J.R.R. Tolkien, or Ronald as he preferred to be called, is considered to be one of the most influential writers of the 20th century. You may have heard of a little trilogy called The Lord of the Rings and a novel titled The Hobbit (both of which have been turned into massive film franchises), Tolkien penned both these works in a town not far from London. Tolkien was an Oxford man through and through and not only did he study at Oxford University, but he remained living in the area for much of his professional life. Oxford lies just an hour from London, so if you’re looking for a fun day trip where you can hunt down the haunts of one of most beloved authors in the world, here’s a few places you must check out!
The Radcliffe Camera is almost impossible to miss on your stroll through Oxford. Located near St. Mary’s Church, it towers over the university grounds with stern angles and awe-inspiring curves. It’s no secret Tolkien took inspiration from his surroundings when penning his famous books, and he once said that Sauron’s temple to Morgoth looks like the Radcliffe Camera! Be sure to stop by to gape at this wonderful building—and get a good mental picture of what sort of structure Tolkien was imagining when he wrote it into his work!
The White Horse is one of Oxford’s historic pubs and it was once a favourite hang-out for Tolkien and his friends C.S. Lewis and Charles Williams (both of whom were also writers). Tolkien used to meet his writing pals for a drink or two and on occasion was rumoured to read aloud chapters from The Lord of the Rings while it was still in progress. And let’s not forget that Frodo and his sidekicks repaired to an inn called the Prancing Pony early on in The Lord of the Rings and the White Horse’s sign bears an eerie resemblance to a prancing pony too! Perhaps it’s a coincidence, or maybe there’s more to it. What do you think?
- 20 and 22 Northmoor Road
If you’re feeling a bit whimsical, and are up for a short trek, you can walk to Northmoor Road and take a peek at where J.R.R. Tolkien and his family once lived. Tolkien bought 22 Northmoor Road in 1925 and later moved next door to number 20 where he lived until the late 1940s. Today there’s a small blue plaque at 20 Northmoor Road that commemorates the author’s residence there. Other than that, there’s not much to see, but the walk from the town center is pleasant and getting a glimpse of his former homes is just an added bonus!
For your final stop, head over to the Eagle and Child and finish your Tolkien-inspired day with a pint of local ale. The Eagle and Child is famous for being the favourite haunt of The Inklings—a writing group founded by C.S. Lewis. Tolkien and a few other writers would meet at the pub (which they referred to as the Bird and Baby) in order to read excerpts of their ongoing work and to offer critiques. Today you can find photos of Tolkien and Lewis, as well as quotes from The Lord of the Rings decorating the pub’s walls. It’s a cool place to drop in to and I recommend trying a pint of the local Nicholson’s pale ale!