Day Out - Punting on the River in Cambridge

May 07, 2015

It's that time of year again where I pull out the summer day out list, when it's grey and rainy and we have the whole summer ahead of us I like to plan things and days out for the coming weeks when it's sunny. I'm always planning things and writing lists, Ben on the other hand is spontaneous. You need one of each person in a relationship I think. Anyway, a couple of years back we booked a couple of nights away in Norfolk in June the day after my exams finished {blog post here}, the weather was glorious and we decided to stop in Cambridge for the day on the way back. We'd never been before but knew we wanted to go punting on the river. Think we're due a return trip sometime soon, it's such an amazing city. Oxford is on my list too! And lots of other day out inspiration here
{apologies to those of you who had a sneek peak at this post last week, the scheduling messed up!}

It's been a couple of years since we've been but at the time we found the cheapest place to park all day, in the week, was in the train station car park. At weekends there may be better places but this suited us well and we walked the whole city from it. It's beautiful in the summer, the best time to visit with all the boats, the river, countryside and bikes.

Of course, being home to one of the most famous {and oldest} universities in the world, the focus of the city is on the university colleges and chapels which means the architecture is amazing. There are medieval lanes to stroll around with nice shops, restaurants and cafes around a central square. And yes there are bikes everywhere, England's own Amsterdam. 

We first walked around the city before deciding that if we wanted to go punting on the river, it would be better to do it earlier rather than later before the hoards of tourists arrived. So we went to find the 'Backs' - the river which runs behind all of the colleges. It's actually quite hard to get to, all of the college's have access and gates out the back but access is restricted on most to students and fellows only. You can book tours around some of the buildings but we just wanted to see the pretty bits. In the end we found a road leading down to all the boat hires.

There are two prices for punts, one a self-punt and one a guided group punting trip. We thought, oh how lovely let's just punt ourselves, it will be more romantic just the two of us and fun. How hard can it be? The answer, for somebody who's never punted before, is very hard. Haha poor Ben. You have to stand at the back of the flat boat, balancing on the edge and then push the oar down into the river bed to propel the punt along. In theory it sounds easy but when you're standing on the back of a wobbly boat, it's actually quite scary. It took a short while of working out which way was left and right and all of the students make it look so easy! But after a while Ben got the hang of it and we were off sailing up the river, under historic bridges and next to the world famous colleges with meadows on either side. Going straight was easy, turning around was just a little tricky... 

It was heavenly for me, relaxing in the other end of the boat. Trying not to laugh as Ben carefully balanced with his oar. All good fun though and such a lovely way to see Cambridge.

We even passed a Pimms punt going up and down the river on such a hot day. Summer heaven!

I think next time Ben will prefer a more leisurely tour and get punted along by a local. In the Winter they give you blankets to snuggle up with! You can also go further down the river through the water meadows to pretty Grantchester - somewhere I want to go next time.

After dropping the boat back after our hour's hire, without any falling in phew, we were ready for lunch so headed to M&S to pick up some picnic supplies.

We wanted to go and sit in one of the meadow's we'd passed on the boat which looked idyllic for picnicking. The only problem is trying to cross the river to get to one, nearly all of the bridges are from the college's behind locked gates for students only. 

There was one public bridge that we found though and crossed and then naughtily snuck into one of the grassy fields which again are exclusive for university fellows only, pretending we were students if anyone asked, and sat by the river with our picnic.

After relaxing and eating our picnic, we walked back into the city centre and had a look around the shops before getting an ice cream and then heading back to the car to drive home. 

A truly lovely summer's day. Good old England, I'm hoping we have an amazing summer again.

If you're planning to go, it's worth having a little google about where you can and cannot go in the Backs and colleges if you're not a student - there are some days and times of year when entry is more relaxed than others {avoid exam season}. 

Have you punted before? Do you fancy it? 

R <3 xx 

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  1. I grew up in Cambridge and as teenagers we had our own punt that we built. Happy days!


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