Eating out in Oxford

Pizzas, Pints and Other People

Have you spent the last six months hankering to sit in a pub with your mates with a pint in one hand and a slice of pizza in the other? If so, now is the time to book your 2-hour slot at The White Rabbit. One of the top 5 pizzerias in the UK, this small pub is one of Oxford’s gems – and the beer’s not bad either. Farsightedly, it opened its pizza garden even before the pandemic struck – and the pizzas are as authentically Italian as the chef and as good as they ever were.

However, if you would like a bit of history with your beer, you might prefer The Bear Inn. Oxford’s oldest pub (well, one of three possible contenders for the title), it claims to date back to 1242 and used to be a huge coaching inn. Today it is tiny, but in pandemic times has come into its own with seating for 95 in the marquee out back, so you can bring friends. Unfortunately, you’ll have to wait until May 17th to see the pub’s treasured tie collection. This numbers over 4,000 tie tips donated by patrons – presumably after a few pints – framed under glass inside the pub. The ties represent schools, colleges, regiments, and sports clubs from across the world.

The Bear Inn

The Turf Tavern is another historic option with excellent outdoor seating in sight of Oxford’s old city wall. Originally known as The Spotted Cow, it doubled as a gambling den, hence the reference to the ‘turf’. It is approached down a tiny alley just under the Bridge of Sighs – follow the sign reading ‘An Education in Intoxication’ (!). Indeed, many prominent people were ‘educated’ here. In 1963, it became a Guinness World Record venue when Bob Hawke, future PM of Australia, managed to down ‘a yard of ale’ in just 11 seconds. Numerous famous names have frequented The Turf down the years – and if you go to the pub, you can read all about them on the chalk boards – Richard Burton, Tony Blair, President-to-be Clinton and the Harry Potter stars amongst others. Fictional visitors include Inspectors Morse and Lewis and the young Endeavour.

Famous names at The Turf Tavern
Outside seating at The Turf Tavern
Try something new at The Turf Tavern!

Sadly, there have been a few pandemic casualties, amongst them The Lamb and Flag, mentioned by Thomas Hardy in his novel Jude the Obscure and owned by St John’s College. Fingers crossed that the decision to close the pub permanently is reversed.

Additionally, Tolkien and Lewis fans may be disappointed to know that St John’s other pub on St Giles, The Eagle and Child, won’t be reopening until 2022. The pub is undergoing renovation and may in future function as a small hotel. This is the place where the ‘Inklings’ used to meet – a thoroughly sensible club, which mixed literature and beer.

Some pubs are currently suffering from a lack of outside space and won’t be opening yet e.g. The White Horse on Broad St, seen in several Morse and Lewis episodes and The King’s Arms at the corner of Broad Street and Parks Road, but they should be opening again after 17th May.
If you are coming shopping, then The Crown and The Plough in Cornmarket have both gone ‘al fresco’. The Plough’s seats are on Cornmarket itself and the temporarily (?) closed St Michael Street, so you can watch people pass by. They promise a ‘huge selection of gins, vodkas and whisky and a comprehensive wine list’, so if you are alcoholically inclined, you should be able to find something to enjoy.

Outside the city centre, there are some cracking alternative venues on offer, such as The White House on the Abingdon Road, where they are serving cakes, coffee and ‘sharing plates’ and they have turned the erstwhile car park into a beer garden. (Obviously, you will have to find somewhere else to park.)

If you are looking for something more exotic, try KazBar and CoCos on the Cowley Road, which has outdoor seating on the now pedestrianised Dawson Street. Pretend you have gone on holiday and try something Mediterranean.

For vegetarians and vegans, our advice would be to check out The Punter in Osney Mead. Its waterside location is attractive and the puddings in particular look terrific!

For a location combining a beautiful walk with a pub, two great options from central Oxford are The Perch in Binsey and The Trout in Wolvercote. Whilst in Binsey, find the church and the ‘Treacle Well’ which found fame in Alice in Wonderland. The Perch was one of the first places Lewis Carroll gave public readings of his classic book. Ask the staff about their ghost….

