A MUST DO!
When visiting Cambridge, any experience is incomplete without taking a punt on the beautiful River Cam.
A punt, which is essentially Cambridge's gondola, is a highlight for many visitors. A punting tour is the quintessential Cambridge activity to do on a lazy summer's day. Relax and let the sun gently coat you as the punt elegantly floats down the Cam all the while enjoying the unique splendour of the university buildings, the willow tree-lined banks and the charming wildlife.
It is a perfect outing for an outing with family, friends or that special someone, versatile enough that you can choose to get up to much or as little as you want on the river. Hugely popular in the summer months of course, thanks to the warmer weather and end of student exams, punt tours are available in the spring and autumnal days too. Blankets and some warming tea will be enough to keep whatever chill you might feel out.
Famously taking a punt down the River Cam of course is the ideal way to see the architecture of Cambridge University's historic college buildings.
Float back in time as you soak up some of the most beautiful sights in England. Of course, there is the added entertainment of seeing fellow "punters" fall in the river. It's a fantastic experience, gazing at the grand stretches of immaculate lawns, spread out behind the iconic institution. A mile long passage of the river, following the Cam along the backs of the university will take you pass the impressive Bridge of Sighs by the St John's College building as well as the Mathematical Bridge.
There is the opportunity to explore the gardens and buildings themselves, especially in the earlier hours of the day, however some will charge admission. So it is best to enjoy them from the Cam, all at a leisurely pace.
If you're organised, pack a picnic as nothing beats an al fresco lunch on the water in the company of friends, family and the peaceful bird songs. Even if you're less organised, punting tours offer edible bounties from strawberries, cream and perhaps some champagne. Or full picnic baskets to be filled from a menu of items. Refreshments are available too; you are free to bring your own all for the ride look but try and look out for the Pimm's Punt for a tasty top up.
With plenty of lovely green areas to moor up and settle down for some lunch in the sun, delights in Cambridge do not get much better than this.
- If you feel up to handling a punt boat yourself it is certainly worth a try. They can be tricky to steer, try and chose a lighter (aluminium) pole instead of the traditional wooden options. After a few minutes on the water you'll be glad you did
- It goes without saying that you should be careful and try to avoid falling in the water. No matter how lovely the surroundings, the river itself is still reasonably dirty
- There are many punt tour operators that will accommodate you. Rates may vary so it's worth-while shopping around. You may also be able to negotiate on price, particularly in the afternoon so a bit of haggling is welcome
- The Cam tends to fill up quickly as the day goes on, and particularly in the summer months the waterways can get crowded so try and get out on the water as early as you can to make the most of the tranquil surroundings
When looking for a special punting experience, Holiday Inn Express Cambridge highly recommends Scudamore's Punting, Cambridge. The most established of the punting operators, Scudamore's offer guided tours on a chauffeured punt, taking in all the best that the River Cam has to offer. Along with their unique, interesting and entertaining guide who will offer expert insight into the history of the university itself and entertain you with one of a kind stories and 'tall tales'.
If you fancy an interesting twist to their excellent college back punting tour, Scudamore's also offers fun, themed experiences on the lovely River Cam. Set yourself up for an evening of chills with their Ghost Tour Punt evening that includes a walk through some of the haunted passages and supernatural spots in Cambridge. You may also be interested in the highly entertaining and of course competitive Treasure Hunt Punt Tour. Other punt tours options include; a Hen Party Punt, Valentine's Day Punt, Christmas Punt and the brilliant Wildlife Punt.
Teaming up with The Wildlife Trust, Scuadmore's runs a tour that will give you the chance to detect bats using ultrasonic devices, learning all about they're intricate lives and other species which are equally crucial to the beautiful environment.
If you would like to hire your own punt for the day, Scudamore's will see that you receive the best possible deal. As well as the important lighter poles they provide, they have many discounts and promotions available. Row boats, kayaks and canoes are also available to hire.
Punts are available to hire from £30 per hour and from £40 for 90 minutes if you book online.
Prices are tour descriptions are provided as a guide only.
MY TRIP ON THE RIVER CAM
"Well I am not sure what I expected as I had never been into Cambridge City Centre and what a shock I had!"
"So we punted up and down the River Cam, with a guide explaining the history behind some of the bigger colleges accompanied by a lovely chilled glass of rosé and strawberries. It was a beautiful evening."
"The streets are bustling with a real holiday atmosphere - a definite must"
- Pippa Walker, Group People Manager