Oxford Castle & Prison England top things to do day trip from London

One of the best historic and scenic day trips from London is Oxford Castle & Prison in Oxford, England. This 1,000-year-old castle offers an immersive experience into its intriguing past as well as its historic and preserved buildings.  

While I received a complimentary ticket to tour Oxford Castle & Prison, opinions are always my own. And my opinion is to add this fascinating heritage attraction to your itinerary when planning a day trip to Oxford (or longer) from London.

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Best things to do at Oxford Castle & Prison

Oxford Castle & Prison England top things to do day trip from London
View from the top of St. George’s Tower – oldest building in Oxford, England – dating back to 1076

I am so grateful the Oxford Castle & Prison hosted me as it is definitely one of the top things to do in Oxford, England. And it is one of the best day trips I took from London.

All tours at Oxford Castle & Prison are guided by an entertaining, informative, and costumed actor (yes, they even dress up in character from the past). While you can tour the castle and the grounds at your leisure after the tour, you must purchase a ticket for a 50-minute guided tour at a designated time. Tours are limited to 20 people.

While children are welcome to visit the Oxford Castle & Prison, those under the age of five are not allowed to climb the St. George’s Tower for safety reasons. Additionally, the tower is not accessible. However, Oxford Castle & Prison does offer a video to watch to learn more about its long history. And then you can join your group for the remainder of the tour.

Be sure to get your code from the visitor center so you can walk to the top of The Mound – more details on this historic and scenic view later.

Other top things to do at Oxford Castle & Prison

If you want more cool experiences, Oxford Castle & Prison also offers special events such as:

  • Jailbreak escape room
  • Murder mysteries
  • Oxford history walks
  • Spectre ghost tours
  • Spooky tours (October)
  • Potion-making class (October)
  • Christmas trail (late November to late December)

History and background of Oxford Castle & Prison

Oxford Castle & Prison England top things to do day trip from London
You’ll be thoroughly entertained by costumed tour guides who offer lots of fascinating history about the Oxford Castle & Prison – one of the best things to do in Oxford.

The Oxford Castle & Prison dates back to the early 11th century built by Norman baron Robert O’Doyly at the request of William the Conquerer. It’s one of the first motte-and-bailey castles built after the Norman invasion in 1066. Essentially, it was a fortified and elevated earth mound (about 20 meters or ~65 feet) with a moat next to the River Thames to provide protection from their enemies. The brick and mortar castle came about in 1073 while they built the St. George’s Chapel a year later. This chapel is believed to be the start of the long line of prestigious Oxford colleges.

This medieval castle eventually became a gaol or prison in the 18th century and continued operating as a prison until 1996. Today, thanks to preservation efforts, the Oxford Castle & Prison along with its boutique hotel is one of the best historic attractions in Oxford.

Points of interest at the Oxford Castle & Prison

Mound at Oxford Castle & Prison
Walk to the top of the Mound for scenic views of Oxford

Here’s a list of some of my favorite highlights and points of interest at the Oxford Castle & Prison.

  • Climb 101 stairs to the top of St. George’s Tower – the oldest building in Oxford, England – for panoramic views of the city
  • Go underground and check out the 900-year-old (and allegedly haunted) crypt and remains of the St. George’s Chapel. Legend has it that this is where Geoffrey of Monmouth penned King Arthur and believed to be the birthplace of Oxford’s prestigious educational reputation.
  • Explore the Debtor’s Tower and the Prison D-Wing from the 18th century and read about former prisoners – including children as young as seven years old. You’ll find lots of interpretive signs that tell the century-old stories of Oxford Castle & Prison like Mary Blandy – who was accused of killing her father with poison – yet she was given special privileges such as hosting tea parties. Her ghost apparently haunts the Mound and the streets of Oxford.
  • Make sure you step into the padded cell where a film projection was so realistic it felt like I was being locked in.
  • Gain entrance with a code (from the gift shop) to climb to the top of the Mound for some beautiful views – the original site of the 11th century motte-and-bailey castle (basically a fortification to defend at a higher elevation). Otherwise you can pay a pound to unlock and enter through the gate.

