The Grand Tour: British Travellers in Europe, c.1600-1900


The Oxford Experience is a residential summer programme providing one-week courses in a variety of subjects aimed at non-specialists. It offers a choice of seminars each week over a period of six weeks.

The ‘Grand Tour’ evolved into a rite of passage and the culmination of an education. British and Irish gentlemen and ladies travelled across the continent to experience and study the landscape, literature and architecture of classical sites, with Italy as the ultimate destination. Their experiences, visiting classical sites and participating in the social scene, were relayed in letters, diaries, and paintings, and perpetuated a fascination with the classical past. Travel also provided the opportunity to acquire a personal collection of artefacts, and objects of interest and artistic appeal, with an entire industry of guidebooks, agents, dealers, and artists emerging to meet the demand. These collections came to shape British art and architecture to this day.

Programme details

Seminars meet each weekday morning, 09.15-10.45 and 11.15-12.45, with afternoons free for course-related field trips, individual study or exploring the many beautiful places in and around the city.

What do we mean by ‘Grand Tour’? The start of Continental travel for self-improvement and self-fashioning in the early 17th Century, and the political and social changes which promoted it. Early aristocratic interest in Collecting, and influences from abroad. The European and Classical influences on British Art, Architecture and Thought. Who went on the ‘Grand Tour’? Was it a purely British activity?

Which Countries were visited and how did you decide the route? The development of the market in travel guides and maps and the expectations provided by these and existing images.  Development of a set itinerary in Italy - Florence, Rome, Naples, Venice. The professional tutor or ‘bear leader’ and the support networks. The journey and the hazards encountered. Letters home and published accounts.

The Depiction of the Grand Tour in Art; of Grand Tourists in portraits and sculpture, of what they saw and visited in landscape painting. Influence of the antique – archaeological excavation and discovery of Greek and Roman sites. The development of the Art Market in ancient and modern Painting and Sculpture including new professional dealers, agents and antiquarians to supply the demands of collectors and tourists.

Field trip to Basildon Park, Berkshire (National Trust) to see twentieth century collections inspired by the Grand Tour. Includes an exhibition of works owned by the connoisseur, collector, and Grand Tour scholar Sir Brinsley Ford - compiler of the Dictionary of British and Irish Travellers in Italy, 1701-1800.

The afterlife of the Grand Tour – Social Groups and Societies formed on the return home. Contemporary criticisms of the Grand Tour. The ‘Grand Tour’ in the nineteenth and twentieth century, and modern tourism. The long-lasting influence on taste, architecture, collections in houses and museums, and the way we regard them today.


Field Trip

Destination:     Basildon Park, Berkshire

Excursion Rating: Moderate
Up to two hours' walk on even ground or up to an hour's walk on rough and/or steep ground or up lots of stairs and steps.


Description Costs
Programme fee (no accom–incl. field trip, lunch and dinner) £1145.00
Programme fee (with single en-suite accom, field trip and meals) £1640.00
Programme fee (with single standard accom, field trip and meals) £1455.00


Mr Martin Stiles


Martin Stiles has worked with and for historic properties and their families for his entire career. Now based at the Duke of Wellington’s London townhouse, he is researching aristocratic family portrait collections and their display and has taught summer school classes for Oxford for three years on topics connected to his work and research interests.

Assessment methods

There are no assessments for this course.


Online registration closes on Friday, 1 May 2020 but please note that this course may be fully booked very quickly so early registration is recommended.


During your course, you will stay in typical Oxford student accommodation at Christ Church in buildings which range from the 18th to the 20th century.

The fee stated includes a bedroom with private bathroom facilities (shower, washbasin and toilet). Most are single but a few twins are available*.

There is also a limited number of standard rooms available, which all have their own washbasin and shaver point but shared bath and toilet facilities. Most standard rooms are single but there are a few ‘twin sets’ (two single rooms opening off a sitting room)*.

*If you wish to book a twin en-suite room or a standard twin set room each person should complete an application form and email it to us at as these rooms cannot be booked online. (Forms may also be posted to us at: The Oxford Experience, OUDCE, 1 Wellington Square, Oxford, OX1 2JA, UK)

Please indicate your accommodation preferences (either online or on your application form) together with a note of any mobility problems. Students should note that bedrooms are modestly-furnished, do not have air-conditioning and are arranged on a staircase of four or five floors.

We regret that we are unable to offer you accommodation at Christ Church prior to or following your course. Additionally, family or friends who are not enrolled in the programme cannot be accommodated in college.


If accommodation is unavailable in a particular week, we also offer places on a non-residential basis whereby participants can take classes and have meals at the college, having arranged their own accommodation elsewhere.

If you wish to enrol on a non-residential basis please complete an application form and email it to us at as this option cannot be booked online. (Forms may also be posted to us at: The Oxford Experience, OUDCE, 1 Wellington Square, Oxford, OX1 2JA, UK)