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GO POTTERING AROUND OXFORD

Christ Church, otherwise known as Hogwarts Hall, wheere Harry Potter was educatedIf you want to give some kids a treat, take them on a day trip or a weekend to Oxford.

They all know about Harry Potter and the film in which Oxford University was featured with star roles among the film locations. Among the major sets were the Great Hall of Christ Church which doubled as the Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry and the 1000-years-old cloisters which featured as the Hogwarts Trophy Room.

It's a big thrill for kids to walk up the magnificent 16th-century staircase where Harry and the first-year wizards were greeted by Professor MacGonigal, waiting in Hogwarts Hall. 

That scene is based on Britain's finest medieval banqueting hall, where Christ Church students dine every night during term time. 

Travel Facts

 

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TRAVEL FACTS

There are four Park-and-Ride locations around the Oxford Ring Road, each with free parking. Park-and-Ride buses from them to the centre cost 2.50 for a day return (and up to three children under 16 free). Long distance coaches terminate at Gloucester Green Bus Station, with everything in easy walking distance.

General walking tours start from the Information Centre (address below) daily at 11 and 14 hrs. On Sats and high season, two additional tours are available.   Tickets on first-come, first-served basis in person at the Centre. 

On Sats at 1.30 pm there's an Inspector Morse tour, following Oxford's most famous detective. Book in advance through the Information Centre. 

Further information from the Oxford Tourist Information Centre at 15-16 Broad Street, Oxford OX1 3AS. Tel: 01865 726871. 
    

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Even the sedate setting of the Bodleian Library had star parts as the library in Hogwarts School, while the Divinity School became the Hogwarts School hospital.

Of course, all kinds of literary associations draw people to Oxford. The Harry Potter feature film is just one among a long list of TV and movie blockbusters which have used various University settings.

The bowler-hatted Head Custodian of Christ Church conducts tours around the college. He said: "Oxford is the capital of children's literature. 

"It's a place which has inspired many famous children's books, and Harry Potter is the cream on the cake. It has started children reading again. And hopefully once they've read Harry Potter, they'll go into these other famous stories."

Oxford's version of the Venetian Bridge of Sighs, at Hertford College.The most famous of those stories is 'Alice's Adventures in Wonderland' - written by Lewis Carroll, who taught mathematics for many years at Christ Church under his real name of Charles Dodgson. 

A great deal of this highly imaginative story was based on details from the Great Hall - now better known around the world as Hogwarts Hall.

The opening chapter of Alice popping down the rabbit hole was inspired by the spiral staircase used by Alice's real-life father - Henry Liddell, the dean of Christ Church. Located just behind the long, polished High Table, where the dons dine every night, the door to the staircase enabled him to pop away quite suddenly.

Among the dozens of paintings around the Great Hall is the dominant portrait of King Henry VIII, who famously solved some of his marital problems with the edict: "Off with her head!"

Just like the Queen, in the Alice story.

The banqueting hall itself was built when the college was founded in 1525 by Cardinal Wolsey, the wizard adviser to King Henry. But some years later, Wolsey fell from grace and his Cardinal College was re-founded by Henry as Christ Church.

Blackwell's - the most famous bookstore in Oxford, on Broad Street. Inspector Morse tours start from here on Saturdays.All the historical stuff floats over the heads of today's younger visitors. And probably many adults are also more interested in learning who the White Rabbit really was, and why he was always late. 

They want to meet the Jabberwocky, see the tree where the Cheshire cat sat and discover Alice's special door to Wonderland. 

Across the street - on the corner of St Aldates - is Alice's Shop, where the real-life Alice Liddell used to buy her barley sugar sweets. 

The shopkeeper had a bleating voice so Lewis Carroll made her into a character, and the shop into a location: the original Old Sheep Shop in `Through The Looking Glass'. Today it's an Alice themed gift store, welcoming thousands of visitors a year, of whom many stay for tea.

At the other end of St Aldates is the Museum of Oxford, where Victorian galleries reflect how the city looked when the real-life Alice was growing up. A display entitled 'Looking for Alice' tells the story behind the stories, and includes many of Alice's personal effects such as her dress, watch and fan. 

A springtime view of Trinity College. Another film classic is 'Lord of the Rings' which - regrettably for Britain's tourist industry - was filmed entirely in New Zealand.

But the author, J.K. Tolkien, was an Oxford professor of Anglo-Saxon for many years. An informal literary club of authors called The Inklings lunched together for some 25 years during the 1930s and 40s at a pub in St Giles called The Eagle and Child


The key members were J.R. Tolkien and C.S. Lewis of Magdalen College. Lewis wrote seven books of children's fantasy about the kingdom of Narnia.

A visit to the pub should finally slake adult thirst for classic children's literature.

Finally, for an easy ride through historical Oxford, ride the top deck of the hop-on hop-off bus tour that takes you past all 39 Oxford colleges, with a guide who talks non-stop. There's always so much to see, but so little time. 

 

Consider these other South East suggestions

LONDON - the capital free show

LONDON - rooms at reasonable cost

NORFOLK BROADS - by slow boat

WINDSOR - Enjoy a Royal Wekend


"Books to read - click on cover pictures" or click on the links below

Oxford and Cambridge: An Uncommon History by Peter Sager - A witty and detailed literary guide to Oxbridge, presented through facts, figures and anecdotes. A unique combination of travel guide, history and biography 

Oxford Sketchbook (Sketchbooks Series) - A collection of 150 watercolours and pencil sketches, Graham Byfield captures the atmosphere of Oxford's historic landmarks, celebrated colleges and beautiful landscapes. 

The Dodo Guide to Oxford: A Quirky New Guidebook to the Architecture, History, and Principal Attractions of Oxford - The title describes it all!

Eccentric Oxford - A Bradt Travel Guide which takes a fresh look behind the scenes of all that history and culture.

The Oxford of "Inspector Morse" - written by Bill Leonard, who is a local Oxford Guide. The TV detective was created by Oxford author Colin Dexter.


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