2.5km Inklings of Oxford Walk tour

Magdalen College from a Cloister Hall window

2.5km Inklings of Oxford Walk tour

J.R.R. Tolkien, Maker of Middle Earth; Lewis Carroll, Chaser of the White Rabbit; and C.S. Lewis, Creator of Narnia. These are only a few of the members of the “Inklings”, an informal literary discussion group at the University of Oxford. Three literary legends, well-known and loved by many, with some obsessions almost cultlike. This Inklings of Oxford Tour takes you to the essential inspirations behind these authors’ works, including Alice’s Shop, the Narnia Door, and the inspiration behind Sauron’s Temple. Join us down the rabbit hole of literary fantasy.

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Route overview of the 2.5km Inklings of Oxford tour

Route overview

Our first stop on the Inklings of Oxford Tour is Alice’s Shop. This shop is part of a 15th-century stone-built house. Alice, the daughter of the Dean of Christ Church with whom Lewis Carroll was a friend, used to buy sweets here and, you guessed it, was the inspiration behind Lewis’s Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland. In Through the Looking Glass, the sequel to Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland, this shop was represented as the Old Sheep Shop. If you’re up for a more authentic Alice in Wonderland experience, the first Saturday in July is Alice’s Day in Oxford. The day includes tea parties, croquet, and all things nonsense.

Storefront of Alice's Shop

Storefront of Alice’s Shop. Credit: Visit Joana

Part 1 of the 2.5km Inklings of Oxford tour from Alice's Shop to Christ Church, and Pembroke College

Part 1 of the 2.5km Inklings of Oxford tour

Exiting Alice’s Shop, turn left, then in roughly 70m, Christ Church will be on your right.

Christ Church College was Lewis Carroll’s place of study and work. This is where Carroll first met Alice and her family. Inside the Cathedral Gardens is a small door Alice walked through to enter Wonderland and follow the little white rabbit. Throughout the college, you will notice little motifs of inspiration for the Alice novels. To enter Christ Church, you can purchase tickets here.

Christ Church College

Christ Church College

Directly opposite the entrance to Christ Church, walk into Pembroke Square, where you will find Pembroke College on the left.

Our third stop on this Inklings of Oxford Tour is Pembroke College. J.R.R. Tolkien was a fellow here and wrote his Lord of the Rings and Hobbit series while he was here. Annually, a lecture on fantasy literature is held here to honour him.

Pembroke College

Pembroke College. Credit: Dave S.

Leaving Pembroke College, turn right down Pembroke Square towards Christ Church, then turn left up St Aldate’s Street and continue for roughly 120m. Turn right into Blue Boar Street, which becomes Bear Lane. In 80m, Bear Lane turns slightly right and becomes Oriel Square, then Merton Street. Turn right into Grove Walk, then left into Deadman’s Walk.

Part 2 of the 2.5km Inklings of Oxford tour leaving Pembroke College, up St Aldate's Street, to Blue Boar Street and Bear Lane

Part 2 of the 2.5km Inklings of Oxford tour

Continuing down Deadman’s Walk, Merton College will be on your left.

Part 3 of the 2.5km Inklings of Oxford tour to Merton College and Magdalen College

Part 3 of the 2.5km Inklings of Oxford tour

In 1945, Tolkien moved to Merton College to take up the English Language and Literature position until his retirement in 1959. Tolkien used to write at an old stone table outside near the garden. This table is said to be the inspiration for Elrond’s conference, where members’ faith was pledged to a fellowship of the One Ring. If you’d like to tour the college, you can purchase tickets here.

Merton College

Merton College. Credit: The Oxford Magazine

Exiting Merton College, turn left down Deadoman’s Walk, left onto Rose Lane, and Magdalen College will be slightly to your right as you reach the High Street.

