Oxford Castle Unlocked

Back in June (where exactly has that time gone?!) we went on one of our staycations, and visited Portsmouth, Legoland and Oxford (for the Oxford Castle Unlocked and the Oxford University Natural History museum). I’ve already told you about the other parts of our trip, but somehow I kept forgetting to fill you in on this bit, despite it being a lot of fun.

We went to Oxford with the lovely Lisa from The Love of A Captain, her fiance Trev (who is also one of Simon’s best friends) and baby Jack, which was just as well as I doubt we’d have found the car park, or known where to go if they hadn’t been there before!

My first impression of Oxford was that it’s a beautiful place, with buildings full of character – actually that’s a lie, my first impression was ‘£17 to park for a few hours what a rip off!’, then I noticed the buildings.


You can tell we live in Cornwall, I think it’s expensive if I have to pay more that £4 for parking all day, but the nonetheless we paid it, as although there may have been cheaper parking else where, the chances of us actually finding it were slim.

Our first stop was Oxford Castle for the Oxford Castle Unlocked guided tour, the castle was gorgeous on the outside, and the boys had fun putting themselves in the stocks.

Oxford Castle

We paid for a tour, which unfortunately Lisa couldn’t do all of because they don’t allow you to take babies up the tower, even in a baby carrier like Jack was. I can understand this, as some parts of the steps were very steep and they don’t even like you to take small children unless you are sure that they can walk up a lot of steep steps, and they are over 92cm tall.

It really isn’t safe to be carrying anyone up there, but something to bear in mind if you plan to visit as a family. Also when I say steep, I do mean steep, even the boys were a little puffed at the top.

Our tour guide was brilliant, he was dressed up to fit the part and kept in character the whole way around as he told us about the history of the castle.

Tour Guide

Part way up the tower, we went in to a room with more stocks in, and he explained to us that back before human rights were a factor to consider, people actually had their ears nailed to the stocks.

Yes you read that right, and the next bit is grim sorry….when they were set free, the only way to remove themselves from the stocks was to actually rip their own ears off. The boys loved this bit, gruesome devils! Apparently this was an added punishment, as people who had no ears or parts torn out of their ears were marked forever as offenders.

Sorry disgusting bit over.

From the top of the tower you could see quite far, although it was a little cosy with all the other people on the tour up there as well.

View From Oxford Castle

Once we came back down we got to join Lisa and Jack again, and were taken on a tour of prison cells, creepy cellars/crypts where there is a corner that supposedly ghosts appear and a lot more. The prison didn’t actually close until 1996!

Oxford Crypt

Our guide had us laughing a lot on our tour, especially when he threw a ‘rat’ towards everyone and made us all jump. All of the guides seemed to be real characters, who had a lot of fun with their role play.

There was a lovely looking tea room outside, a gift shop with lots of quality gifts rather than some of the rubbish some gift shops try to entice your children to buy. The boys bought a bow and arrow set between them, which they’ve had a lot of fun with at home since.

There was also an outside area, that had different fun events going on that day as well, but we had to head off to get some lunch and to our next stop – the Natural History Museum, which I will tell you about in another post very soon. There may have been a quick visit to Paperchase who had a sale on as well…

I would definitely recommend the Oxford Castle Unlocked experience, but mostly for older children so that they can do the tower with you, and I’d imagine they’d enjoy the stories etc a lot more.

Stevie x

*I was not asked to write this review, and we paid for our own family ticket that was just over £30*

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  1. 7 October 2015 / 3:46 pm

    We are actually planning to go to Oxford next month, and I had never heard of this castle unlocked tour, sounds fab. I might visit without my 3 year old though, not sure he would understand it. I live in the south east, where it is notoriously expensive, and I can tell you that really is a lot to pay for parking! How long does the tour last, approximately?
    Katrina x

    • 7 October 2015 / 3:59 pm

      It’s hard to remember but I think only about an hour and then you can have a wander around some other bits yourself afterwards. It was my first time in Oxford, and I loved it though it was really busy on a Saturday. I think we must have parked in the tourist’s car park, there must be another one but we didn’t have the time or will to search ha! I’m going to do a post on the Oxford University natural history museum next, which is free to go in and well worth a visit if you haven’t been before

      Stevie x

  2. 7 October 2015 / 10:08 pm

    This is on my list of places to visit at some point as we’re not too far away. Looks like a great day out! x

    • 7 October 2015 / 10:22 pm

      It was definitely good, I can imagine if they do Halloween events there it would be seriously brilliant as some bits are creepy already ;) there’s a brilliant natural history museum that belongs to the University as well if you haven’t been to it before. My boys loved it and it was free which was brilliant as it was an expensive trip altogether!

