Oxford offers a seemingly endless collection of fascinating buildings, greens and streets that have been the focal point of some of the worlds great events. The university was founded here almost a millennium ago and is the oldest university in the world.
We’ll then continue on to one of England’s finest country houses at Blenheim Palace to explore this grand Baroque mansion in the Oxford Countryside.
Established in 1096 the 45 colleges of Oxford have educated some of the world’s greatest minds including J.R.R Tolkien, Oscar Wilde and Stephen Hawking. It has also seen its fair share of famous alumni including Rupert Murdoch, High Grant, former British Prime Minister David Cameron and current PM Boris Johnston.
The best way to see Oxford is on foot and your guide will lead your group through the streets and colleges and introduce you the city. You’ll visit sites including the grand Radcliffe Camera, a library and centre of learning dating back to 1737.
The library’s construction and maintenance was funded from the estate of John Radcliffe, a physician who left £40k on his death in 1714. The building is the earliest example of a circular library in England was competed in 1748, although opening was delayed until 13 April 1749 due to civil unrest. It houses books relating to the Science of Physics, Anatomy, Botany, Surgery and Philosophy.
We’ll explore the various colleges that make up the university quarter of Oxford including New College (1379), All Souls College (1438) The Bodleian Quad and the University Church of St Mary the Virgin.
Bridge of Sighs
With more than a passing resemblance to its namesake in Venice, Oxford’s version spans a lane rather than a canal but it’s one of the most architecturally significant buildings in Oxford. The bridge links the Old and New Quadrangles of Hertford College and is a relatively new addition to the city, being completed in 1914.
Oxford Castle & Prison
Oxford Castle is a partly ruined Norman medieval castle a cannonballs length from the city centre. Built in the mid 11th c, by the 14th century the castle was redundant and the site became used as administration offices and as a prison.
At the top of the 101 steps of St George’s Tower are fantastic views across the city. Previously though to be a later addition to the castle, it is now believed to pre-date it and was actually a watch tower at the original Saxon west gate of the old walled city.
Most of the castle was destroyed in the English Civil War (1642 – 1651) and by the 18th century the remains were rebuilt to form Her Majesty’s Oxford Prison. The prison closed in 1996 and was redeveloped as a hotel and visitor attraction. We’ll learn about Oxford Castle from the Ramparts.
We then travel the short distance to the Baroque stately home of the Dukes of Marlborough at Blenheim Palace. Built between 1705 and 1722 it was designed by Designed by Sir John Vanbrugh to celebrate the victory over the French in the War of the Spanish Succession (1701–14). The palace was a gift to John Churchill, the first Duke of Marlborough, the military commander who led Allied forces in the battle of Blenheim on 13 August 1704. It is the only non-royal country house in England to hold the title of palace.
Sir Winston Churchill was born at Blenheim in November 1874. In September 1940 he allowed the British Security Service (MI5) to use the palace as its base until the end of the war. More than 400 boys who were evacuated from nearby Malvern College. With cash running low, Blenheim Palace and formal gardens were opened to the public in 1950 and were designated a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1987.
Blenheim has been used in many film and TV productions including Transformers: The Last Knight (2017), 007 Spectre (2015), Gulliver’s Travels (2010) and Harry Potter and The Order of the Phoenix (2007).