Cambridge is the second-oldest university in England, next to Oxford, and the third-oldest surviving university in the world!  My niece and I drove there from Mildenhall, in Bury St. Edmunds.  I kept thinking we’d gotten the wrong directions at first because even when we were supposedly just a mile or so from the university area, everything looked so modern, kind of ugly.  Then we got a glimpse of what we’d been looking for – a very beautiful old building – and suddenly every street we turned down was filled with them.  We were in Cambridge proper.

What we really came to see is what they call “The Backs” – a stretch of the River Cam that some of the colleges “back” onto, with lovely little bridges arching across.  We parked in a garage and walked to Silver Street where it looks over the River Cam near Queens College.  And there was the view we’d come for – the river winding its way through tree-filled meadows and ancient buildings.  Reminded me of pictures I’ve seen of the canals in Venice in a way.

The frustrating thing is, unless you’re a student or have permission, you cannot access any of those lovely bridges or walk along the grounds.  It’s all private property belonging to the colleges of Cambridge University.  However, one way to see some of the grounds and get a view from a bridge is to pay for a tour of one of the colleges.  I think it was the Kings College tour for £2.50 that would have given us access to the bridge you see in my photo.  Kings College was founded in 1441 by Henry VI, and you can listen to their world-famous choir when they broadcast A Festival of Nine Lessons and Carols every year on Christmas Eve.  They've been performing this service since 1918!

Anyway, we decided not to do the tour, but the guide there very kindly advised us that we could have a lovely walk along the river if we just went further along Silver Street, away from The Backs.  But by this time we’d been walking for some time, and my little niece Scarlett was hungry, so we decided to be satisfied with the beautiful view we had.

You can also take a boat – or a “punt” as they call it in Cambridge – on the river, but this is expensive.  At least it was to us.  £14 per adult to row yourself, or £70 total if you want a punter.  I have to say, I found all of these restrictions a bit depressing.  So much natural beauty should be free for all to see, but instead they’ve turned part of Cambridge into a tourist trap.  And even on a Tuesday morning, tourists were swarming the place.  Still, we enjoyed our visit.  Had lunch at The Anchor on Silver Street, with a table right by the river so we could watch the punters.

Leave a Reply.