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UK for everyone: Oxford boating

17:00 AEST Thu Jul 26 2007

Oxford, the city of dreaming spires, is famous the world over for its university, the oldest in the English-speaking world. For over 800 years it has been home to royalty and scholars alike and since the 9th century it has been an established town, although people are known to have lived in the area for thousands of years.

Oxford's impressive alumni include four British and eight foreign kings, 47 Nobel prize-winners, three Oscar winners, 25 British prime ministers, 28 foreign presidents and prime ministers, seven saints, 86 archbishops, 18 cardinals and one pope.

The bustling, cosmopolitan town is a mix of ancient and modern and its long sweeping high street is one of England's most striking. Oxford is bookish, conservative and closeted — home to the academic elite and working-class majority. It is a living museum and the birthplace of Mensa and the Morris Minor.

There are old pubs where students, locals and tourists enjoy a mug of cider. Choristers sing in Latin from Magdalen Tower. The Great Tom bell from Tom Tower peals 101 times to signal the closing of the college gates. Towers and spires pierce the clouds and barges float on the Thames and Cherwell Rivers.

Driving and parking in Oxford is a nightmare and drivers are strongly advised to use the five Park & Ride carparks on major routes leading into town. It's easy to see the city on foot or you can rent a punt and try your hand at poling along the river, maybe stopping at a pub for a spot of lunch or a picnic on the riverbank.

Glide past the Botanic Gardens, through Christ Church Meadows where Lewis Carrol wrote Alice Through The Looking Glass, and St Hilda's College. You can self-drive or be chauffeur driven, but most people prefer to pack a hamper and take the challenge.

Punts are flat-bottomed boats with a square-cut bow, designed for small rivers or other shallow water and carry up to five passengers. They have been an integral part of English culture for centuries. Before railways were installed, punts were used for trade and transport. Punters can push well over a ton with minimal effort.

The most popular option for visitors is the Magdalen Bridge Boathouse on the River Cherwell where punts can be rented between March and October.


Punt rental starts at around $28 an hour. Chauffeured punts are around $47 for 30 minutes and include a bottle of wine. Punting opens at 10am until dusk each day.

Prices correct at July 26, 2007.


87 kilometres north-west of London.

For further information

Magdalen Bridge Boathouse
The Old Horse Ford
High Street
Oxford OX14AX
Ph 44 01865 202643 (Boathouse)
Ph: 44 01865 761 586 (Office)

Ph: 1300 303 777

Visit Britain
Ph: 1300 858 589

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