A European River Tour With a Difference: Punting in Cambridge
Cambridge is famous across the globe for its elite University, that is ranked in the top three in the entire world. But like any hotbed for scholars the area in steeped in history and has many rural delights. The city also has a rich arts scene with many live music venues and museums open around the clock for locals and tourists to visit.
However, away from the more urban parts of the city there is an abundance of countryside that populates the outer regions of Cambridge. The River Cam became a focal point for industries and even today, local’s use it as an alternative way to travel and admire the city. One of which ways is via a boat called a punt.
A punt is basically a “flat-bottomed boat with a square cut bow,” and they were originally designed for use in small rivers or to operate in shallow waters. They are similar to gondolas, but punts are maneuvered using a pole rather than an oar.
Because of their design features and due to them being easy to maintain many tour companies in Cambridge now sell luxury punting packages to visitors. Running along the River Cam and out as far as the Ely on the Great Ouse package companies run trips throughout the days and weekends for visitors especially during the summer months.
Visit Cambridge highly recommends Camboats as it also offers narrowboat tours which take tourists past many of the city’s riverside pubs, colleges, museums, the Kings College Chapel, University Real Tennis Club and much of the wildlife that inhabits the rivers and surrounding fields. The tours provide insight into the history of the city as well as all the notable landmarks that tourists pass while seated in the punts.
Punts have also become popular additions to bachelor and bachelorette parties recently. However, these are equally as popular for family days out as the River Cam is a wonderful and tranquil setting in the summer months.
There’s also the prospect of seeing the University’s famous rowing team practicing on the river. Every year the University competes against its biggest rival, Oxford University in the annual Oxford and Cambridge Boat Race. The race happens in April and is attended by some of the Royal Family. It’s televised on UK television and is attended by thousands in person.
For foreign tourists travelling to Cambridge for the first time, there are a number of ways to reach the city upon arriving in the UK. Firstly, there are many train routes available to travellers from all of the major airports. However, expect to change multiple times before finally getting to your desired destination. Secondly, there are buses routes that connect London to Cambridge, but be warned these trips can be arduous due to the high level of traffic that London and the outskirts of the city has to contend with on a daily basis.
Finally, and probably the most preferred option of all, is by car or cab. With airports like Gatwick only being 50 miles away from London and Heathrow approximately 28 miles away, it means that Cambridge is accessible in less than two hours from both airports. The M11 runs directly from London to Cambridge and although it gets busy at times it is a pretty stress-free road for travellers to drive on.
***Written by Thomas Hill