Monday, January 23, 2017

Kittling's Literary Tours: Colin Dexter's Oxford

Most Anglophiles know that there are two premier universities in England: Oxford and Cambridge. Most Anglophiles who also happen to be crime fiction fans also know that one of the very first authors to set his books in Oxford was Colin Dexter, whose Inspector Morse solved many a crime amongst the dreaming spires of that venerable university. 

His Morse mysteries began to be adapted for television in 1987, and Inspector Morse proved to be so popular that, with the death of its star, John Thaw, television then turned to his partner, Robbie Lewis (Kevin Whately) for the equally popular Inspector Lewis. Wouldn't you know it-- towards the end of Inspector Lewis's run, the franchise then turned to Morse as a young man just starting out in the police force, and Endeavour now wears the mantle.

All three television series have a solid foundation in Dexter's books, and he's been an integral part of each. Strong stories, marvelous actors-- but throughout each and every single episode of all three series is the glory of Oxford. I've been to Cambridge. It was a highlight of one of our trips to the UK, and from what I experienced there, I think Oxford would be very similar. But Cambridge was a strange land for me, although it was a land that absolutely thrilled me. (I lost count of the number of times I was so moved that I had tears in my eyes.) Through Dexter's books and these television series, I feel as though I already know Oxford. Odd how that can happen, isn't it?

Oxford High Street

Is it any wonder that there are businesses catering to fans of both books and television who want to visit Oxford and see where so many crimes were solved?

One Inspector Morse Tour is free and seems to be connected to the Randolph Hotel whose Morse Bar is featured in the television series. The Tour in a Day website talks more in depth about episodes and about which colleges are fictional. You can go there to download and print a copy of the tour map, which is always great when you're doing all the planning for your trip.

One tour which isn't free is through Brit Movie Tours and its Inspector Morse and Lewis Tour of Oxford. This is a two-hour guided walk of Oxford, and the route varies from week to week depending upon which colleges are open. This company also does private tours.

If you want something a bit different, there are also articles in publications like the RadioTimes which shows an Endeavour tour complete with a map. The RadioTimes self-guided tour is three hours long and covers about seven miles.

You could also do something similar to what Denis and I did in Cambridge: a CitySightSeeing tour of Oxford on a big red double decker (open-topped) bus. Depending on the time of day/time of year, there are either live guides or pre-recorded tours available with free headphones to help you learn about the city, although you probably won't get the in-depth knowledge of Endeavour, Morse, and Lewis. Your ticket is good for twenty-four hours, and you can get on and off the bus as many times as you please.

Any way you look at it, there are plenty of different ways to explore Oxford and learn about its most popular policemen. I'm hoping to get there some day in the future!

Cornmarket Street



  1. Oh, such a good choice, Cathy! Oxford has so much personality and atmosphere, doesn't it?

    1. It must because bucketloads of personality and atmosphere come through those movie cameras!

  2. Your tour sounds wonderful and I do hope you get to see Oxford as well. I am the biggest fan of Lewis. I still need to connect with both Morse and the 'young Morse'. One day.

    1. I have to say that I'm not a huge Morse fan. Robbie Lewis was always the best part of Morse for me. "Lewis" and "Endeavour" are my favorites.


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