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.
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.