      Stevie xx

  3. 9 October 2015 / 7:21 am

    I never knew there was a castle in Oxford!! Looks like a great place – sure th hubby would love to visit it! Fab photos as always! x #PickNMix

    • 9 October 2015 / 10:26 am

      Thanks lovely, it’s crazy how the castle is literally in the midst of the place and you can’t spy it that easily really! I wouldn’t have known if Lisa hadn’t been to the area already :)

      Stevie xx

  4. 9 October 2015 / 7:53 am

    Sounds like you had a great time. I think the cubs would really enjoy something like this when they’re older. The tour guides for these sorts of places are always fab.

    Thanks for hosting #PicknMix

    • 9 October 2015 / 10:27 am

      The tour guide was brilliant, was so in to his character it was great!

      Stevie x

  5. 9 October 2015 / 8:01 am

    Great review Stevie! We had a fab day and i’m glad I had an excuse to wait at the bottom of the tower ;) xx #PicknMix

    • 9 October 2015 / 10:30 am

      Ha bless you! It was a lovely day, and we were lucky you were there to show us around as we’d have been lost in no time!

      Stevie x

  6. sarah
    9 October 2015 / 8:51 am

    £17! Wowser! Thats blooming cheeky! Aside from that – the castle looks brilliant, I love a day out like this #PicknMix

    • 9 October 2015 / 10:41 am

      If we ever go again I’ll be googling car parks before as that one was ridiculous! It was a great day though :) x

  7. Gemma @ Confessions of a Nagging Mother
    9 October 2015 / 9:12 am

    Aww looks like you had a lovely day and can’t believe you are real life friends with lisa! It looks like you had lots of fun…. and I agree, how expensive was that parking?!! Eeeek!


    Gemma xx

    • 9 October 2015 / 10:43 am

      Her boyfriend used to live on the same road as mine and they’ve been friends since they were about 10 I think :) Now they just need to move closer to us again ;) The parking was pretty unbelievable!!

      Stevie xx

    • 9 October 2015 / 10:44 am

      Definitely a great place to visit, I’d love to see what their seasonal events are like if they do them! :)

      Stevie x

  8. 9 October 2015 / 9:55 am

    Looks great, one I haven’t been to! #picnmix

    • 9 October 2015 / 10:47 am

      It was, the tower stairs were a challenge though! ;)

      Stevie x

  9. 9 October 2015 / 10:06 am

    Sounds like an awesome day! Pictures are great and make me want to travel out there some day. Add it to my endless list of places to go and sights to see #PickNMix

    • 9 October 2015 / 10:49 am

      Ha that’s the danger of reading blogs, I have a big list of places I now want to go ;)

      Stevie x

  10. Becky, Cuddle Fairy
    9 October 2015 / 10:13 am

    This sounds like a really interesting tour – I love when the guides are in good tune. We went to Bunratty castle a few years ago when my boys were 2 & 4. They didn’t enjoy it. They hated the steep stairs & felt like it was scary. Good to let people know about the steep steps, it wouldn’t suit everyone to climb up there. I cringed at the nailing people’s ears story – its’ awful what used to go on! #PicknMix x

    • 9 October 2015 / 10:51 am

      I love castles, stairs not so much ;) I think places like this are for slightly older children really as they can be a wee bit spooky!

      Stevie xx

  11. 9 October 2015 / 10:41 am

    This looks great – I’ve never ‘done’ Oxford properly and want to! #picknmix

    • 9 October 2015 / 10:53 am

      We did the castle and the natural history museum but I suspect there’s a whole lot we didn’t see, it’s a lovely place :)

      Stevie x

  12. Jodie Allen at Budget Beauty and Babies
    9 October 2015 / 10:56 am

    We actually live pretty close to here and i’ve never been. I love places like this so I think we may well take a trip. Might have to hold off a bit though until Lexie is older as at only 8 months i doubt she’d be allowed! Maybe we will go on a baby free trip there one day!