The next stop on this Inklings of Oxford Tour is Magdalen College. C.S. Lewis was an elected Tutorial Fellow in English, then a Medieval and Renaissance Literature Professor, and finally an Honorary Fellow of Magdalen in 1955. Lewis wrote Narnia while at Magdalen and worked here for 30 years. Deer Park is said to have inspired the scene where Aslan brought the animals back to life.

Magdalen College from a Cloister Hall window

Magdalen College from a Cloister Hall window. Credit: Magdalen College Facebook

Leaving Magdalen College, turn right to continue along High Street for 450m to turn right into St Mary’s Passage.

Part 4 of the 2.5km Inklings of Oxford tour from Magdalen College to Saint Mary's Passage, Radcliffe Camera, and Bodleian Library.

Part 4 of the 2.5km Inklings of Oxford tour

St Mary’s Passage holds the “Narnia Door” with a carved lion on the door and two gold fawns resembling Mr Tumnus. You will also see a lamp post duplicating THE lamp post that Lucy first sees when in wintry Narnia. This is a great spot for some stunning photos; as a bonus, try to include the Radcliffe Camera in the background.

Narnia Door in St Mary's Passage with Radcliffe Camera in the background

Narnia Door. Credit: Third Eye Traveller

Continue through St Mary’s Passage until you reach Radcliffe Camera.

Speaking of Radcliffe Camera, this is our next stop on this Oxford Tour. This library is said to be the inspiration behind Sauron’s Temple in Armenelos in The Silmarillion (Chapter 24). You can book tickets here if you’d like to see the library’s interior.

Radcliffe Camera from above

Radcliffe Camera

Turn left into Catte Street as you leave Radcliffe Camera to find the Bodleian Library on your left.

The Bodleian Library houses some texts and old legends that inspired Tolkien’s writing. What’s more, it also houses original Tolkien manuscripts and drawings. You can find out more about the Tolkien exhibition here. You can take a quick detour to Turl Street, where you will find Exeter College, Tolkien’s start in Oxford in 1911.

Bodleian Library, University of Oxford

Bodleian Library

Exiting the Bodleian Library, turn left to continue along Catte Street. Turn left down Broad Street at the circle and continue for roughly 80m until you find Blackwell’s Bookshop on your right.

Part 5 of the 2.5km Inklings of Oxford tour

Part 5 of the 2.5km Inklings of Oxford tour

Blackwell’s Bookshop is a must-see for every book lover. Over 140 years old, Blackwell’s is one of the largest bookstores in the world and was the first bookshop to publish Tolkien before his rise to fame. The shop also houses rare and antiquarian books, with their oldest text dating back to 1470.

Blackwell's Bookshop

Blackwell’s Bookshop. Credit: The Oxford Magazine

Exiting Blackwell’s, turn right to continue on Broad Street. Turn right up Turl Street, then immediately left back onto Broad Street. In 120m, turn right up Magdalen Street East, then left into Beaumont Street to see the Ashmolean Museum on your right.

Our last stop for the Inklings of Oxford Tour is the Ashmolean Museum. Inside is a display of Posy rings with inscriptions along the inside, which, surprise, surprise, may have inspired the rings in Tolkien’s novel. To visit the museum, book tickets here.

Ashmolean Museum

Ashmolean Museum. Credit: Ashmolean Museum website

Here are some bonus spots on this Oxford Tour: the pubs that the Inklings visited. Unfortunately, the Eagle and Child Pub is temporarily closed; nevertheless, it was a popular meeting spot for the Inklings. There is a handwritten note to the Landlord by the fireplace signed by Inklings commending him on his good ham and saying that they will have (another) drink for his health.

Eagle and Child Pub

Eagle and Child Pub. Credit: Oxford Mail

The King’s Arms was the next best thing during the war when the Eagle and Child ran out of beer.

King's Arms

King’s Arms. Credit: Jonathan Bowen

The White Horse is said to have inspired The Prancing Pony or The Green Dragon.

White Horse Pub

White Horse Pub. Credit: White Horse Pub X

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If you enjoyed this route, see our 3km Yesteryear Walk. 

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