Oxford is one of the most popular day trips for visitors to London thanks to its beautiful university and world-class museums such as the Ashmolean and Pitt-Rivers. It’s also worth staying overnight so that you can take advantage to the surrounding area, which offers some pleasant country walks.
One of the more enjoyable is a two-mile stroll along the Thames (locally called the Isis) that takes you to the hamlet of Binsey and the medieval church of St. Margaret’s. Set amid trees in the peaceful English countryside, the church makes for a relaxing stop and you can visit an Anglo-Saxon holy well that’s been an object of pilgrimage for centuries.
Oxford is a popular destination in England thanks to its famous university and fine architecture, which includes a rare Saxon tower. What’s less well-known is the pleasant stroll along the River Isis two miles down to Iffley village. The walk will take you past the university boathouses, a pasture, an excellent pub, and some fine river views. Just past the pub, you’ll come across a lock and bridge taking you to a small village that contains one of the best-preserved Norman churches anywhere.
St. Mary’s Iffley Church was built c.1170-80 in the High Romanesque style. Early in its history, ownership passed from the local lord to an absentee lord. This distant owner continued to maintain the church, but did little to “improve” it, thus leaving it in much its original state.
York in northern England is justifiably famous for its well-preserved Viking city. The foundations of an entire Viking neighborhood are preserved under glass at the Jorvik Viking Center, a delightfully cheesy tourist trap that includes an animatronic Viking taking a dump in a Norse outhouse.
But let’s not dwell on that. For a different, yet equally one-of-a-kind sight, check out York Castle just a short stroll away. It was founded in 1068 by William the Conqueror as a typical motte and bailey castle. These fortifications included an artificial mound (the motte) with a wooden tower and wall on top, and another enclosed area (the bailey) in front of the base. The Normans slapped these forts together wherever they conquered because they were cheap and quick to build. It’s said they finished York Castle in just eight days!