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Love. Academically.

From Paris to Oxford

Think of a romantic city, as St Valentine's Day approaches, and Paris will probably come to mind. Moonlit strolls along the banks of the Seine. Hand-in-hand in the Jardin de Luxembourg. Mooching in Montparnasse. Ah! L'amour.

But, just as Paris handed the academic baton to Oxford University back in the 12th Century, so today for romance. Move over Paris, Oxford is here to claim the title, City of Love.

Brideshead Revisited

After all, where else can you come over all 'Brideshead Revisted', as you dawdle along the banks of the Cherwell in Christ Church meadow? Or, for the very hardy Valentine, hire a punt from Magdalen Bridge boathouse and indulge in a bit of chilly canoodling on the river? Nowhere, that's where.

Romantic stroll

For something warmer, head into the city. Take the back route from the meadow, through the narrow kissing gate (take a hint!) beside Merton Chapel. And emerge onto Merton Street, elegant, timeless and quiet. Enjoy that tranquillity, because soon you will find yourself on the High. The most beautiful street in England, for your most beautiful Valentine's date.

Cross the High and wander down Catte Street, to see the iconic Radcliffe Camera. When it was first built, this beautiful circular library had a ground floor open to the elements. The books were safely stored upstairs. Meanwhile, rumour has it, many an illicit romantic liaison took place in the shelter beneath. University spoil-sports long-since filled in the space, but fear not. Two utterly romantic taverns await, with intimate corners perfect for romance.

Warm and cosy

Walk between the Bodleian library on your left and Hertford College on your right, and soon you'll see the pretty Bridge of Sighs. Remember to sigh romantically as you pass under it, and look out for a tiny alley. It's called St Helen's Passage. Walk along it and you'll emerge in the ancient yard of the Turf Tavern (motto: 'Find us if you can!'). Low ceilings, dark beams, and a warren of cosy bars. Cuddle up with a warming drink.
Or you could weave your way through the Tavern yard to find yourself on Holywell Street. Here, the King's Arms awaits you. Forget the busy front bar. Go in through the side door on Holywell Street, and find a spot in the wood-panelled snug bar, warmed by an open fire.

A fireside story

As you toast your toes by the fire, you can tell your date a true Oxford love story. A short walk up the road from where you now sit is Balliol College, one of the three oldest in the University. John de Balliol founded the college in 1263, but died five years later. His death left his widow, Lady Dervorguilla, bereft. To immortalise her love for him, she endowed his young college with funds and a set of statutes that still govern it today. She also founded an Abbey in his name, closer to home in Dumfries, Scotland. Today it is known as Sweetheart Abbey. And on the subject of hearts, she had John's heart embalmed and placed in an ivory box, which she carried with her at all times.

The power of love

True love. It conquers all. Even death. But what about your love? What can it withstand? Can it overcome a stay in jail? Why not find out? Oxford's ancient Norman castle and Jail is offering to lock you and your loved one into one of the old prisoner cells for Valentine's Day. Will you start tunnelling? Or hope that they throw away the key?

If that sounds too extreme, why not join us for a tailor-made tour of Oxford, followed by a romantic delight, such as afternoon tea or a cocktail in the Inspector Morse bar?  


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