The Perch, Binsey
©philknightphotography ©walkingtoursofoxford

The 17th century Trout Inn has a lovely riverside location and if you’ve watched Morse, Lewis and Endeavour, you’ll definitely recognise it as a favoured watering hole of the fabled detectives.

So, why not take a Walking Tours of Oxford tour and then follow up with a pleasant afternoon spent eating and drinking well in one of our friendly, welcoming, traditional (or not so traditional) Oxford pubs? We hope we have whetted your appetite.

© Victoria Bentata 2021 for Walking Tours of Oxford

Endeavour Filming Series 8 – March 2021 – Part 2

All photos are copyright ©walkingtoursofoxford, please do not share individual photos but you are welcome to share the link to this post so that everyone can see!

It was interesting to see all the positive comments and eager anticipation for Endeavour season 8 as it began filming last week.

Reading some of the comments and thoughts, it would seem many people share my view that this will be the last season. That is a bitter pill to swallow as we will miss our Endeavour but I have high hopes that the writing, casting, directing …. will all be as magnificent as always. I could be wrong, I hope that I am but remember there was 33 Morse episodes, 33 Lewis and after these 3 that will bring is to 33 Endeavour. What are your thoughts? Do post in the comments below as I would love to hear from you.

My concern is that it can’t end well. We never hear of Fred Thursday in Morse later so I fear something will happen to him. I have been rewatching Endeavour over lockdown 3 and it has been gripping, when watching in close succession to see Fred and Endeavour relationship become close and then begin to wane.

I have just rewatched Coda (season 3. Episode 4) of Endeavour which has some superb acting. What jumped out at me this time was, when Endeavour and Joan are caught up in the bank raid and she is trying to conceal her identity. They ask her for her name, thinking on the spot she says ‘Joan Strange’. There is some speculation that Joan will marry Jim Strange, is this a hidden message?

Also, as we move forward is anyone else thinking that this will be the first without Barrington Pheloung? I am feeling a little melancholy. I was lucky enough to meet Barrington some years ago at Colin Dexters memorial service and he was a lovely chap. The Morse universe will miss him.

Mind how you go!

Heidi x

Endeavour Season 8 filming 14/3/21. Shaun Evans double. ©walkingtoursofoxford Christine Bainbridge
Endeavour season 8 filming 14/3/21. This scene took 15 takes! ©walkingtoursofoxford Christine Bainbridge
Endeavour Season 8 filming 15/3/21. Behind closed doors! ©walkingtoursofoxford

Highlights Tours

Bubble / Highlight Tours

Following lockdown 3, the relaxation of the rules and the reintroduction of ‘the rule of 6’, we are delighted to be bringing back our popular ‘Bubble Tours’.

Currently available Monday-Saturday and at any time to suit you, these tours are private and for up to 5 people (as the guide will equal 6). Perfect for a family group or two couples looking to have a (socially distanced) meet up!

From 17th May, these special tours will become known as a Highlight tours and will only be available Monday-Saturday at 10am or 4.15pm to fit in with our tour schedule.

Peering in to the colleges! Come discover Oxford with us ©philknight and ©walkingtoursofoxford

These tours are 1-hour in length and will show you the very best of Oxford in 60 minutes with your qualified guide. A private tour such as this allows for interaction and for questions to be asked. We can tailor the tour to any requests that you may have – want a bit of wizardly magic and Harry Potter then – Abracadabra! A family tour to include the children – consider it done or perhaps you are a couple looking to explore the history of Oxford – that is no problem! Teenager children thinking of applying to Oxford and want a tour to help – look no further! Or perhaps murder? A Morse / Lewis and Endeavour tour would be perfect!

Cost is £75 – so with a group of 5 that is just £15 per person which is excellent value. Don’t take our word for it, you can check out the hundreds of on-line reviews which make us the number 1 rated tour company in Oxford both for TripAdvisor and Feefo.

This special offer is only available direct and for a limited time.

Friendly, knowledgeable and qualified guides are waiting to show you Oxford! ©philknight ©walkingtoursofoxford

Email info@walkingtoursofoxford.com to book.