Frequently Asked Questions about Oxford Castle & Prison in Oxford, England

Oxford Castle & Prison England top things to do day trip from London

Here are a few frequently asked questions (FAQs) about Oxford Castle & Prison in Oxford, England.

Where is Oxford Castle & Prison located?

Oxford Castle & Prison is located at 44-46 Oxford Castle in Oxford, England. It is accessible by car and located only about a five-minute walk from train and bus stations.

Is there parking at Oxford Castle & Prison?

No onsite parking is available at the Oxford Castle & Prison. Oxford is a very walkable city. If arriving by train, it’s only a five-minute walk to the castle..

Where can I purchase tickets for Oxford Castle & Prison?

As tours are limited to 20 people, it’s recommended to purchase tickets for Oxford Castle & Prison online in advance. That way you can tour at your preferred time. Please note that children under five are not allowed access to St. George’s Tower for safety reasons.

What are the hours for Oxford Castle & Prison?

Oxford Castle & Prison is open daily 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. They are closed Christmas Eve, Christmas Day, and Boxing Day (Dec. 24-26). Sometimes their operating hours vary by season, so be sure to confirm times on their website.

How long does it take to tour Oxford Castle & Prison?

Guided tours run every 20 to 30 minutes (depending on the day) and last about 50 minutes. You may then explore the castle and grounds at your leisure. I recommend at least two hours for your visit to Oxford Castle & Prison.

Can you take photos at Oxford Castle & Prison?

Oxford Castle & Prison England top things to do day trip from London
Cell room at Oxford Castle & Prison

Yes, you can take photos and videos at Oxford Castle & Prison.

Is the Oxford Castle & Prison haunted?

Oxford Castle and Prison Haunted Crypt best day trip from London
The medieval crypt at Oxford Castle & Prison is reportedly haunted. I returned to take photos and videos after my guided tour. While I didn’t see anything, it definitely had a creepy vibe.

Many claim that the Oxford Castle & Prison are haunted. For example, the 900-year-old crypt is allegedly haunted, and there are reports that a famous murderer who was hung now haunts Oxford Castle & Prison and the Mound.

Can you stay overnight at the Oxford Castle & Prison?

You can stay at the boutique hotel, Malmaison Oxford, where the rooms were once prison cells.

Is there a restaurant at Oxford Castle & Prison?

The gift shop offers a few snacks and you’ll fund outdoor seating. You can find lots of great restaurants nearby Oxford Castle & Prison.

Does Oxford Castle & Prison have restrooms?

Yes, Oxford Castle & Prison has onsite restrooms.

Can you purchase souvenirs at Oxford Castle & Prison? Does it have a gift shop?

Gift shop at Oxford Castle & Prison

Yes, Oxford Castle & Prison offers a gift shop in the main entrance.  

Is Oxford Castle & Prison accessible?

Unfortunately, not all areas of the Oxford Castle & Prison are wheelchair-accessible due to its historic architecture, such as St. George’s Tower and The Mound. However, the main entrance, gift shop, and Key Learning Centre are fully accessible. And you will find lifts in the castle, the prison wing, and the Key Learning Centre. Due to its historic infrastructure, the Oxford Castle & Prison is not pram-, stroller-, or pushcart-friendly.

What’s nearby Oxford Castle & Prison?

Christ Church Oxford England UK
Christ Church in Oxford – one of the best things to do in Oxford

While you can do and see a lot of cool and historic things at Oxford on a day trip from London, I do recommend staying longer. I stayed in Oxford for five days and still did not see and do everything I wanted to experience. But if you only have a few hours, I’ve listed a few of my top things to do in Oxford – and attractions that are nearby Oxford Castle & Prison.

