When we think of Cambridge, often visions of majestic, centuries-old buildings and students in gowns come to mind. But this picturesque image would not be complete without thinking of punts gliding along the waters of the River Cam. Punts are flat-bottomed boats that are propelled through the water with a metal or wooden pole. Often a true test of acrobatic skill, this requires someone to stand on the boat and use the pole, as well as ducking under the numerous bridges and avoiding collisions with other punters, which is all part of the fun! This quintessential part of Cambridge life is one of the best ways to take in the sights and really soak up the atmosphere of the prestigious university, so here are our top ten sights to see:
- The Bridge of Sighs – This amazing piece of architecture is owned by St John’s College and connects the two halves of the college on either side of the river. Inspired by the Venetian bridge of the same name, this bridge provides a spectacular sight with its covered roof of stone. It also comes with a royal seal of approval as Queen Victoria herself is said to have liked it better than any other part of Cambridge.
- New Court – This spectacular neo-Gothic building appears without question to best advantage from the river and currently serves as accommodation for undergraduates. It has acquired the nickname of ‘The Wedding Cake’ for its eccentric and grand design.
- Swans on the River – Punters will be sure to see plenty of stately swans gliding down the Cam. However, sometimes they dislike the attention, which led to the removal of a particularly vicious swan dubbed ‘Mr Asbo’. Perhaps he was worried that he would end up on the plates of the Fellows of St John’s, who are the only people besides the Queen who may eat swans in Britain.
- The Wren Library – The library forms part of Trinity College and was designed by the famous architect in 1676. It has served the likes of Prince Charles, A.A. Milne (the creator of Winnie the Pooh) and Lord Byron, who upon being told that no dogs were permitted, instead brought a bear to the college!
- The Backs – These are the beautiful stretches of green that extend down from the colleges to the river. They come alive in May Week when students enjoy college May Balls which are full of entertainment, decorations and fireworks.
- King’s College Chapel – Possibly the most recognizable building in Cambridge, this vast structure symbolises the importance of music and worship in Cambridge and appears in plain sight when viewed from the river. It hosts the world famous King’s College Choir, whose Christmas Eve service is broadcast internationally and is world-renowned.
- Clare College Fellows Garden – These beautiful grounds are a classic example of 20th century English gardens. Redesigned by Neville Willmer after World War Two, the gardens boast some of the most colourful and varied flowers of all the colleges.
- The Boathouses – Rowing goes hand-in-hand with college life for many students at Cambridge. However this often involves getting up at the crack of dawn to practise on the river. Clearly this sport is no laughing matter, as the annual Boat Race against Oxford, the university’s arch nemesis, stirs up Cambridge’s competitive spirit like nothing else!
- Mathematical Bridge – This fascinating feat of engineering maintains the shape of an arch despite being composed using entirely straight pieces of timber. Despite popular myths that the bridge was built by Isaac Newton, it was actually constructed as a sequence of tangents of pieces of wood in 1749, long after Newton’s death.
- Punt to Grantchester – If you are feeling really adventurous, a trip to the nearby village of Grantchester is a must! Enjoy cream tea in the orchard that was frequented by the poet Rupert Brooke and the novelist Virginia Woolf.
So what are you waiting for, jump on a punt and experience Cambridge for yourself. As part of the Cambridge Immerse experience you will receive a chauffeured punt tour with a skilled guide to fill you in on all the histories and myths created along the river. Even more than this, you will also get the chance to punt yourself and see if you can skilfully navigate yourself and your friends along the river bends. Punting is just one of the amazing activities you can enjoy on a Cambridge Immerse summer school alongside your studies. Come and see for yourselves!