Drink a pint in the Historic Turf Tavern, Oxford’s Famous 400 year-old Pub

by | Apr 5, 2017

Turf Tavern Oxford

Discover the history and stories behind Oxford’s legendary Turf Tavern. Alternatively, take a pub walking tour to find out more about Oxford’s famous drinking holes.

Exterior Turf Tavern Oxford with city walls and tower

The Turf Tavern is one of Oxford’s most famous pubs

Approached by two hidden cobbled passageways, the Turf Tavern is one of my favourite Oxford pubs.

In summer, sit outside with a glass of Pimm’s in the beer garden. On a cold winter’s day, get cosy in the tiny bar with its nooks, snugs and low-beamed ceiling (tall people beware).

Order a star gazy pie and a pint of London Glory cask ale and soak up the atmosphere. It’s not hard to imagine legendary Turf drinkers Ernest Hemingway and Richard Burton propping up the bar.

The Foodie Travel Guide

The Turf Tavern Oxford

If the walls of the Turf Tavern could talk, they’d keep you entralled for hours as you savour your pint. It’s all happened here – malt roasting, cock-fighting, gambling, prostitution and during the plague, the Medieval practice of setting cats alight and tossing them over the city wall to transfer human suffering onto animals. Reputedly, the pub has its own ghost. When her lover failed to return from the English Civil War, Old Rosie threw herself into the moat where The Turf is today. Apparently, she makes her presence felt by smashing the occasional glass.

Passageway Turf Tavern Oxford

The Turf Tavern is surrounded by passageways

cosy nook inside the Turf pub Oxford

Get cosy in one of the pub’s nook

A Legendary Oxford Drinking Den

In modern times, The Turf is where in 1963, the former Australian Prime Minister, Bob Hawke, entered the Guinness Book of Records for downing a yard ale in 11 seconds. It’s also alleged that during the sixties, Rhodes Scholar and ex-President of the United States, Bill Clinton, ‘did not inhale’ whilst he smoked illegal substances. The list of once pub regulars is seriously impressive – Oscar Wilde, Thomas Hardy, Elizabeth Taylor, Margaret Thatcher, Stephen Hawking, David Cameron, Ben Kingsley and Emma Watson. On the screen, The Turf has appeared in several episodes of Inspector Morse. More recently, in Endeavour. The spiral staircase featured as the entrance to the Oxford Mail offices where the editor is played by the daughter of late Morse actor, John Thaw.

  • For a unique Oxford drinking experience, visit the Turf early on May Morning when it’s packed with pub revellers
  • Try the gin produced by Warner Edwards in Northamptonshire. Their rhubarb gin is exceptional
  • Approach the pub via Bath Place or look for Oxford’s famous ‘Bridge of Sighs’ and walk down St. Helen’s Passage on the left


Dog Policy Mr Hendricks says, “One of my favourite places to go in Oxford.”

How to Find the Turf Tavern Oxford

The Turf Tavern, 4-5 Bath Pl, Oxford OX1 3SU

The Turf Tavern


The Foodie Travel Guide

The Foodie Travel Guide

Sally is the founder and editor of The Foodie Travel Guide. She travels around the UK and beyond in search of the best foodie days out, tasting experiences and delicious places to stay. She loves a glass of English sparkling wine, afternoon tea with friends and escaping London for gastronomic adventures. 

Oxford Pub Tour

  • 2-hour pub walking tour of Oxford
  • Visit the city’s most famous pubs
  • Learn about each pub’s history and drinking traditions
  • Enjoy drinks (own expense) with fellow travellers
  • Discover fun facts about beer and ‘real ale’

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