The school summer holidays beckon and most of us are looking forward to exploring the UK further. It's easier said than done to book a night away at this stage, so we think day trips are the way forward. Julia kicked off our mini-series with Whitstable last week – this week is Cambridge – the medieval university town with it's cobbled winding streets, meadows and extraordinarily beautiful colleges and chapels scattered on either side of the River Cam.
Best Way to Travel
It's not much more than 40 minutes by train (and they are frequent) from King's Cross and when you get there it's small enough to walk around – this makes Cambridge with the perfect day trip. Traffic can be terrible in Cambridge and parking isn't easy so driving is not recommended – there is a reason everyone cycles!
It would be odd to visit Cambridge – home of one of the most famous universities in the world – and not visit a college or two. It's difficult to choose since so many of them are achingly beautiful. St John's is one of the oldest and largest and, with its fairy tale crenelations, is well worth a trip inside. But King's probably ticks all the boxes: you can book a timed slot and your booking includes entry into the famous King's chapel. Plus they have recently turned their back court into a wild flower meadow which is stunning.
There are plenty to choose from in Cambridge, but Kettle's Yard is a gem – If you only do one thing in Cambridge this would be my call. Former home of collector Jim Ede and his wife – in 1966 Ede gifted the house and his extraordinary collection of British twentieth century art to the university. The house is preserved as the Edes left it with works by Ben Nicholson, Barbara Hepworth, Alfred Wallis, Naum Gabo and Gaudier-Brzeska hanging below window sills and in bathrooms. Closed on Mondays and Tuesdays. Timed entry tickets to the house. Booking essential.
If you have time the famous Fitz (Fitzwilliam Museum) is a must – it is a beautiful building in its own right and a treasure trove of antiquities. You can explore a fascinating collection of Ancient Egyptian artifacts, drawings from Da Vinci and paintings by Rembrandt. The museum website has some excellent family activities to help focus your visit. To be honest, you might want to earmark another whole day trip for this. Entry is Free.
It might seem a bit touristy but it has to be done and it really is fun if you punt yourself. Alternatively, you can get a tour guide to float you down the Cam. I haven't used it, but the Cambridge Punt Company has been recommended. In the summer there is sometimes a man who runs a very smart bar (The Punt & Pole) on a punt from which you can buy Pimms or Prosecco.
Best Food & Drink
Our firm favourite for brunch, lunch or dinner is the Old Bicycle Shop. The site was (for 173 years) Howes Cyles – a much-loved Cambridge institiution – and the quirky decor still plays homage to that. Open all day for brunch, lunch and dinner. Fresh locally sourced food. Lots of options for veggies and vegans too.
For younger families particularly we think The Mill Works is fun – located on the riverside in an old mill with a working water wheel.
Fitzbillies is a classic Cambridge institution, and as it's name suggest near the Fitz (see museums). Their cakes and pastries are epic.
Our vote for best coffee goes to independent coffee roasters Hot Numbers who have two shops in Cambridge.
Stroll along "the Backs" where the most picturesque colleges back on to the River Cam, stretching from Magdalen Bridge to Silver Street Bridge.
Urban cows might seem incongruous to most of us but a significant number of cattle roam the commons of Cambridge. Walk along the River towards Jesus Green and say hello to the cows!
Or walk down the river through the meadows to Granchester. Even better, stop and swim. Heavenly. (The Red Lion pub at Granchester is a good focal point!)
Take a pic, tag us and let us know what you think of our recommendations. Have fun.
Anya Waddington 8 July 2021