Top things to do in Oxford, England

  • Oxford walking tour / tour of Oxford colleges (there are 39 of them!)
  • Christ Church – especially Grand Hall if you’re a Harry Potter fan
  • Bodleian Library – Divinity School and Duke Humphrey’s Reading Room (both Harry Potter filming locations – also beautiful architecture and lots of history)
  • Oxford Press University (if you’re a word nerd like me)
  • Carfax Tower
  • Oxford University Museum of Natural History
  • The Turf Tavern – dating back to 1831
  • University of St. Mary the Virgin and Tower
  • Bridge of Sighs
  • Oxford Botanical Garden
  • Punting or other boat tour on River Thames or River Cherwell
  • Radcliff Camera

Add Oxford Castle & Prison to your top day trips from London itinerary

I highly recommend a visit to tour Oxford Castle & Prison in Oxford. It’s one of the best day trips from London

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Guide to Oxford Castle & Prison best thing to do in England

Tour the medieval Oxford Castle and Prison in England

Twin Cities-based blogger sharing memorable emptynester, solo, family and girlfriend-getaway adventures, as well as my day hiking adventures (including all 66 Minnesota state parks), latest book reviews, and updates on my quest for the best adult mac and cheese. Also two WIPs: historical fiction and psychological thriller


  1. Oxford Castle & Prison looks intriguing! What an adventure to explore! I am a sucker for anything historical with a great story! So glad you enjoyed this venture!

  2. It’s amazing how creepy and beautiful Oxford Castle & Prison is! We love visiting historic places. We visited Lancaster Castle in England some years ago and this reminds me a lot of that place.

  3. I’ve never been to London, but this will be near the top of my list if I make it there. I love visiting castles and prisons, and I’d love to stay in a room that used to be a prison cell at the boutique hotel, Malmaison Oxford.

  4. We often stay in London when we visit. So it was good to read this post on the Oxford Castle and Prison for a day trip visit. I love the idea of a guided knowledgeable tour guide all dressed in costume. How fun to visit and do a ghost tour or even potion making class.

  5. I LOVE walking through old castles. We went to London, but didn’t get out of the city. I’d love to go back and use this guide to Oxford Castle! I love that Oxford is walkable, too!

  6. Oxford Castle looks amazing! I will make it over to London one day and this will be at the top of my list of places to visit!! I may even book one of those prison hotel rooms! Spooky

  7. The castle and church look beautiful! I love all the unique activities that visitors can partake in throughout the year. Thanks for sharing recommendations for around Oxford – super helpful!

  8. This is so interesting! I’ve never thought of visiting the prison before but now I definitely want to give it a go! Their escape room sounds really fun too! Thanks for sharing!

  9. Oxford is one of those places you must visit when in the UK. I loved the detailed guide to discovering the castle and the prison. Thanks for sharing how to visit this fascinating place

    1. You’re welcome and my pleasure. Oxford is a great place to visit especially if you love history. And loved my tour of the historic Oxford Castle & Prison.

  10. I’ve been to Oxford but somehow missed that there’s a castle there?!?! How did I not know that?? This looks so cool! I already wanted to go back one day but now I definitely have to.

    1. Awesome! You’ll love touring the Oxford Castle & Prison. So many cool things in Oxford that I didn’t get a chance to do so definitely returning!

  11. What a neat experience! I love checking out historical architecture with fascinating stories, so I have no doubt I would enjoy Oxford Castle and Prison. Thanks for sharing your experience!

  12. I’ve been to Oxford loads of times for various reasons, had no idea there was a castle and prison. Looks fascinating, will make a bit more effort to see on my next visit.

  13. I’d LOVE to visit Oxford Castle and prison! Historical places like this are so intriguing to me. I need to return to England!

  14. Old castles are amazing and provide so much history. This guide to the Oxford Castle and prison is remarkable and informative. Thank you for sharing.

  15. This looks like a cool place to visit in Oxford! The special events sound amazing, especially the murder mysteries, escape room and ghost tours!

  16. I am working with a client that is going to England and Scotland. No idea Oxford had so much to do! I’m going to share this article with them and see if they’d like to add it to their itinerary!

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