Full of a long and rich history, Cambridge is a small university town located just 45 minutes by train north of London. Beautiful old buildings, cobblestone streets , a modern shopping mall and traditional market place. Cambridge is not just for students. Take a walk around this heritage city and you will discover a day trip perfect for all ages.
On my last trip to the United Kingdom, I decided to add Cambridge to my list of day trips. Inspired by my dad’s stories told about the historical university town, I decided to find out more for myself. Upon arrival by train into Cambridge there are several options to get into the city. A bus depot is right outside the station entrance and buses depart regularly for the city centre. However, bike riding is very popular in Cambridge because of the narrow streets especially in the old part of the city. One of the companies located outside the station is City Cycle Hire and bikes can be rented for as low as 10 pounds per day. Experience the Cambridge culture like a local and keep fit at the same time.
Cambridge itself is home to approximately 29 undergraduate colleges, of which 3 are dedicated to the education of women only such as Lucy Cavendish College for mature women. However, as you enter King’s Parade, the main pedestrian mall and student centre, the first building you notice is King’s College. As the largest of all the colleges in the city, it has a dominating presence on the parade. One can imagine a haunting scene from Harry Potter behind the dark window facade as the college stares back at you.
The main campus of King’s itself is not open to the general public, so for a behind the scenes look at the campus take one of the many canal tours available in the student centre. A punting boat tour can be booked on the day and is good value for money. The punting boats are accessed at the junction of King’s Way and Bridge Street. This off the beaten track hour long experience provides a fresh look of the city not seen through a touristy bus tour. Once on the boat sit back, relax and enjoy the cruise while someone else does the rowing.
After a canal boat cruise, just metres along Bridge Street is the second oldest building the city – the Round Church. It was built-in 1130 by a group that called themselves the Holy Sepulcher. This group was influenced by the Jerusalem version of the Constantine Church built to celebrate the resurrection of Jesus. It is literally round and small, but very beautiful with its thick pillars with curved arches reminiscent of Romanesque and Norman architecture. Prior to the 15th Century the church once had a Gothic style tower but following its restoration during the Victorian era it was replaced with the spire that sits on top of the building today.
A must see to include on the Cambridge day trip is Corpus Christ College with its unusual Corpus Clock. Further along King’s Parade, it is located on the northwest corner of the Taylor library coincidentally named after the designer and one of the college’s older members John C Taylor. Unique in design, it does not have any hands like expected of a normal clock. It instead turns with the assistance of a mechanical black bug known as the grasshopper. The mechanics of this invention are intriguing as one stands and watches the grasshopper in motion. As the clock turns, the mouth of the grasshopper opens as if eating time – sounds strange but it is true.
On the plaque beneath , the engraving has a quote advising visitors that the Corpus Clock “is exact every fifth minute”. This means that it is not reliable for keeping track of time. Take a look at this short YouTube video that shows the engineering skill involved in the mechanics of the Corpus Clock.
Cambridge is not all touristy sites, there is also a large marketplace and quaint little village stores to browse in for that perfect souvenir of the visit. On your way back to the train station, don’t forget to stop off for high tea in one of the many cafes and watch the rest of the world go by.