*This post was a gifted review of punting in Cambridge
Is it just me, or do you always seem to miss the epic experiences that are right on your doorstep? I've grown up in Norfolk, nearby Cambridge and have spent many a weekend in the city. Years I've spent shopping in the centre with friends or relaxing at the pubs along the riverbanks. And yet, through all of these years I had never done one of the activities Cambridge is most famous for! Punting in Cambridge is a bit of a rite of passage for the area. Something we all have to tick off our local bucket lists.
If you've ever visited the city, or others like Oxford or York. You'll know that the Cambridge streets are steeped in history. The home of stunning architecture, the famed Cambridge University, winding streets, cute cafes and much more. It's a popular tourist destination for the UK. But even for those living in the countryside around it, Cambridge provides a beautiful hub for us to explore. I've always felt so lucky to have cities like this, and Norwich, right on my doorstep because they have a real charm.
Read: My favourite places to visit during UK summer
What is punting? Why should I try punting in Cambridge?
For years, I had always wanted to try punting in Cambridge. It's such a fun way to spend a sunny afternoon in the city, but sadly is one of those things I never got round to doing. For those who have never heard of it – punting is when you take a cruise down the river in a flat-bottomed boat. It's reminiscent of Venetian gondolas but with a flat boat instead of the curved style.
The boats are of Medieval design and are suited to floating in shallow water, so perfect for cruising around the city. Many of the Cambridge-based companies say the city is the one place to get the real experience in the UK. Some companies offer a chance to hire the whole boat and guide yourself, others offer rides with a chauffeur to guide the boat while you relax with your friends.
Reviewing Scholars Punting – Cambridge
I was very excited when Scholars Punting invited me along to experience Cambridge in all it's glory. Even the temperamental British weather couldn't put me off enjoying a cruise along the river. It was March when we visited Cambridge and went punting – which is a risky time of year as you never know what to expect from the weather. Normally I would recommend trying punting closer to the summer months, from May to September would be ideal as the weather is much better. However, the prices do also increase during this peak season. If you're wrapped up well, it can also be great to try in off-season as you get an entirely different experience. The day we went, it was rather gloomy. It added a rather spooky edge to the sight of Cambridge University and historical buildings towering over the water. Big Harry Potter vibes if you're a fan of the later movies.
What was my punting experience like?
We had a fantastic guide, Max, and I really can't recommend him enough. He gave us a fantastic rundown of the history of Cambridge and lots of interesting facts about the buildings. We learned a lot about the different colleges and the prestigious line-up who attended the university. It was the perfect balance of fascinating history, great humour and some pretty entertaining punting anecdotes. Having a chauffeur was perfect as it gave you the chance to sit back and take in the views while snuggled under a blanket.
The tour started at the Quayside, just a 15-20 minute walk from the train station which takes you right through the city centre. It's worth booking ahead in the summer months as the tours get super busy and you wouldn't want to be disappointed if you have travelled far. Even during the colder months the river is still pretty busy, we were surprised at the number of boats out despite the grey day. Luckily the rain held off for long enough for us to enjoy the 45 minute tour which takes you a mile along the river and back again.
Is a punting tour worth it?
Whether you're a local or a first-time visitor to Cambridge, this tour shows you a very different and unique side to the city. Unless you're a student at the colleges, you are unlikely to have seen this side of the city before. The tour takes in a lot of private land that isn't open to the public as part of the college grounds. So you not only get to see the beautiful buildings in all their splendour, but the grounds that surround them as well.
One of my favourite parts of the tour was the stunning architecture of both the bridges and the colleges. It's amazing to learn about the history behind tiny details you can only see from the water. The weather may not have been perfect sunshine, but we really enjoyed doing the tour on a duller day. It meant the river was much quieter and the moody skies really added to the drama of the architecture.
Booking punting tours in Cambridge
Whether you're a couple looking to have a private tour. Or even a hen party/tour group that fancy a fun activity. Here's a fun day out that really shows off the city to it's best. Punting is one experience you don't want to miss out on. I'm so glad I experienced it and a huge thank you to Max for making it so much fun.
If you would like to book a tour or find out more, visit the website here. Don't forget you can make your trip extra special by booking some bubbly for the journey. I also hear the company may soon be introducing sushi tours which should be good fun. Just, if you're planning to propose, hold on to the ring tightly! We heard how many engagement rings are littering the bottom of the river!
Have you been punting – how was your experience? Have you been to Cambridge - what would you recommend?