Discovering the joys of punting in Cambridge

The joys of punting in Cambridge – a ridiculously romantic experience (as long as you’re not the one hefting the 12ft pole)

  • Cambridge is one of ‘Britain’s most beautiful cities’, says Annabelle Thorpe 
  • For an indulgent afternoon, book a chauffeured punt tour along the River Cam 
  • Allow enough time to reach the famous Orchard Tea Garden at Granchester

There’s something ridiculously romantic about gliding along in a punt. Ridiculously romantic, that is, as long as you are not having to do the punting yourself. Hefting a 12ft pole in and out of the river is not a relaxing pastime – far better to pay someone else while you enjoy the ride.

Fortunately, there are plenty of willing punters in Cambridge: impecunious students who happily spend their weekends propelling visitors up and down the Cam.

Scudamores ( offers self-hire or chauffeured punts, but those in search of an indulgent afternoon should book a chauffeur and allow enough time to reach the Orchard Tea Garden at Granchester (, a couple of miles upriver.

Romantic: Gliding across the River Cam on a chauffeured punt tour

This idyllic spot is most famous as the former student lodgings of war poet Rupert Brooke. The Tea Garden was created when the students asked if they could take their tea beneath the blossoming fruit trees in the orchard, rather than on the lawn of the house, and as news spread of this tranquil bolthole so the gardens became a commercial concern.

Besides gliding along the river, the other way to approach the tea rooms is to walk the footpath along the banks of the Cam. It takes a couple of hours, depending on your pace, but the terrain is flat, and if it’s a hot day the Cam is coolly inviting for a quick dip.

A punt along the river makes a welcome break from the sightseeing that is all part of a trip to one of Britain’s most beautiful cities. The colleges are open to visitors (apart from in May when some may be closed due to examinations) but they do make a small charge.

Cambridge is a city dominated by academia, but its student population means that it retains a vibrant, fun feel. 

Combine a visit to the Fitzwilliam Museum ( – crammed full with exhibits from ancient Egypt, Rome and the Near East – with a stroll through the stunning Botanic Gardens (, where plants from all over the world are dotted through 40 acres of lushly beautiful gardens.

Cambridge’s Botanic Gardens has plants from all over the world in grounds covering 40 acres

Fitzwilliam Museum is crammed with exhibits from ancient Egypt, Rome and the Near East

Stay at The Varsity Hotel & Spa ( the city’s most stylish address, with a rooftop bar and brasserie. 

But to really experience Cambridge, the best way is to actually stay in college: during term breaks, 12 sites offer B&B, giving a unique insight into student life ( 

  • 52 Great British Weekends by Annabelle Thorpe is published by IMM Lifestyle Books, £14.99

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