    • 9 October 2015 / 11:06 am

      A couple only day is always a great idea when you have little ones, a bit of you time when you actually get to hold hands ;)

      Stevie x

  13. 9 October 2015 / 11:48 am

    Wow I live in Birmingham and this is expensive for parking!! Lovely day out by the looks of it though PicknMix xx

    • 9 October 2015 / 12:08 pm

      Definitely was lovely day, but think we’d hunt for cheaper parking if we went again ;)

      Stevie xx

  14. Sara @ Handy Herbs
    9 October 2015 / 12:07 pm

    We have been to Oxford lots of times as we live very near but have never done the castle tour – looks like it is worth doing. Parking is expensive and can be a nightmare finding a space too. Sometimes we ‘park and ride’ or park in the shopping centre – not always convenient when you have small children and it’s away from where you want to visit though! Thanks for hosting #PicknMix

    • 9 October 2015 / 12:10 pm

      Park and ride sounds like a good idea in future since mine are older! My pleasure,

      Stevie x

  15. 9 October 2015 / 12:16 pm

    I love Oxford, but I’ve never been here! I’ll definitely think about going and trying it out, although I don’t know if my girls would be a scared? great pics too! xx

    • 9 October 2015 / 12:28 pm

      It could be a little scary for younger ones, especially if they do any Halloween events in the half term mind! My boys at 9 and 11 really enjoyed it though :)

      Stevie xx

  16. 9 October 2015 / 1:09 pm

    That looks like a great day out! My daughters’ are pretty grim (dark and twisty) as I like to call them. They would love all the gruesome details. It’s certainly a place we’d love to visit some day. Sarah #Picknmix

    • 9 October 2015 / 2:12 pm

      Ha dark and twisty ;) I’m sure they’d love this place then!

      Stevie x

  17. 9 October 2015 / 2:09 pm

    I so want to see a castle like that in real life. Just amazing!!

  18. There's always Time for tea
    9 October 2015 / 3:08 pm

    We have never been to Oxford – might have to add it to our places to go list! The castle looks really good! xx

    • 9 October 2015 / 8:32 pm

      Oxford is lovely, maybe go on a day other than Saturday though as the streets were sooo busy! But then I’m not used to that down here ;)

      Stevie x

  19. 9 October 2015 / 4:34 pm

    Wow. This looks fab! I’m from Lincoln which has an amazing castle so castles have always fascinated me, but so many are left to ruin, it’s so brilliant this one is being kept going and that tour sounds fab. We aren’t too far from Oxford so we might have to visit one day when Oliver is a little bigger!

    • 9 October 2015 / 8:39 pm

      If you ever come down to Cornwall, Pendennis castle is lovely and even has cannons :)

      Stevie x

  20. 9 October 2015 / 4:54 pm

    We have been to Oxford a couple of times to visit friends but never made it to the castle! Will be checking this out next time we go, all kids love a castle right? Its also great he kept in character all the way round :) thanks for hosting #PickNMix

    • 9 October 2015 / 8:42 pm

      The boys really enjoyed it, in the prison part they got to play with some of the cranking machines that were used as punishment, love it when it’s interactive for them!

      Stevie x

  21. 9 October 2015 / 4:57 pm

    Oooh looks like fun. I am going to Oxford in January for a grown up girly weekend…could be a potential daytime activity! X #picknmix

    • 9 October 2015 / 8:43 pm

      Oh a girly weekend sounds amazing, little bit jealous ;) Have a brilliant time!

      Stevie x

  22. Tracey Abrahams
    9 October 2015 / 5:40 pm

    I am trying to think of a great comment about how I love castles and stuff, but my mind has become fixated in the price of parking. Is that a typo?? Did you really say it costs £17 seventeen pounds for a days parking!?!?!?!?!

    • 9 October 2015 / 8:48 pm

      Ha Tracey, I think the only mistake was I missed 50p off pretty sure it was actually £17.50! ;) Absolutely crazy price, it’s no wonder there were so many cyclists around!

      Stevie x

  23. 9 October 2015 / 7:41 pm

    Looks like a great place to visit!Not sure about the ears thing though,blooming heck!!Shame Lisa had to miss out of some of it but it’s definitely good to know stuff like this if you’re planning to visit x #picknmix

    • 9 October 2015 / 8:52 pm

      I think she was secretly glad not to have to climb the 101 steps ;) The ears thing made me cringe a bit eek!

      Stevie xx

  24. 9 October 2015 / 9:19 pm

    I love a good old castle, haven’t been to one for a while though…anyway, £17 girls parking, What?! I line you thought £6 per day in high season in Devon was steep!! However, I can imagine it was worth it, perfect for a family day out and how lovely your friends went to so you could enjoy it together x

    • 10 October 2015 / 10:27 am

      The only time I’ve ever paid so much parking is when I was late for work in Truro years ago and had to aprk in the short stay car park – cost me a fortune to get my car back out!

