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TOURIST TIP: History buff alert! Step back in time at Oxford Castle and Prison

Posted by Emma Righton on Wednesday 23 March

In between hitting the shops, museums and colleges, save some time to check out the Oxford Castle quarter, right in the middle of the city centre.

The large, partly ruined Norman medieval castle is now a posh hotel and restaurant complex, but was once home to both royals and prisoners alike!

Most of the original, moated, wooden ‘motte and bailey’ castle was replaced in stone in the 11th century and played an important role in the conflict of the Anarchy, the civil war in England and Normandy between 1135 and 1154.

Old image of castle and prison

In the 14th century, the military value of the castle fell and the site was mainly used for county administration, and as a prison.

Most of the castle was destroyed in the English Civil War and by the 18th century the remaining buildings were taken over as Oxford’s local prison.

A new prison complex was built on the site from 1785 onwards and expanded in 1876 to become HM Prison Oxford. The prison closed in 1996 when it was redeveloped into Malmaisson Hotel and a restaurant complex.

The medieval remains of the castle, including the motte and St George’s Tower – one of the oldest buildings in Oxford – and crypt are Grade 1 Listed buildings and a Scheduled Monument.

And as part of the Oxford Castle Unlocked tour you can climb the Saxon tower and enjoy 360 views of the historic city, and go deep underground into the 900 year old crypt – the only surviving remains of St George’s Chapel.

Then explore the austere confines of the 18th century Debtors’ Tower and Prison D-Wing before scaling the 11th century castle ‘motte and bailey’ castle.

TOURIST TIP: History On Your Doorstep

Posted by Emma Righton on Wednesday 23 March

No trip to Oxford would be complete without a visit to the Bodleian Library in Broad Street – one of the oldest libraries in Europe.

In Britain it is second in size only to the British Library with over 12 million printed items.

First opened to scholars in 1602, it includes an earlier library built by the University in the 15th century to house books donated by Humfrey, Duke of Gloucester.

Since 1602 it has slowly expanded to keep pace with the ever-growing accumulation of books, papers and other materials, with the core of the old buildings remaining intact.

Known to many Oxford scholars simply as ‘the Bod’, these buildings are still used by students and scholars from all over the world, and they attract an ever-increasing number of visitors.

And part of the Bodleian Libraries is the new Weston Library, also in Broad Street, which is home to a fantastic exhibition centre, lecture theatre, shop and café.

In the short time since it opened in March 2015, the Weston Library has become the fourth most popular visitor attraction in Oxfordshire, according to new figures released this month by the Association of Leading Visitor Attractions (ALVA).

To go inside the Bodleian Library you need to be either a student, employee or academic visitor of the Oxford University.

External ‘reader cards’, or Library Cards, may be granted to Oxford University graduates, readers who want to access the Weston Library and current members of other UK universities.

Click here for more info.

TOURIST TIP: Where to Eat Like a Local in Oxford

Posted by Emma Righton on Thursday 17 March

As soon as foodies visit a new city they are immediately on the hunt for the best places to eat.

But this kind of insider knowledge is really something only a local can tell you.

So, we’ve done all the hard work for you.


Best burger: Rickety Press, Cranham Street, Jericho

Best steak: Chester Arms, Chester Street, East Oxford

Best Thai food: Oli’s Thai, Magdalen Road, East Oxford

Best health food: Modern Baker, Banbury Road, Summertown, North Oxford

Best Indian: Standard, Walton Street, North Oxford

Best Pizza: Mamma Mia, South Parade, Summertown, North Oxford

Best Japanese: Tabura, Cowley Road, East Oxford

Best Chinese: Sojo, Hythe Bridge Street, Oxford

Best breakfast/brunch: The Bear and Ragged Staff, Cumnor

Best American food: The Oxford Blue Smokehouse, Marston Street, East Oxford

Best Fine Dining: Magdalen Arms, Iffley Road, East Oxford

Best Roast: Joint favourites Chester Arms, Chester Street, East Oxford AND The Bear and Ragged Staff, Cumnor

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