Exploring Oxfordshire from Home

16 June 2020

While many of us are still staying at home and the lack of open public loos makes visits to our favourite places difficult, it can be nice to at least take our thoughts on a journey. As 30 intrepid walkers and virtual-visitors found last month when they walked 3,540 kilometers and virtually visited 47 country gardens for Guideposts.

There’s a lot to be gained from virtual visits, and you can let your imagination take you further. So here are ten ways to see Oxfordshire and get your top-up of history and culture from your armchair.

1. Magdalen College

Follow this virtual tour going into Magdalen College, by way of a written account with a friendly tone and inviting manner, from our friends at Oxfordshire Mind.

2. Central Oxford

Take a look around central Oxford, and inside many of the university and college buildings that you may not even have set foot in yourself.

3. Bodleian Library

For many, the Bodleian Library’s buildings are the icons of Oxford with the famous Radcliffe Camera and many locations featured in Harry Potter films. Its enormous collection of books is even more awe-inspiring. Visit an online exhibition to discover:

4. Artweek

Oxfordshire Artweeks 2020 would normally invite us into artists’ studios and temporary exhibitions in May.  This year you can see them without travelling between venues. Artist galleries and themed virtual tours are still available on their website.

5. Historic Towns

Channel 4’s “Britain’s Most Historic Towns” featured Oxford and the Civil War last year. Follow professor Alice Roberts as she discovers the significance of Oxford during that time, with some great views of the city as well!

6. Blenheim Palace

Explore Oxfordshire’s World Heritage Site at Blenheim Palace, including 360-degree tours of the various state rooms with audio guide, and videos giving insight to life on the wider Blenheim estate. For those who aren’t staying at home, they are also now accepting visitors with timed booking slots.

7. The Ashmolean

At the Ashmolean Museum explore the fantastic collection in their online Treasures exhibition, or take a virtual walk through the Young Rembrandt Exhibition, either with Simon Schama as guide or with an introduction from the exhibition’s curator An Van Camp. For some more interactive fun, try an online jigsaw of their exhibits.

8. Bletchley Park

A little outside Oxfordshire, there are inspirational stories of the World War 2 code breakers to be found at Bletchley Park with YouTube videos and podcasts to lead you into another time as well as place.

9. Filming

For something less factual, get immersed in the many film and TV shows filmed in Oxfordshire.  It’s often hard to follow the plot in Inspector Morse or Endeavour when spotting all the locations featured. Have you also been distracted by spotting the Oxfordshire locations in Harry Potter films, The BFG, The History Boys, Transformers 5, Gulliver’s Travels, Downton Abbey or Shakespeare in Love – to mention just a few?

The Morse, Lewis and Endeavour series are regularly on TV channels, and if you don’t subscribe to a film service you can rent a film from Amazon, iTunes, Google Play or YouTube.

10. Books

When you’ve had enough screen time, why not head to some of the books set in Oxford: perhaps discover Colin Dexter’s Inspector Morse in his original format on paper; Philip Pullman’s Northern Lights trilogy and Book of Dust; or for classics, Thomas Hardy’s Jude the Obscure and Evelyn Waugh’s Brideshead Revisited are perhaps the most famous.

You may also like to explore Iain Pear’s An Instance of the Fingerpost, Edmund Crispin’s The Moving Toyshop and Charlotte Mendelson’s Daughters of Jerusalem. Booksellers online include Wordery, Hive and Amazon, or for second hand books try Oxfam or Abebooks.

To keep on exploring the world of arts, culture and nature, check out our See the World page for further suggestions. And connect with us on Facebook or Twitter and let us know which corners of Oxfordshire you have discovered from your armchair.