Adventures in the UK: Top 5 Must-Sees: Oxford

Perhaps you have been considering a holiday to the misty, rainy isle that is Great Britain. You have heard about London, know you have to see Westminster Abbey, Big Ben and the queen. But further than that, you might not be aware of what the rest of the United Kingdom has to offer. Be assured that outside of the country’s metropolis, there are many sites to be seen and the city of Oxford is one not to miss.

Oxford is a city built around the sublime presence of the renowned Oxford University. It is a true college town in every sense of the world, as the gothic architecture of the various colleges dominates the city. Despite its collegiate air, the town is a beautiful mix of old world and new and has a lot of adventure potential to the keen traveler.

Museum Frenzy

It doesn’t take long wandering around the streets of Oxford to discover that the town is laden with museums. From engineering to town history to modern art, Oxford museums encompass every aspect a museum enthusiast could ask for. And good news for the budget minded, most of the museums dotted around the town are free to visit.They key to taking in these educational sights is deciding which ones interest you.

If you are struggling to decide which museum to tackle first, the Ashmolean is a great place to start. Founded in 1683, it is considered to be one of the most important museums of art and archaeology in British heartland. As one of the world’s leading museums, the Ashmolean, features a range of galleries that include a plethora of wonders. From classical art and sculpture to natural history baubles from ancient civilizations, your eyes will be dazzled with the impressive collection.

The aim of this cultural integration housed in the Ashmolean is to allow visitors to appreciate the development of civilization as a facet of overall world culture. And with the exhibits arranged chronologically, visitors will feel like they are travelling through time witnessing moments from all around the world. Highlights on display in the museum include an impressive collection of Egyptian artefacts, a collection of Raphael drawings and one of the largest collections of Chinese art in the Western world.

Oxford Covered Market

The Oxford covered market is a definite must see if you can find it. Discretely tucked in the main thoroughfare, the covered market has been trading with the public since the 1700s. Despite the extremely long history, you will find lovely items for today’s world. It is a grand experience and as you join the bustling crowds you can purchase a wide range of locally grown fresh produce, pies and even game birds. If high-quality cooking ingredients don’t excite you, there are stalls selling gifts, cheeses, leather and anything you can think of.

Even if your tummy isn’t rumbling from all the culinary delights, it’s worth popping over the centrally located cake shop, where marzipan toppers are created before your eyes. Watch a skilled cake artist recreate bunnies, dogs and even the royal family in marzipan. The results are amazing. Though if you do get one of these little works of art on a cupcake, would you have the heart to eat it? Overall, the covered market is truly a feast for the eyes and potentially for the palate.

Alice in Oxford-land

If you are a fan of Lewis Carroll’s “Alice in Wonderland,” you may be aware that Alice Liddell and Charles Dodson were residents of Oxford. While there are no formal sites commemorating the adventures of Alice, you will find hints of the Wonderland legacy within the town. Two particular highlights are the Christ Church Meadow and Alice’s Shop.

The Christ Church meadow was a popular haunt for the author and his muse, and a visit to the meandering riverside paths will have you communing with them. A lovely place to explore or take a picnic, visitors can watch boats ramble by on the sleepy river or take in the botanical sights. It’s a peaceful way to spend an afternoon and is a great option for the weary traveler.

Alice’s Shop is a tiny tourist shop located across from the meadow and is situated on the site of Alice Liddell’s favorite sweet shop. The shop keeps with the sweet shop tradition and even offers Alice’s favorite sweet, barley sugar. While it is a tiny establishment, you will feel like you are well on the way to wonderland, perhaps with some Alice memorabilia in your pocket.

Oxford Castle Unlocked

If you have had enough of the majestic spires and posh university air of Oxford, then take a trip into its darker history and head over to Oxford Castle. While originally a castle in the sense of defence post rather then posh luxury accommodation; the Oxford Castle’s more recent history has been its transition to being the Oxford Prison.

A site of incarceration since 1071, the Oxford Castle has housed many a criminal, all the way up until its closure in 1996. The Oxford Castle exhibit gives visitors a chance to see what prison life in the Castle was like over the years. Visitors have access to cells, including the padded cell, and are able to read about the historical prisoners incarcerated there. As a time capsule recording centuries of punishment, the exhibit retells the stories of its occupants in great detail

If you have the stomach for heights, visitors have the opportunity to climb the Saxon St George’s Tower and enjoy its dramatic views of Oxford. Afterwards, visitors descend into the bowels of the castle and hear about the haunting in the ancient underground crypts. A spooky day out and an adventure with a twist for those looking for an alternative experience in the college town.

Just Outside Oxford: Blenheim Palace

After wandering the town, perhaps you are ready to venture outside the main area and if you do, Blenheim Palace is a must see site. Located in the Oxfordshire Cotswolds, the palace is one of the best examples of baroque architecture in England. There are guided tours available which allow you a peek at the lush house, complete with tapestries and exquisite period furniture. There is even an exhibit on Winston Churchill in the room he was born in. It’s a lovely example of historical home that has been maintained with great care over the centuries.

Depending on the time of year, your visit might coincide with one of the numerous events held at the palace. Through the year, there are horse trials, craft fairs and even jousting. It is definitely worth a quick peek at the calendar to see if you can catch any of the events.

Another highlight of Blenheim Palace is the extensive gardens. With more than 2000 acres of land surrounding the palace, the gardens are composed of a number of beautiful areas. The gardens are a feast for the senses with fountains, lakes, rose gardens, Italian gardens, water terraces and even a ‘Secret Garden.’ There are even hedge mazes, an adventure playground, and a butterfly house for children to enjoy. And spectacularly, these children friendly attractions are reached via a ride on a miniature train. It’s a magical experience for children and adults alike.

Hopefully, I have managed to intrigue you with this revelation of the secret adventure that is Oxford and you have put it on your destination list. A short jaunt away from London, it’s a historical haunt that will capture the imagination of any visitor.

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