“Walking Tours of Oxford is excellent and very much recommended. Heidi, our guide was extremely knowledgeable and enthusiastic but also orientated the tour to her audience so in our case, we are a family of four, with two boys aged 13 and 15. It was the perfect way to familiarise ourselves with the city and point out details that we would have not noticed or understood the significance. We really enjoyed the tour and the two hours passed so quickly. Thank you, Heidi, – a really great experience and introduction to Oxford!”
Feefo review December 2020

“This was a great walking tour. Our guide, Heidi, was so knowledgeable & told stories in a charismatic way that made you feel you were living them. This really helped us get to know the history of Oxford & it’s famous University & colleges, well worth doing. Thank you, Heidi”
TripAdvisor review November 2020

Endeavour Series 8 Filming – March 2021

All photo’s ©walkingtoursofoxford. Please do not share individually but do share link to post for everyone to see!

In ‘Normal’ times, we would have already been treated to series 8 of Endeavour. We last saw our hero on TV screens in “Zenana” back on 23rd February 2020 and season 8 was confirmed at that time. Then Covid hit and England entered a full national lockdown on 23rd March 2020, exactly one month after that last episode airing on ITV filming, along with our entire way of life stopped.

Endeavour filming season 8 15/3/2021 Exeter College, Oxford. ©walkingtoursofoxford
Shaun Evans

Summer came and went and with that we enjoyed some normality and our Morse / Lewis and Endeavour tours resumed which continued to run through August / September and October before Lockdown 2 in November. It was a busy 3 months with most tours going out full. ‘Staycations’ became popular and as many had rewatched the programmes during those challenging ‘Stay at home’ months, we had visitors from all corners of the United Kingdom. The guides here at “Walking Tours of Oxford” also used those lockdown months to rewatch episodes; entire seasons – a love of all three programmes was reignited and we had time to reconnect and remember all those little moments and connections that run so deep.

As we now look towards a release from lockdown 3, we will be returning with our tours on 17th May (subject to government guidelines). It might be possible to operate some private tours prior to this date.

Tours will be smaller than before and college entry may not be possible but, in some ways, this has given us the freedom to explore the street scenes further and many of the colleges are still seen and talked about, albeit from the outside. We have invested is a state-of-the-art sound system, no other tour company offers this in Oxford, and we believe it enhances the tour experience as it means everyone can hear no matter how busy Oxford gets. Moreover, it allows for complete ‘social distancing’ between your individual group and others on the tour. Each person on our public tours is provided, at the time of the tour and free of charge, with a small headset and earphones. However, we do encourage our guests to bring their own earphones which can be used with the headsets. All equipment has been thoroughly sanitised between each use.

It was uplifting to see that filming had resumed on Mothering Sunday – 14th March 2021. Two guides made it in that day and met Shaun and the crew and were lucky to get some photos which we are sharing below. It was a little surreal to see the crew and cast all masked up in-between takes. Filming continued inside Exeter College, which has a long association with the Morse universe on Monday 15th March. Heidi, owner of Walking Tours of Oxford was able to witness some of the filming that day and a selection is here for you.

Tomorrow is a good day!

Come and join us to see just where all this took place along with other episodes of Endeavour Morse and Lewis. See the locations and hear the stories – all our guides are fully qualified – members of The Institute of Tourist Guiding and the Oxford Guild of Tour Guides.

Quote code NDVR8 at checkout for a 10% discount on our group Morse / Lewis and Endeavour Tours which is available for any tour date throughout 2021 but for bookings taken prior to 17th May. We anticipate that tours will get booked up so don’t delay and book today!

