Up the highest tower in Oxford. Fancy a look?

stmichaelatthenorthgate
Went into Oxford last Monday to take my kids to the Andy Warhol exhibition at The Ashmolean Museum – because those bratlets will be cultured, goddamit. But I entirely forgot that all the museums are closed on a Monday (even in half term which seem a bit daft). Cue some quick thinking and a change of plan.

Which was a scurry up St Michael in the North Gate tower, on the corner of Cornmarket and Ship Street. Oxford’s oldest building, originally built around 1000-1050 with the tower of 1040 still in existence, it was a total thrill to do something off the cuff and a bit unusual with the kids. Up, up, up, we went, past these massive old bells, passed a cell door from the Bocardo Prison that used to next to the church that held the Oxford Martyrs (Cranmer, Latimer and Ridley) before they were burnt at the stake in Broad Street in 1555-6. In the Nineteenth Century, William Morris married Jane Burden here and John Wesley’s pulpit is also on show here.

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But the real point of visiting this £3.50 modest attraction is the ancient view. Plenty of buildings in Oxford flag wave themselves as the best view in the city, but I’d say the vista from the top of St Michael’s is as good as any. You can see the Sheldonian Tower from here, the spires, plus you’re bang in the centre of Cornmarket, so it’s the sort of place you can just dive into for half an hour.

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I’m in love with the half an hour culture tour, those little often overlooked places that are so worthy of attention but don’t require the effort of a five floor museum. Other lovely quirky small pleasures that spring to mind include the Bate Collection of musical instruments by Christchurch Meadows, the lovely Broad St-based Museum of the History of Science, and tour of the Sheldonian Theatre or Bodleian Library – all of which I’ve done, very successfully, with my kids.

Anyway, having frogmarched the mudlets up the tower, we went for a walk around Christchurch Meadows, down to the river and back around again. It’ll take you about half an hour and it’s just glorious the whole way round – check out my pics below.

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You can pop up by the Botanical Gardens if you’re a real glutton for the outdoors, or loop up to the High Street and cut to Turl Street Kitchen for a well deserved coffee and cake. Day out sorted!

 

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The Urban Guide to the Countryside - Bucks & Oxon