Hello Literary Excursion fans!
Since winding up university work and finishing the Season at Knebworth House, I have made efforts to get in a few book-themed adventures. Fortunately, a visit from my bibliophile mother afforded me the perfect opportunity for a new exploration. Ordinarily resident in the US, my mum’s work visits to the UK are the highlights of my year. This time, we thought that we would mix it up a little. Rather than subject her to yet another tour of Knebworth House, I went and stayed with her near her work office in Oxford. Literary excursion heaven!
Obviously, there are many Oxford sights of particular importance to the dedicated bibliophile. As such, I am well aware that this post will only scrape the surface of what is available. But I think that, for two days of sight-seeing, we did a pretty comprehensive job! The first stop was the infamous Bodleian Library. Serving as the principal library for the University of Oxford, the Bodleian houses over 11,000 items.
It is a beautiful building and is currently home to the Magical Books exhibition, with original manuscripts from J.R.R. Tolkien and Philip Pullman on display. And entry is free!
No literary-themed Oxford trip could miss a visit to the Alice in Wonderland shop. Lewis Carroll was educated at Oxford, along with many other well-known British authors. The Alice Shop is the ultimate homage to Carroll’s creation, selling every imaginable Alice-themed souvenir. It is, however, a tiny shop – so be prepared to jostle with the tourists. Personal space is something that you will not retain here.
Among those authors celebrated as Oxford alumni, perhaps the most famous are C.S. Lewis and J.R.R. Tolkien. Both were members of The Inklings, an unofficial literary group that would meet to discuss fiction. The group frequented the local pub, The Eagle and Child – a must-see for the literary-minded. Amazingly, despite the small size, it was relatively easy to get a table. And the walls abound with interesting artefacts related to the pub’s most famous patrons.
Finally, no visit to the Oxford city centre could be complete without a trip to Christ Church College. While I am sure that the history of the place provides for an interesting aspect of the university’s history, my visit was for one purpose only – to see the hall used as the Hogwarts Great Hall in the Harry Potter films. I would advise against a visit to this particular location during the height of tourist season, however. It was heaving and our visit amounted to a lengthy circular shuffle around the hall.
A visit to Oxford comes highly recommended for any literary fanatic. The place abounds with bibliophilic hotspots. For our mother-daughter weekend, however, the joy did not stop there. Mum’s office is located outside of the town and near the small village of Woodstock, where we stayed for the duration. The best thing about Woodstock is that a two minute walk to the edge of the village leads you to the back entrance of the beautiful Blenheim Palace. While not strictly literary in nature (for anyone interested in the history of the Palace, I would recommend a visit to the website), we spent a lot of time reading in the grounds. I do not think it possible to find a lovelier reading location.
So there you have it. The perfect Oxford Literary Excursion. Highly recommended for anyone who finds herself (or himself) in the area. And the best opportunity for a wonderful weekend with your fantastic mum.