Filming on Merton Street, Oxford 14/3/2021. Endeavour Season 8. ©walkingtoursofoxford Jane Mead
Endeavour season 8 filming 14/3/2021. Merton Street, Oxford. ©walkingtoursofoxford Christine Bainbridge
Endeavour Filming season 8 15/3/2021. Exeter College, Oxford ©walkingtoursofoxford
Endeavour Filming season 8 15/3/2021. Exeter College, Oxford ©walkingtoursofoxford
Shaun Evans ‘getting ready for take’
Shaun Evans – filming in times of Covid. March 14th 2021. ©walkingtoursofoxford Christine Bainbridge

A Merry Oxmas

Oxmas

‘Tis the season to be jolly…’ or as our Balliol-educated PM would have it in Covid year, ‘jolly careful’. Here in Oxford, the colleges and the University have been making big efforts to be both. Many traditions have survived the virtual transformation and there has been a plethora of creative initiatives helping everyone celebrate enjoyably ‘at a distance’.
Colleges have put up their Christmas trees and the porters have dressed up in Christmas jumpers and paper crowns before posting themselves smiling bravely on Instagram; carols have been broadcast via Zoom from largely empty chapels; mince pies and mulled wine have been partaken of (though in smaller quantities than usual and in do-it-yourself packages) and some magnificent decorations adorn the Westgate Shopping Centre, the Covered Market, the central streets and various University buildings. The Bodleian has erected its traditional tree in the centre of Old Schools Quad and doubtless Christ Church hasn’t forgotten to put up its Alice-in-Wonderland tree decorations as always. The now traditional Christmas Market has unfortunately been absent, but the University Christmas Tree stands proudly in its usual place on Broad Street beside the Chanukiah, reminding us that there is more than one festival being celebrated in these dark times.

However, one college in particular stands out for its Christmas traditions. At Queen’s College, an ancient ritual has taken place every year until now. The Boar’s Head Dinner is possibly pagan in origin, but a survival adapted, like the Yule Log, into the Christian era. Boar’s Head dinners are celebrated elsewhere but the Queen’s dinner is singularly special, respected as a celebration of student heroism and an object-lesson in the practical importance of the Classics.

The backstory involves a Queen’s scholar who took a copy of a book by Aristotle to Shotover Park. He was clearly engrossed when surprised by a wild boar who didn’t appreciate his presence in his territory. The angry boar did what angry boars do – he charged. The quick-thinking student defended himself with the only weapon he had to hand – his book. Evidently thinking that there had been some misunderstanding and that the boar might desist if he knew it was a Greek classic and not some Latin or English rubbish, he shouted at the boar ‘Graecum est!’ – (It’s Greek!). Tragically, we’ll never know whether the boar would have been mollified by the revelation because it was too late. As every Physicist knows, deceleration takes time and conversely, the force of a charging boar hitting a stationary object (even as small as a book) creates irreparable damage, particularly when it penetrates deep into the mouth and obstructs the airways. Our poor boar was stopped in his tracks, beaten by a book, killed by culture, asphyxiated by Aristotle…

On the other hand, the victor, our learned but opportunistic student, removed the boar’s head (a whole boar is heavy and it was a long way home) and returned in triumph with tales of his averted demise and derring-do to entertain his peers.

Ever since (well, only for the last 400 years?) the college has celebrated at Christmas. The Boar’s Head dinner used to be held on Christmas Day itself until the Dons started to marry and their wives complained about them absenting themselves for a boys-only jamboree just as they were serving up the goose. Today, the dinner is an alumni event, but no less spectacular. See for the 2014 Ceremony of the parading of the boar to High Table. QED, a ritual performed in all solemnity. The boar bearers and choir are singing the Boar’s Head Carol (see anglicized lyrics at the end of this blog*).

In fact, Queen’s has always taken food and drink very seriously. The founder, Robert d’Eglesfield, clearly enjoyed both and set out a number of stipulations designed to make life as entertaining as possible. The original members of the college were called to dinner with a trumpet and the dons had to wear blood-red robes, whilst the chaplains wore white. Eglesfield presented a wonderful drinking horn, topped by an eagle and resting on three claws, which remains one of the college’s chief treasures and a ‘frog cup’ which surprises the drinker by squirting beer at him/her. You can see both in the Queen’s online exhibition of Beer and Brewing Here
So, there is lots going on in our fair city here at Christmas and it is the ideal time to visit! Book an Oxford Walking Tours tour and we will tell you about more of our fascinating and extraordinary traditions.

In the meantime, from all of us here at Walking Tours of Oxford: Have a Very Jolly Oxmas!
 
