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“An interesting hour”
Review of Oxford Castle

Oxford Castle
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$21.11*
and up
City Sightseeing Oxford Hop-On Hop-Off Tour
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$61.28*
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Full-Day Tour of Windsor, Eton and Oxford from London
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$14.91*
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Oxford Castle Unlocked Entrance Ticket Including Guided Tour
Ranked #10 of 183 things to do in Oxford
Certificate of Excellence
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Attraction details
Recommended length of visit: 2-3 hours
Owner description: Oxford Castle Unlocked explores the 1000-years of Oxford's History. Led by one of our costumed characters, the rich history of the castle with a prison at its heart will be revealed to you. Climb St. George's Tower and take in the stunning views before descending into the atmospheric crypt, along the 18th century prison wing and into archaic man-made mound.
Reviewed May 7, 2013

If you are staying at Malmaison next door show your room key and you'll get 10% off admission.
The tours are every 20 minutes and you are lead around by costumed tour guides who tell you all about the history of the castle/prison. I wouldn't recommend it for young children as they could easily get bored and/or frightened in the dark. The steps up to the tower are steep so be careful. If you want to kill an hour and learn something then this attraction is ideal.

Thank chris_plant1
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
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Reviewed May 6, 2013

It's amazing how the prison is turned into a hotel! Three cells were knocked down to make a room. The place was kept as original as possible, with cell doors, the stairs, the gangway, etc. Must visit.

Thank esther1903
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
Reviewed May 5, 2013

I visited Oxford Castle Unlocked with my partner and his mother yesterday. I have lived in Oxford for over a year now and have never gone there - largely because I didn't know what I would be paying for. I was not disappointed.

We booked tickets for the tour of the prison, which on first impressions, I thought were very expensive. £8.50 per adult and I got a small student discount. I was not disappointed though. We were greeted by an 18th century guide, who was the governor of the prison and he promptly welcomed us to our new home! He took us through to a small hall with seating, where he gave us a whistlestop lecture on the history of the prison, full of gruesome anecdotes - he also told us about the warped floor in front of us, which I would have thought nothing of. I shan't spoil the surprise for anyone who wants to visit.

Our governor explained that we would be climbing 150 + stairs up to the top of the Anglo Saxon tower. I was very impressed but with this being an historic building, it was up a very narrow, steep, spiral staircase. Not for anyone with mobility problems - I cannot stress that enough. I am 25 years old with moderate back and knee trouble and I had serious trouble getting up and down. I wish I had researched this before our visit. I was glad when we stopped 1/3 of a way up to one of the earliest prison cells, where we heard some fascinating tales of prisoners who lived (and escaped from) here. Then we had to climb up to the top of the tower up those scary stairs again. The climb was worth the pain. There you could stand on an excellent observation platform and take in the view across Oxford and the surrounding countryside.

We then went down the scary stairs, which are just as petrifying on the way down as they are on the way up, all the way to the ancient crypt, which used to be part of the church on the site. We were told excellent ghost stories, the history of the crypt and church, and the guide believed that this was the first site of education in Oxford.

From there, we had to go back up stairs (modern stairs) to the cells where we enjoyed more tales and had our prison mug shots taken, which could be bought at the gift shop for a moderate price. We were then free to explore the rest of the site, which included cell reconstructions, more tales of Oxford inmates, and interactive displays. Really excellently done!

The ticket price also included access to the castle motte (the giant grass mound outside) - more climbing but I did it and it was worth it. They have recently opened up the 18th century well pit - you climb deep underground in darkness (need a torch or bright mobile phone) where we admired the restored well. Worth a look!

All in all, I would say money well spent. The tour was excellent and the enthusiasm of our guide shone throughout. I would recommend it for fit people only and not for those with mobility issues or small children. Those stairs are really something! Well done to everyone at Oxford Castle Unlocked!

1  Thank HungryHistorian
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
Reviewed May 3, 2013

This is an amazing historical site for Oxford - and the tours are interesting and entertaining but I came away feeling slightly disappointed for some reason. There isn't really a lot to see - perhaps only 1 hour for a visit? The price was nearly £10 for an adult and £7 for a child (5-15 - since when was a 15 yo an adult?).

Thank ojo963t
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
Reviewed April 30, 2013

My wife and I hate guided tours - they're mostly too long, too detailed to the point of tedium and generally run by people who've done them too many times, to too many people.
So I don't really know why we got sucked into this one at the Oxford Castle (it doesn't look much from the outside) - I wanted a quick look round, and a quick getaway from the tacky visitors' shop (and it was pretty tacky!).
But from the moment Bess , the 18th Century tart drew us into the prison doorway we were hooked - not literally, although I was pilloried, literally, a little later. The guides take on different characters, apparently based on former inmates of the prison. It's all done in a fun, informative and fresh style. It's a pretty small place - remnants of the old castle and parts of the prison - but big enough to have some good historical points. And pretty "hands-on" - you can be locked in a pillory, go into the prison cells and lie on the old metal beds, sit at the desks and take silly photos. (Well we did anyway).
The top of the tower is open and accessible, and the views over Oxford probably the best you'll get.
Also worth a short stroll is the nearby motte, or mound, of the original Norman motte and bailey castle.
And the coffee and tea at the 1071 cafe near to the tower entrance are good too.
So, we'd give this 5 out of 5 because it was fun, interesting, informative and a just long enough to keep even the shortest attention span going - good for kids and folks of all ages. Take care though if you don't like, or can't negotiate, narrow, winding staircases - this is the only way up the tower.

Thank StephenNottingham
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.

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