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Day trip to Cambridge? Wahoo! You’re going to love it! Be sure to take the time to meander its narrow streets, absorbing the academic and historic culture and, as a Cambridge resident told me, “Look up.” There are intricacies of architecture and history peering down at you. Classic.
How to get to Cambridge from London
There are plenty of daily trains from London from King’s Cross and Liverpool Street stations. The cost will vary depending on what time of day you travel and how far in advance you book your ticket. For example, I paid £11 ($19 Canadian) one way and £17 ($29.50 Canadian) the other. Use the app/website trainline to get schedules and tickets. The journey takes about an hour. When booking, don’t take the slow train that stops at every station between London and Cambridge! That mistake will greatly reduce the amount of time for your day trip to Cambridge!
The Cambridge Train Station is not in the centre of town. Buses #1 and #7 will take you to the bus station in Drummer Street. From there it is a 5 minute walk to King’s College. Alternately, taxis will be waiting outside to get you to your destination.
A Day Trip in Cambridge starts here…
What’s on the Agenda?
- Visit Cambridge University
- Take a walking tour which includes admission to some of the colleges.
- Go punting down the River Cam
- Stop for a bite to eat at The Eagle
Cambridge University was founded in 1209 and remains one of the world’s top universities. It is made up of 31 autonomous colleges. Walking through the campus, the ambience of history, academia and tradition is palpable. Brilliant scholars walked these lanes and sat by the river conversing – Charles Darwin, Jane Goodall, David Attenborough, C.S. Lewis, Oliver Cromwell and William Wordsworth – to name a few favourites. I was secretly hoping to catch a glimpse of Stephen Hawking.
King’s College is the most famous college. What’s not to love? Its Gothic architecture is stunning and King’s College Chapel has ancient stained glass windows and a world famous fan-vaulted ceiling.
Choral services are held at 5.30pm from Monday to Saturday, and at 10.30am and 3.30pm on Sunday.
I attended an Evensong service and was by far the worst attendee. My neck was cranked up towards the incredible ceiling, watching the glorious light stream in through the stained glass enraptured by the choir’s beautiful singing.
Note that as you enter for a service, the guard is insistent that NO pictures are to be taken of the college grounds or the chapel. Oops!
Henry VIII overlooks the Great Gate entering Trinity College holding a table leg rather than the original sword he once carried. There are tales that abound about the switch, but pranking students is the most common. I love that the table leg has been left, representing the students and the culture of this famous university.
Sir Isaac Newton attended Trinity College and behind this bay window is where he studied, the tree in front being a graft from the original apple tree.
For £3 ($4.95 Canadian) the public can access the Great Court and the Chapel.
The Wren Library, Trinity College’s library, houses medieval and modern manuscripts. Amongst its collection are original manuscripts from Shakespeare, Newton and A.A Milne (of Winnie-the-Pooh fame).
Christian Heritage Walking Tour
I took this tour and the tour guide was full of local history and stories about the colleges. This tour begins at the Round Church and includes admission to the church, Trinity College, St. John’s College and Magdalene College.
Cost: £10 ($17.40 Canadian) for a 90 minute tour
Footprints Tours offers free walking tours. I heard about this tour company after I left Cambridge. It gets rave reviews. I will definitely try it next time. It includes King’s College.
The River Cam
Centuries ago, Cambridge was a bustling inland port on the River Cam, which flows 64km to the North Sea. When the marshlands known as the Fens were drained, it affected the water levels and boat traffic to Cambridge was dramatically reduced. Today, there are three locks on the river and it is used for pleasure boating and fishing.
Stroll the River Cam pathway to catch a glimpse of British life – houseboats, picnics, rowing clubs and people sharing a pint but make sure you have time to go…
Punting on the River Cam
While punting down the River Cam, you get a marvellous view of the “Backs” or gardens of the colleges and your guide will regale you with tales of rivalry between the colleges and quirky traditions that have existed for centuries.
One tale of rivalry between St John’s College (above) and Trinity College explains the missing clock-faces on the tower. One story claims there was a race to be the last chiming clocktower installed in Cambridge (apparently there was a limit on the number of chiming towers). From the blank clock-faces, it is safe to presume that Trinity College won that race. You lazily float under the iconic Bridge of Sighs as the guide uses his pole to propel the flat bottomed boat. Brave enough? You can rent your own punt but the steering looks a little tricky!
There are at least 6 punting companies that offer tours along the river. All prices are competitive for a 45 minute tour. I paid £16 ($27.80 Canadian).
The Round Church
The Church of the Holy Sepulchre (the Round Church), built in the 12th century, is one of only four medieval round churches still in use in England. It is certainly worth a look inside to see the round nave and the medieval carved faces peering down.
Entrance Fee: £2.50 ($4.15 Canadian)
Great St Mary’s
Great St. Mary’s is in the heart of Cambridge. The bells of this 15th century church chime loudly, calling parishioners to join them for service. The bells are manually rung by members of the oldest bellringing society in Britain. On my climb up the tower I passed young and old bellringers, proudly on their way to their bell ringing shift.
Climb the tower for great views over King’s College and Cambridge. You pass the chamber of bells on the stairway.
Tower Fee: £3/$5.00 Canadian
Time to Refuel and Relax
Ready to stop for a pint and a bite?
This pub has been around for a while… since 1600. It is worth having a pint there to gaze at the ceiling and find graffiti and signatures from British and American World War II pilots.
Location: 8 Benet Street, Cambridge, England
That is more than enough to fill a day trip to Cambridge but if your plans changed and you have more time here are a few more suggestions.
Here is a list of the 9 world class museums in Cambridge.
The Fitzwilliam Museum – oh what a building!
The Fitzwilliam has an extensive collection of artifacts, an amazing gift shop and is free. There is something for everyone’s taste here – Egyptian, Greek and Roman artifacts, drawings and paintings by Degas, Picasso and Da Vinci, illustrated manuscripts and many more galleries.
At the exit there is a donation bin. It is hard not to leave a little something after being wowed for a couple of hours. I loved calling it “The Fitz” as all the locals do!
A Free Lecture:
If classes are in session find a lecture to attend.
An Evening Out:
There are lots of theatre performances, lectures etc going on in Cambridge.
Close to Cambridge:
Anglesey Abbey: a beautiful manor house with stunning gardens 5.5 km northeast of Cambridge.
Ely Cathedral: its size and beauty have it listed as one of the wonders of the medieval times. It is about 30km from Cambridge.
What would you add to the list of amazing things to do in Cambridge? Let me know what I missed and what your experiences were!
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