Experience the secrets of Oxford, Bath and Stratford on our bike tours
These amazing British cities are packed with iconic sights and famous landmarks that you’ll recognise as soon as you see them. But they are also full of little curiosities and secret gems that are just as special. Here are some of the unique features of Oxford, Bath and Stratford you could spot on a British bike tour with us.
Academically and architecturally inspiring, Oxford is a city rich in history and overflowing with culture. Its most famous landmarks are the Bridge of Sighs, The Bodleian Library and, of course, its many stunning colleges. It is also famous for its narrow backstreets, and just like Alice’s Wonderland, each offers a special adventure.
When you are walking the streets of Oxford you might get the sense you are being watched, look up and you’ll see the reason why. The cheeky stone faces looking down at you are gargoyles, or ‘grotesques’ carved by medieval and more modern gothic inspired stonemasons. Look out for ones sticking their tongue out, picking their nose and pulling terrible faces.
At the bottom of the famous stairs of Christ Church’s Great Hall is another fascinating sight – the words ‘No Peel’ burned into a door. This 19th-century graffiti was carved in protest to Prime Minister Robert Peel’s proposed Reform Act, which would open the vote to a wider section of society. Peel was himself a Christ Church graduate.
Oxford’s Oldest Pub
Dating all the way back to 1242, the Bear Inn on the corner of Blue Boar Street is as charming as it is old. One oddity that makes it well worth a visit is its vast tie collection. It began in the 1950s when the eccentric landlord started cutting the ends off of customers’ ties in return for half a pint. The collection now stands at over 4,500 snippets!
Another culturally rich stop on an Active England cycle tour is Stratford upon Avon. This theatrical city is most famous for being the birthplace of the playwright William Shakespeare. It’s full of stages of all sizes, Shakespearian heritage and also some hidden surprises.
The Clopton Chapel
Stratford’s Holy Trinity Church is famous for being Shakespeare’s burial site but it also contains another precious resting place. The once Mayor of London Sir Hugh Clopton was a huge benefactor of the church and his impressive alter-tomb is one of the country’s finest. Unusually, although Sir Hugh commissioned it, he was actually buried in London instead.
The Dirty Duck
Also known as the Black Swan, this alehouse close to the Royal Shakespeare Theatre has been very popular with actors over the years, including Peter O’Toole and Dame Judi Dench. Dating back to the 15th century it has a great atmosphere and is perfect for people-watching. In the Actor’s Bar, you’ll see walls are autographed with many famous names of stage and screen.
It is hardly surprising that a city so full of history also has more than its fair share of ghostly tales. Many of these are linked to the Creaky Cauldron, where there have been over forty cases of eerie incidences reported. The location used to be part of the White Lion Inn and is now the home the Museum of Witchcraft and Wizardology and the Stratford Ripper Experience.
With its ancient Roman baths and the stunning Georgian architecture of the Crescent and the Circus, Bath is a city of style and charm. And aside from the usual attractions, there are a few sights in Bath that you wouldn’t expect to find.
Reach for the stars
The Herschel Museum of Astronomy is slightly off the normal tourist track but well worth a visit. This pretty Grade II listed Georgian house with lovely gardens was once the home of astronomer William Herschel who discovered Uranus in 1871. Today it houses a fascinating exhibition and gallery of astronomy.
Watch the world go by
Located on the top of Beechen Cliff, Alexandra Park looks down upon the city below. The Park opened in 1902 and offers splendid panoramic views of Bath and beyond. It is the perfect place to picnic, put your feet up and admire the glorious Georgian architecture from above.
What the Dickens!
Bath is famous as the home of Jane Austen but another author also enjoyed the city, Charles Dickens would often visit his close friend Walter Landor at 35 St James’ Square and took his inspiration for Mr Pickwick of Pickwick Papers from an old Landlord of the White Hart Inn – both buildings are still standing today.
Cycle tours in England give you the opportunity to view the country’s historic sites – from the world famous landmarks like the ancient Roman Baths to the little, hidden gems like funny gargoyles and ancient ale houses. With Active England you can experience the best-kept secrets of this wonderful country.