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15 Must-See Tolkien Sights: A Start

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I visited Oxford earlier this summer to look at some of the places that were special to Tolkien, so am rather delighted to see they figure in the 15 Places Tolkien Fans Should Visit Before They Die on the Tolkien Library. I went with my family and we only had a few hours there, but still managed to see quite a lot.

We walked into St Giles in Oxford via a passageway at the side of the Lamb and Flag. This was the pub The Inklings used to frequent in later years and is directly opposite the more famous Eagle and Child. We crossed the wide leafy road to The Eagle and Child and checked what time they opened so as we could return for lunch later in the day.

Then we walked to Merton (where Tolkien was a Professor of English) via Exeter (where he was an undergraduate) and Oxford’s wonderful covered market. The centre of Oxford is pretty compact, so all of the Tolkien sights are within a 15 minute walk of  The Eagle and Child. Merton was quiet, despite it being the tourist season.  When we lived in Oxford many years ago, you could wander into the colleges as you pleased, but nowadays the colleges all charge a small entry fee.   We wandered around the quads and breathed in the history knowing that little has changed since Tolkien’s time.

It was then time to go back to The Eagle and Child for lunch and a chat with the friendly bar staff. It’s a small pub; dark and long and narrow, and it’s easy to imagine the Inklings sitting there  having fascinating conversations over a pint. On the walls there are pictures of Tolkien and a plaque commemorating The Inklings.


Next on our list was the house where Tolkien wrote The Lord of the Rings and The Hobbit. The house is in a leafy residential part of Oxford, just off the Banbury Road, in an area of large, grand houses. It has recently been sold and is looking a little neglected at present, so I was glad to see signs of some maintenance work going on. The ivy has been removed from the front of the house since the picture in 15 Places was taken. The house is surrounded by a modest fence and I’m particularly grateful that none of the past owners have planted huge trees or hedges in front of it to hide it from view. On the left you can just see the house next door, which is where Tolkien lived prior to moving to number 20.

 

Finally, we drove to the top of the Banbury Road to Wolvercote Cemetery to see Tolkien’s grave. At the entrance to the cemetery there is a map and stones on the verge direct you to the grave. The cemetery is a pleasant, peaceful place with grass and yew hedges and mature fir trees. Tolkien’s grave is planted with rose bushes and visitors have left jewellery amongst the roses and pictures, messages, coins and shells around the grave-side. I found it quite moving to be by Tolkien’s grave and felt it was a fitting end to our lovely day in Oxford.

 

 

 

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One Comment

  1. Evie,

    Thanks for the article and the photos. Oxford is among my favorite cities in the UK, and remember well walking through the quads as you mention and going back to a different time altogether. Made my day, thank you!