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Oxford was memorably described by Gerald Manley Hopkins as a ‘towery city, and branchy between towers… lark charmed, rook racked, river rounded’. The city is indeed defined by towers, finger-like extensions, and rivers. Above all it is the rivers and their associated flood plains which made for the urban topography, with a dense medieval core descending to the bridges and expansion largely constrained in two directions only. 

This day of exteriors explores that topography, from the buildings that line St Giles and Broad Street in the north, through the narrow lanes east of the High Street down to the Magdalen Bridge and Christ Church Meadow. The day concludes with a walk along the Thames to Oxford’s tiny medieval neighbour at Iffley, famed for its picturesque lock system and magnificent Romanesque church. 

Medieval Oxford was never constrained by its 13th-century walls, but the effect of their partial demolition in the 17th century was to integrate north Oxford with the centre. The Thames and Cherwell, by contrast, necessitated causeway-like bridges, divorcing the south and east from the centre and resulting in the remarkable retention of much of the southern boundary wall. The 19th and 20th centuries saw development between the bridges and the villages of Iffley, Cowley and Headington. 

John McNeill, a resident of Oxford, is an art historian who has been leading tours for MRT for 30 years.

Start and finish

Oxford Railway Station, 10.15am & 5.15pm (earlier if you opt for a taxi from Iffley).


£180, including lunch and morning refreshments.

More information about Culture Days gift vouchers.

Group size

Maximum 12 participants.


Six miles of urban and tow path walking interspersed with standing and looking (two miles could be clipped off by returning from Iffley by taxi).

Are you fit enough to join the tour?


We will return the full amount if you notify us 22 or more days before the event. We will retain 50% if cancellation is made within three weeks and 100% if within three days. Please put your cancellation in writing to We advise taking out insurance in case of cancellation and recommend that overseas clients are also covered for possible medical and repatriation costs.