© Victoria Bentata 2020 for Walking Tours of Oxford

*
Caput apri defero
Redens laudes Domino.
(The head of the boar I bring,
Rendering praises to the Lord)
The Boar’s Head in hand bear I,
Bedecked with bays and rosemary.
And I pray you, masters, be merry,
Quot estis in convivio.
(How many are you at dinner?)
The Boar’s Head as I understand,
Is the bravest dish in all the land,
When thus bedecked with a gay garland.
Let us service cantico.
(Serve it while singing)
Our Steward hath provided this,
In honour of the King of Bliss,
Which on this day to be served is,
In Reginensi Atrio.
(In the Queen’s Hall)

The Ivy, Oxford

The Randolph Hotel

With the announcement this week that Oxford’s flagship hotel the Randolph is making 75 of its 84 staff redundant, it seems a good moment to reflect on the history of this iconic institution. It’s unlikely to cheer the staff right now, but the good news is that the hotel is not closing for good, just for a refurbishment by its new American owners. And when it reopens, it will still be called the ‘Randolph‘, despite earlier plans to rename it the ‘Graduate Oxford’. Perhaps somebody suggested the name lacked originality, there being 12,000 other graduates in Oxford?

For many decades the Randolph was Oxford’s only five-star hotel, which naturally made it the hotel of choice for anyone remotely rich or famous. Everyone from the future King Edward VII and King Farouk to Gorbachev and Jimmy Carter stayed here.

The Randolph Hotel

Indeed, Afternoon Tea at the Randolph, a glorious three-tiered experience requiring a second mortgage, has been a treat enjoyed by generations of students when their proud parents come for a visit.

Named after an 18th-century benefactor Dr Frances Randolph who left £1000 for the University galleries (now part of the Ashmolean Museum), the Randolph’s Gothic Revival style was the work of William Wilkinson, purveyor of parsonages and police stations and architect of a few grand houses and educational establishments including Saint Edwards school in Summertown.

The Randolph is both grand and central and for several years also played a key role in Oxford’s best known detective series, Inspector Morse. The Morse Bar (named specially in his honour) was author Colin Dexter‘s favourite watering hole and his hard-drinking detective made it his too. It was centre-stage in The Wolvercote Tongue, when a wealthy American guest was robbed of a jewel which looked suspiciously like it had been nicked from the Ashmolean Museum in the first place (see The Alfred Jewel and compare). The unfortunate woman’s body was later retrieved from the Cherwell River. (For lots more on Dexter’s Detectives, join an Oxford Walking Tours Morse, Lewis and Endeavour Tours

In 1993 the Randolph also starred as the place Jack (C.S.) Lewis found love. It was here In the film that he met Joy Gresham (his future wife) though the Randolph was masquerading as the East Gate Hotel, the true location of the tryst.

Some true history took place in the bar on the 24th of April 1880. It was here that three Oxford students founded what is today the world’s oldest national governing body for athletics, the Amateur Athletics Association or AAA. Let’s hope the new Randolph owners keep the plaque up in the bar to remind us of this historic moment.

More recently, in 2015, the most potentially disastrous event in the hotel’s history took place, when the chef got a little too enthusiastic whilst flambéeing a Boeuf Bourguignon. Flames and heat shot up the ventilation shaft from the basement to the roof and the ensuing blaze was a huge shock to the city.

Thankfully no one was hurt and after a few months of shutdown the hotel rose Phoenix-like from the ashes in all its splendour. We can only hope it will do the same when the virus passes and that all its staff can work again.

Sports at Oxford

Sport at Oxford

Remarkably, despite a full-time focus on study, Oxford students still find lots of time to play.

Pick any early morning (in normal times) and you will find them rowing down the river, jogging along the towpath, speeding round the Iffley Road track, scaling the climbing wall or ploughing up and down the fantastic Rosenblatt Swimming Pool.

In fact, Oxford students take part in at least 57(!) sports for which they can win ‘Blues’ or ‘Half-Blues’ and the right to wear a dark blue Oxford University Blazer (or blue and white-striped zebra-wise in the case of a Half-Blue) emblazoned with the crest of the appropriate sports club.