      Stevie x

  25. 9 October 2015 / 10:37 pm

    Oh that looks like a fab place Stevie! The tour guide looks like a lot of fun too. Now you can tell that we don’t come from Cornwall because, we always talk about £3 to park all day in Polperro, a bargain, then you get a voucher for an ice-cream with your ticket ha, it’s true – there is nowhere like Cornwall anywhere Stevie xx

    • 10 October 2015 / 10:33 am

      Ha see for me £3 all day seems like a normal amount ;) I loved Oxford though, think we’ll definitely go back at some point!

      Stevie xx

  26. 9 October 2015 / 11:37 pm

    I love Oxford, but not been for ages. The castle unlocked experience sounds really good. #picknmix

    • 10 October 2015 / 11:10 am

      It was the first time I’d been there, but it was lovely and I’d love to go back at some point :)

      Stevie x

  27. 10 October 2015 / 12:05 am

    I love Oxford, it’s so beautiful. But £17 for a car pack…ouch!!
    I can’t believe they used to nail the ears. That’s horrific!!! Ughh it makes me shudder just thinking about it. It’s a shame Lisa couldn’t go up too, although I’m not great with heights haha so if we ever go I might have to use the baby as an excuse! Thank you for hosting, I love this linky. x

    • 10 October 2015 / 11:13 am

      I had never heard the ear thing before either…really made me cringe but loved that the boys were learning on a fun day out :) I never used to be a fan of heights and then I did a charity sky dive – pretty much cured me of it ha! Bit extreme but amazing to do :)

      Stevie xx

  28. 10 October 2015 / 8:42 am

    We went to Oxford in August and we stayed at Malmaison which was amazing as it in an old prison. We didn’t go to the castle which was only next door but wished we had now!. We also have a ‘free’ tour of Oxford and it was brilliant finding out all about the history of the universities. The tour guide was an ex student and he was very dramatic.

    • 10 October 2015 / 11:16 am

      I’ve heard that Malmaison is brilliant to stay at, shame you didn’t get to the castle but the tour sounds fun! We saw loads of tour guides going around whilst we were there, some dressed up and really getting in to their parts around Oxford, was quite surreal but fab!

      Stevie x

  29. 10 October 2015 / 9:17 pm

    It really makes a tour when your guide is in character – you get a lot more out of it than you would by listening to an audio tour or reading display boards. This sounds like a great place to visit but wow – parking in the city is steep!

    • 10 October 2015 / 9:51 pm

      I definitely agree, and our guide was brilliant and so enthusiastic especially considering how mny times a day he must go through the same spiel!

      Stevie x

  30. 11 October 2015 / 9:19 am

    It looks great! I love learning about history and castles, although nailing ears to the stocks is a bit gruesome!great tip about baby’s in carriers. #Picnmix :) x

    • 11 October 2015 / 3:18 pm

      It was definitely interesting, I love castles and would love to come up your way to see some more! ;)

      Stevie x

  31. 11 October 2015 / 10:43 pm

    Sounds like a fun day out.
    We live just outside Oxford and sad to say that the parking charges you experienced are par for the course in the city. The park & rides are better but it’s a frustrating situation and means we don’t tend to go in very often. That and how busy it gets!
    But having said that, Oxford is a great place to visit and there’s lots more to see and do. The Pitt Rivers Museum with its shrunken heads is worth a visit!

    • 12 October 2015 / 2:02 pm

      I suppose they probably say they charge so much to protect the environment, as it makes less people drive in to Oxford ha! We loved Oxford though, and it’s not put me off going back some day :)

      Stevie x

  32. 12 October 2015 / 1:18 pm

    ooh, love castles, this one is a bit far for us but we are planning to explore some Cornish Castles before the end of season! x #PicknMix

    • 12 October 2015 / 2:07 pm

      Pendennis castle is one of my faves and Tintagel – even though there’s not even a castle there as such ha!

      Stevie x

  33. 14 October 2015 / 11:53 am

    Glad you had a great day. Shame the bit about the tower can’t take babies, but understandable. & the parking too! What! Just like you are living in London! I think Ethan will like the gruesome bits. haha The tour guide was a bit cheeky wasn’t he! :) x #PicknMix

    • 14 October 2015 / 12:49 pm

      I couldn’t quite believe the price of parking, but their were cyclists everywhere and I can see why! The tour guide was very funny :)

      Stevie x

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