where is the University? (Answer: everywhere (!) but we will explain….) What is the relationship between the colleges and the University? (complicated, but interesting…) How do you apply? How do you get a place? What can you study? What is student life like? Can you tell us about Oxford’s history and traditions? Where did they film Inspector Morse/Lewis/Endeavour/Harry Potter?….
We will also show you the iconic buildings which make our city such a special place. Come with us to see the Bodleian Library, the Radcliffe Camera, the Sheldonian Theatre and a few of our 38 colleges.
Our tour will also equip you to make the most of your visit to Christ Church or the museums in your free afternoon.

Merton Street, Oxford. We will pass through on our Simply Oxford Tour

But first…. Lunch!

Lunch
We recommend lunch in a local pub after your Simply Oxford Tour. There are lots of traditional pubs in Oxford, but The Turf Tavern, down a secret passage under our beautiful Bridge of Sighs, is one of the oldest. It has lots of outdoor seating and serves traditional fare and good beer! If you are an Inspector Morse fan, you might like to try the White Horse on Broad Street, where Morse and Lewis liked to down a pint. For a student vibe, try the nearby Kings Arms. Or for something more sedate and academic, with the possibility of a free exhibition thrown in, head for the Weston Library café.

To the Turf Tavern!
Another one of our favourite pubs!

Why visit Christ Church?
Because… 1) it is huge, beautiful and old (founded 16th century by Cardinal Wolsey and re-founded by Henry VIII). 2) it has its own Cathedral. 3) It is where Alice in Wonderland was written. 4) It is a film location and you might recognise some Harry Potter scenes.
(To avoid queues, we recommend that you book tickets to Christ Church online, though you can only do this from the Thursday before your visit. Go to the college website and choose your time: Christ Church tickets
So, after lunch, head back to Carfax and follow our directions down to Christ Church again. This time, go through the Christ Church War Memorial Garden until you find the new Visitor Centre. It is in the style of a traditionally thatched cottage. Inside you will find a shop and restrooms and this is where you pick up your multimedia guide.
Christ Church multi-media guide is a real gem. It provides clear, concise explanations of the college’s history and architecture and it also has all sorts of extras – footage of the private parts of the college and interviews with students and academics. However, if you are a Harry Potter fan, you may want more information – which is where Walking Tours of Oxford can fill you in beforehand.

Tom Tower at Christ Church

Museum Visit
If you are still full of energy, you could squeeze in a visit to one of Oxford’s world-class museums. See previous Walking Tours of Oxford blogs for more about the Ashmolean Museum, the Oxford Museum of Natural History, the Museum of the History of Science and the Pitt Rivers Museum. Enjoy!

 © Victoria Bentata 2020 for Walking Tours of Oxford