Ballroom dancing is a one of the many sports at Oxford

No, Quidditch is not a blues sport, but if you do anything from American Football to Yachting via Clay Pigeon Shooting, Croquet, Powerlifting and Ultimate Frisbee, there’s a team and a competition for you to take part in.

Sport at Oxford University really came into its own in the 19th century. Before that young men went hunting nearby or played Real Tennis. Merton College still has its Real Tennis court, with two professional coaches, though the court at Oriel College is no longer extant. A pity, as that was the court where Charles I was interrupted by a trumpeter come to sue for peace in 1642 (no, the peace talks failed, but Parliament did agree to send the King cloth for a new tennis suit).

The first Oxford-Cambridge Boat Race was held in 1829, though it was in Henley rather than London. Later onlookers used to watch races from barges with distinctive round windows – you can still find one hidden near Donnington Bridge. Today there are college boathouses all along the river Thames at a short distance from Folly Bridge and rowing’s popularity is undiminished. There are two major competitions held in Oxford every year– Torpids in the sleepy spring and Eights in the energetic summer rowed over several days.

Each college chalks their accomplishments on the walls of the quads

Cricket too has always been very popular and some great names have honed their skills on the playing fields of Oxford – CB Fry, Colin Cowdrey, the Nawab of Pataudi, Imran Khan and Jamie Dalrymple to name but a few.

We also shouldn’t forget that the game of Rugby was invented by an Oxford man (though fortunately he went to Rugby school beforehand, or presumably ‘Oxford’ would be a game as well as a University). His name was William Webb Ellis and one day he decided to revolutionise football (or break the rules, depending how you look at it) and pick up the ball. You can see him immortalised in stone above the High Street entrance to Brasenose college, head down, arm round a ball.

‘A healthy mind in a healthy body!’ was the rallying cry of the 19th century public schools and once at Oxford, the ‘hearties’ looked down on the ‘aesthetes’. However, it all got a bit out of hand when sport seemed to be many young men’s sole reason for coming to Oxford.
The dons started to protest. Neville Coghill at Exeter commented in 1938 that ‘great athletes are seldom great scholars’ and a Pembroke don balked at the ‘conflict of time, energy and interest’ which led to some students ‘skimping study’. On the other hand, A.L. P Norrington, President of Trinity College, was concerned at the ‘tendency of undergraduates to mooch in the afternoon instead of taking exercise’.

In fact, sport was a requirement for a Rhodes Scholar, who couldn’t merely be a ‘bookworm’ and was expected to be an enthusiastic and capable participant in ‘manly sports’. With the belated acceptance of women scholars, the adjective has been deleted, however, it is true that Rhodes Scholars have contributed hugely to Oxford’s sporting successes.
It is also true that sports don’t seem to have interfered too much with the spectacular success of certain individuals. Take Sir Roger Bannister, who not only manage to run the very first sub-four-minute mile (on our Iffley Road track) but also became an outstanding neurologist and eventually Master of Pembroke College.

So what’s the attitude of today’s University to sport? The Oxford University Sport website tells us ‘A growing body of research is highlighting the many benefits that getting active has, from mental health, through to life expectancy and even academic performance. While Oxford has a truly world class pedigree when it comes to sport, we want to spread the simple message that sport really is for everyone.’

And the Pro Vice-Chancellor, Martin Williams, gives a balanced yet positive appraisal: “There is always a way to balance sports with studying, and we actively encourage students to get active while they are here.”

It was at The Iffley Road Track that Roger Bannister run the first sub-four minute mile.

So, there’s no excuse for mooching around!

Walking Tours of Oxford are a great way to exercise and if you are really keen on sport, we can also show you (from a distance) some of our amazing sporting facilities and tell you more about its history.

 © Victoria Bentata 2020 for Walking Tours of Oxford

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

Bubbles & Picnics!

At Walking Tours of Oxford….

We have missed you!

So now for … a BUBBLE TOUR! Possibly followed or preceded by…. A Bespoke Picnic!

Welcome back and let us organise a really special day for you!

With immediate effect, we are able to offer you our unique BUBBLE TOURS for a maximum of 5 people (plus guide to equal 6) at a reduced rate of just £65 throughout July and August only.

