My first introduction to C.S. Lewis was his novel, The Screwtape Letters, back in college. I became a huge fan of his writing, and soon stocked my bookshelves with his works like The Great Divorce and The
Chronicles of Narnia, and admired his life greatly. So, on my return to England I made it a point to visit the city he called home and I received the greatest education from a slightly unexpected place. My Airbnb. Together with my host, we visited C S Lewis House Oxford and started our search to find Lewis in 24 hours.
Roughly 20 minutes out of the city center lives the most awesome woman by the name of Louise. I
found her home on the site and thought I’d try a different kind of accommodation since I usually stay in
hostels on my travels.
She was so kind and flexible, I ran behind on my estimated schedule, having delayed too long at my
previous destination. She greeted me at 11pm with some tea and we fell easily into conversation about
travel, living in Oxford, and…you guessed it…Lewis.
She knew much about his life and as we connected about faith she offered to drive me to some key
places of his life. I was, and still am, so grateful to her for taking the time. It was brilliant.
9:46 am The Kilns & Holy Trinity Church in Headington Quarry
C.S. Lewis’ legacy is very prevalent throughout the city and from my first impression, alive and well. His
home is currently used as student housing and for seminars, his church still has an active congregation,
and the places he worked, walked, studied, and prayed are all used by residents and visitors alike.
Louise drove me first to his home, known as the Kilns, which is a beautiful brick cottage with a steep
pitched shingle roof. I loved the growing ivy, and the clean hedges bordered by textured flowers. You
can visit the house on a guided tour, but as it’s still a private home, hours are subject to change. Since
our visit was impromptu and not wanting to take up too much of Louise’s time, we just looked at the exterior.
His church pays a kind homage to him as well, which he attended from the 1930’s on. A plaque marking
the seat he always sat in on Sundays and a beautiful stained-glass window depicting key characters from
the Narnia Chronicles are often visited. July 16th was a Sunday, so we arrived as the church service was
starting. They were really welcoming and encouraged us to make our way to see the window.
Also, just a short walk away from the church is a small graveyard where C.S. Lewis is buried. I planned to
take a photo but a greater part of me felt like I should still my need to document everything. The
memory remains though of seeing half a dozen notes, gifts, and flowers left on Lewis’ grave. It was
touching to see such sincere and creative thanks shown. Another sign of his legacy, alive and well.
1:43 pm Magdalen College
Founded in 1458, Magdalen College holds a rich history in Oxford. It is a beautiful campus with Gothic
architecture and pristine grounds plotted with tall willows and wide banks of flowers; I would be so
inspired to study here.
I was inspired just walking through. Not all the college is accessible as it’s still an
active campus, but the areas that usually are include the Hall, Chapel, and Old Kitchen Bar. There are
also the gardens, grounds, and parkland, which includes a beautiful walk around the River Cherwell.
It costs £6 for adults and £5 for visitors over 60, for children (those under age 7 are given free entry),
and for students. They offer guided tours, but you are welcome to walk through the grounds on your
own. I did, and found it very enjoyable. You can find their hours here.
2:04 pm Addison’s Walk
Back to Lewis.
His journey to finding his faith happened at Magdalen College. Close friends with another of my favorite
authors, J.R.R. Tolkien, both Lewis, Tolkien, and their friend Hugo Dyson, often walked along the River
Cherwell to discuss faith. It is named Addison’s walk after Joseph Addison who was a fellow of the college though the path dates much further back to the 16th century. It’s a very picturesque path that runs along the river where you can see gondolas slowly sail by (available to rent at the College).
In Fellows’ Garden there is a beautiful tree sculpture known as ‘Y’ created by artist Mark Wallinger. In celebration of the 550th anniversary of Magdalen College, its stainless steel façade stands boldly yet fluidly behind the hanging trees. I loved seeing people sitting in the grass areas writing and drawing. Mind your head on the bent tree at the entrance though 🙂 And be sure to find the plaque with Lewis’ poem, “What the Bird Said Early in the Year”.
2:55 The Grande Café
My decadent food break. There is something about scones, little triangle sandwiches, and tea that
makes me smile, I don’t know why. Is it the decadence? The attached decorum? I really can’t say, but
I’m forever hooked.
The Grand Café heralds themselves as the first coffee house in England, established in 1650. The interior
is beautiful, a sort of Neoclassic meets Art Deco with gold, crystal, and blue accents. I read Persuasion
and enjoyed the hum of conversation around me. I chose their high tea, which includes a selection of
sandwiches, two scones, clotted cream, jam, Petit Fours, and your choice of tea or coffee. I chose
tea…lavender 🙂 The meal is about £18, and I think worth the experience at least once.
7:23 pm The Eagle and Child Pub
Last stop of the Lewis-Oxford exploration. Home to the Inklings. C.S. Lewis, Tolkien, and other writers came to the Eagle and Child often dubbing it ‘the bird and the baby’. It’s located near Oxford University and St. Johns College and has an intimate atmosphere. Upon entering, there are small square
alcoves that fit 4 or 5 people.
From there it’s a long narrow stretch back until you reach a more brightly lit room with larger table seating and various art along the walls. Quotes from the authors and their works are everywhere. As I
drank my half pint of ale, I soaked in as much literary
reveries as possible.
Oxford is a beautiful city that deserves more than 24 hours if you can give it. It was a wonderful
introduction though and I look forward to the next time. I look back on my brief journey into Lewis’ life
fondly because it is fervently present and should you choose to look for it, you’ll find it in so many
You’ll find a lot of amazing things in Oxford, no doubt about it.
Hi I’m Kels, an interior designer and avid traveler. I caught the wanderlust bug in 2012 when I took a
summer course in London for 5 weeks and have yet to recover. In truth I never want to! I’m a firm
believer that there is no one way to live life but to live it free and fulfilled and travel is one of the most
fulfilling of life’s endeavors.