Stop 1: The Eagle and Child (The Bird and Baby)
Start your C.S. Lewis walking tour of Oxford with a visit to the famed Eagle and Child pub, colloquially known as The Bird and Baby. This historic watering hole, located on St. Giles Street, was a favourite gathering place for Lewis and his literary circle, known as the Inklings. It was here that Lewis and his friend J.R.R. Tolkien would meet regularly to discuss their works and share their literary endeavours. The pub is adorned with memorabilia and photographs, giving you a sense of the intellectual camaraderie that once thrived within its walls.
Stop 2: Magdalen College
C.S. Lewis was a fellow at Magdalen College, one of the 38 colleges that make up the University of Oxford. This picturesque college, with its stunning architecture and beautiful gardens, offers a glimpse into Lewis's academic life. Stroll through the tranquil Deer Park, where Lewis often took long walks and found inspiration for his writings. While the college's interior is not open to the public, the exterior alone is worth a visit.
Stop 3: The Kilns
Venture to Lewis's beloved home, The Kilns, a short distance from the city centre. This charming residence is where Lewis wrote many of his most famous works, including The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe. Though privately owned and still used as a personal residence, tours are available by prior appointment and are known to provide insight into his life and relationships.
Stop 4: University Church of St. Mary
The University Church of St. Mary is an iconic Oxford landmark, and it held a special place in C.S. Lewis's heart. This is where he delivered his famous sermon The Weight of Glory during World War II. Visitors can attend Sunday services or explore the beautiful interior, which often hosts special events and exhibitions related to Lewis and his works.
Stop 5: Bodleian Library
No visit to Oxford is complete without a stop at the Bodleian Library. Lewis spent countless hours in this world-renowned library, conducting research for his academic work. While you may not have access to the inner sanctums of the library, you can explore its stunning medieval architecture, and the Divinity School, which served as the inspiration for the Great Hall in the Narnia series.
Stop 6: St. John's College
Although Lewis did not teach at St. John's College, the location is noteworthy for its influence on his spiritual journey. The chapel at St. John's College, designed by Sir Thomas Jackson, left a profound impact on Lewis and contributed to his eventual conversion to Christianity. The chapel's beautiful stained glass windows and serene atmosphere offer great surroundings for a moment of reflection.
Overall, a C.S. Lewis walking tour of Oxford is a pilgrimage to the heart of Narnia and the world of a literary genius. As you explore the places that shaped Lewis's life and work, you'll gain a deeper appreciation for the man behind the stories. Oxford, with its historic charm and academic traditions, provides a fitting backdrop to the legacy of one of the 20th century's most influential writers. So, grab your coat, step through the wardrobe, and embark on a Narnian Odyssey through the streets of Oxford.
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For further information on C.S. Lewis's life in Oxford see resources below: