Magdalen College

Top choice in Oxford

Inside the grounds of Magdalen College.

©Amy Pay/Lonely Planet

Guarding access to a breathtaking expanse of private lawns, woodlands, river walks and even its own deer park, Magdalen ('mawd-lin'), founded in 1458, is one of Oxford’s wealthiest and most beautiful colleges. Beyond its elegant Victorian gateway, you come to its medieval chapel and glorious 15th-century tower. From here, move on to the remarkable 15th-century cloisters, where the fantastic grotesques (carved figures) may have inspired CS Lewis’ stone statues in The Chronicles of Narnia.

Behind the cloisters, lovely Addison’s Walk loops for just under a mile around the ravishing Water Meadow, a wedge-shaped island in the River Cherwell that’s renowned for its glorious wildflowers. You can extend that walk by continuing to the Angel and Greyhound Meadow – the lush green tract visible from Magdalen Bridge – smaller Bat Willow Meadow, home to Mark Wallinger’s tree-shaped sculpture Y, and the secluded Fellows’ Garden slightly upstream.

Magdalen’s herd of deer usually browse the bucolic Deer Park, north of the main college buildings, in winter and spring, and spend the summer in the riverside meadows.

Notable Magdalen students have included writers CS Lewis, John Betjeman, Seamus Heaney and Oscar Wilde, while other alumni range from Edward VIII, TE Lawrence ‘of Arabia’ and Cardinal Wolsey to Dudley Moore.

The college also boasts a fine choir, which as part of the annual May Day (1 May) festivities sings Hymnus Eucharisticus at 6am on top of the 44m bell tower.