1 hour punting along the river Cam, propelled by local lispers and other like-minded volunteers, followed by 90 minute walk with qualified local guide, including Pembroke and Trinity colleges.
In the year 1209 students escaping from hostile townspeople in Oxford fled to Cambridge and formed a University here. The oldest college which still exists, Peterhouse, was founded in 1284. The University now has 31 colleges (eight of which will be seen from the river). These are the primary source of accommodation for University students and help to arrange teaching in collaboration with the University departments and faculties.
A punt is a flat-bottomed boat which is driven forward by means of a long pole. Punts were introduced as pleasure craft in Edwardian times. Since then punting has become one of the most popular ways to see the famous bridges and colleges along the River Cam. Today there are probably more punts on the Cam than on any other river in England. This is partly because the river is shallow and gravelly (which makes it ideal for punting), but mainly because the Cam goes through the heart of Cambridge town centre and passes close to many very attractive old college buildings.
Established in 1347, Pembroke is home to over 600 students and fellows, and is the third oldest of the existing colleges. The college's gatehouse is the oldest in Cambridge; the chapel dates from 1665 and was designed by Christopher Wren.
Trinity is the largest (and wealthiest) Cambridge college. Originally founded by the infamous Henry VIII in 1546, its buildings include a magnificent library (also by Wren) and the the Great Court. The Great Court houses a famous clock that chimes every 15 minutes and strikes the hour twice. Many have tried to run the 367 metres around the court in the 43 seconds that it takes to strike 12 o'clock, a feat recreated in the 1981 film Chariots of Fire (though filmed in Eton College not Trinity). Known as the Great Court Run, students traditionally attempt to complete the circuit on the day of the Matriculation Dinner. The only people believed to have actually completed the run in time are Lord Burghley in 1927 and Sebastian Coe when he beat Steve Cram in a charity race in October 1988.
All day coach tour with qualified guide to the north of Cambridge, taking in Anglesey Abbey (house and grounds) and Ely Cathedral. Lunch not provided; there is a café at Anglesey Abbey.
Anglesey Abbey is a country house in the village of Lode, 6 miles northeast of Cambridge. A community of Augustinian monks built a priory here some time during the reign of Henry I, and acquired extra land from the nearby village of Bottisham in 1279. The monks were expelled in 1535 during the Dissolution of the Monasteries; the priory was acquired around 1600 by Thomas Hobson who converted it to a country house, retaining a few arches from the original priory.
Today the house and its grounds are owned by the National Trust and are open to the public. The 98 acres of landscaped grounds are divided into a number of walks and gardens, with classical statuary, topiary and flowerbeds. The grounds were laid out in an 18th-century style by the estate's last private owner, the 1st Baron Fairhaven, in the 1930s. A large pool, the Quarry Pool, is believed to be the site of a prehistoric coprolite mine. Lode Water Mill, dating from the 18th century, was restored to working condition in 1982 and now sells flour to visitors.
Eighteen miles north of Cambridge, the magnificent cathedral of Ely is known as the "Ship of the Fens" for the distant views of its towers that dominate the surrounding low-lying wetlands. Parts of the present building are Norman, since which time it has been the subject of several major enlargement and restoration projects. As with all buildings of its age and size, the fact that it's still standing is in itself breathtaking. Go figure how they built the central octagon, which rises from the whole breadth of the building and towers up until its roof, a wooden lantern, forms the only Gothic dome in existence. And don't miss the pavement maze as you enter the building. Oh yes, and Wren left his mark here too.
Angela Akehurst is a Blue Badge guide qualified to the high standards set by the Institute of Tourist Guiding. Her special interests include art, architecture, garden history, the Middle Ages, and religious heritage.
Prices cover vehicle hire, guide and entrance fees. Details subject to change due to circumstances outside of our control. Both tours now have sufficient registrations to go ahead. We won't be put off by a spot of rain.
© alu 2007