These can be taken on any day at a time to suit you (please note there is a supplement for a tour on a Sunday).  

We will be adhering to government guidelines and all tours will be outside for the entire duration (all colleges / university building remain closed and tours are 90 mins in length). Following recent relaxation in rules, we can now take larger groups (supplement applicable).

We have also teamed up with a local business – Bespoke Picnics – to offer you a full gastronomic and cultural experience.

Our bespoke picnic

Summer in Oxford is ideal for picnics and the leafy green University Parks or Christ Church Meadow are perfect places from which to start or end a tour.

Spread out your Bespoke Picnic blanket, open your wicker basket and tuck in!

Bespoke Picnics offers Finger Sandwiches with root vegetable crisps, Proper (Fresh!) Scones with clotted cream and delicious jam, followed by fresh strawberries with chocolate truffles for dessert.
You’ll need a tour to walk it off. We did!

Your guides have not been idle in the lockdown! We have been busily brushing up our knowledge and reading new information we would love to share.

Whether you want to learn more about the city close to which you live, of if you are on a Staycation or home educating the kids – this is a perfect and unique way to explore which will be tailored to you.

Just let us know if you have any particular interests you would like us to address or whether you would like a general introduction to Oxford. Take a look at our list of specialist tours for inspiration.

We are set to commence public tours from 1st August (although there will be a slightly reduced schedule – please see booking form for tour dates).  

N.B. For all public tours booked in July and August (for travel throughout the year), we are offering a 20% discount with the code ‘RETURN’. Just book as normal via the ‘Book Now’ button and enter the code at checkout.

Alice Day in Oxford

Alice Day in Oxford

4th July may be Independence Day in the US, but here in Oxford we celebrate Alice Day. This year it was a bit ‘virtual’ but usually you can bump into several ‘Alices’ wearing little blue dresses and ‘Alice’ bands and take guided ‘Alice walks’ around the city. At Walking Tours of Oxford we would be delighted to take you on an Alice tour any day of the year!
So, why 4th July? Because this was the day in 1862 when Charles Lutwidge Dodgson (alias Lewis Carroll) set off to spend a day rowing down the Thames. With him were his friend Reverend Duckworth and the three young daughters of the Dean of Christ Church, where Dodgson taught maths.

Charles Dodgson was a man with a vivid imagination and a playful sense of humour and he loved to tell stories. The three little girls were called Lorina, Alice and Edith and he made up stories especially for them. Often, they appeared in the stories themselves. On 4th July 1862 he told the story of Alice, who fell down a rabbit hole into another world. It was all a dream, but he wouldn’t reveal that until the end of the story. Alice asked him to write it down. It took him a couple of years, but he did it and gave her the original manuscript as a present. Today, it is Oxford’s most famous and well-loved book.

This beautiful illustration is from a book called The Nursery Alice, which was published in 1880, fifteen years after the original Alice in Wonderland. It was for small children and Lewis Carroll shortened and simplified it so they would understand it better. He also asked John Tenniel, the illustrator, to colour in some of his original pictures. Here we see all the members of that 4th July rowing party: The ‘Dodo’ (a joke at himself by Dodgson, who had a bit of a stutter), Alice, the Duck (Reverend Duckworth) and in the back row the Eaglet (Edith) and the Lory (Lorina). All of them have just dried off by running a ‘Caucus Race’ after falling into the pool of Alice’s tears. The Lory had ‘turned sulky’ and would only say ‘I am older than you and must know better.’ Lorina was, of course, Alice and Edith’s older sister.

Lewis Carroll makes frequent (often thinly disguised) references to people and places in Oxford. If you come on one of our tours, we can tell you all about them. Get to know the White Rabbit, the Queen of Hearts, the Dormouse, the Drawling Master and find out why the Hatter was Mad. You can also see some of the places frequented by Dodgson and the real Alice.

At present, we all seem to have fallen down the rabbit hole, but let’s hope it’s all just a bad dream. In the meantime, join our new Bubble Tour!!

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Walking Tours of Oxford looks forward to seeing you in Oxford very soon!

 © Victoria Bentata 2020 for Walking Tours of Oxford