Autumn is the perfect time to visit England’s gorgeous university towns – the streets are a bit less crowded, the foliage is at its prime, and the towns are bustling with students, tourists, and locals alike. On a recent weekend, we took advantage of decent weather and hopped on a train for a dog friendly day trip. We spent the day seeing friends, wandering beautiful streets, and punting in Cambridge.
We quickly learned that the centre of Cambridge is not the most dog-friendly place. However, it has so much beauty to offer that you really can’t get mad. So while we couldn’t visit the colleges (not even the grounds!), we spent our time wandering around, popping into pubs, and punting down the River Cam!
Punting and walking are by far the best ways to see Cambridge, but we prefer punting. After all, who can resist having a couple of drinks in a cosy boat while someone tells you a bit about the gorgeous sites you are passing by?
Punting Down the River Cam
Scudamore’s is one of the main punting companies in Cambridge, and the only dog-friendly one. And they are SO dog friendly! There are a couple of “ports” where you can hop on a boat – either with a group and a guide or on your own – and the staff at each of them were eager to give Giorgio a little cuddle.
We met up with some friends who are Cambridge-based (and their pup!) to wander around and grab lunch, before we decided to go punting. Given the choice between hiring our own punt or going with a guide, we chose the lazy option. After all, we were a couple of drinks in and it was the evening after a long day of exploring. We ended up being the only four on the boat, anyway, so it was like having our own without needing to do any of the work!
The boats are kitted out with blankets for the colder months (and after the sun goes down), and also umbrellas for those inevitable UK rain showers. Our tour guide was great and, although we almost had a few run ins with other boats, the water was surprisingly calm. It was so nice getting pictures of all of the beautiful buildings in Cambridge without needing to dodge crowds in order to do so, and the river adds such a nice touch to photos!
Is punting for me?
Most likely – just about anyone could enjoy punting!
Punting is a great group activity (we saw some punts with over ten people in them), but would also be a great romantic date. Just make sure you know each other’s travel style beforehand so nobody ends up getting thrown overboard! It’s also great for tourists and locals alike – we saw both. Grab a bottle of wine and some picnic food, and you could spend all day meandering down the river. You might even be able to trick yourself into believing you’re in Venice!
Alternative Sight Seeing Options
Walk, Walk, Walk
Cambridge is small and therefore easily walkable. The walk from the train station to the city centre is about 20 minutes, and once you’re in the centre you are near everything. There is a lovely market in the main square, gorgeous buildings throughout the entire city, and a large offering of shops and restaurants. Plus, when you’re walking around, you can stop at as many pubs as you’d like – we chose to sit waterside at The Granta.
Cambridge Campus Tour
Cambridge’s campus is not very dog-friendly (or really, even the least bit dog-friendly), so we did not have the chance to explore it, but it’s definitely on our list for our next visit. So much of Cambridge is the University of Cambridge. The University actually “owns” pretty much the entire town, so it must be incredible to walk around all of the colleges and see it all up close. There were plenty of tours being offered throughout the day, which included a walk through the all of the important buildings and a little history lesson along the way.
Explore the Villages
If you’re looking for an alternative to Cambridge, consider the nearby villages. These charming villages offer country walks, authentic pubs, and stunning scenery. Our friends highly recommended the Grantchester tea rooms, and we cannot wait to return and test them out for ourselves! After all, we loved the Cotswolds villages so much, I imagine we will love the Cambridgeshire ones as well!
The Perfect Autumn Day Trip from London
Fall foliage illuminates Cambridge in a way that is hard to describe or photograph – you need to see it for yourself. If you’re visiting London, Cambridge is a quick and easy day trip that we highly recommend. You’ll get to tick one of the UK’s top universities off your travel bucket list, explore some of England’s most beautiful buildings, and see the foliage in its prime (there’s not nearly as much in London!). Punting in Cambridge is a cliche, but it’s also a must-do, so be sure to add it to your itinerary!
- Getting There: The journey to Cambridge lasts just over an hour on the train. Direct trains go from both King’s Cross and Liverpool Street stations in London. The town center is a 20 minute walk from the train station.
- Accommodation: Cambridge has surprisingly few accommodation options. We did not stay the night, but if we ever do, it’ll definitely be at Hotel Felix. It’s a dog friendly hotel and we’ve heard nothing but great things!
- Tours: There will be many people out and about in Cambridge trying to convince you to go on their tour. I recommend doing research and picking a tour ahead of time to ensure you do not get ripped off! Only official tours are able to go into the colleges. For punting, we enjoyed our experience with Scudamore’s and recommend them (honest opinion – no affiliation).
Have you been punting before?
Let us know what you thought about the experience in the comments below!
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4 thoughts on “Punt Your Way Through Cambridge”
Yes, we love punting! My husband was part of Jesus College, so as a perk we could reserve punts for free. It seemed like every time we went though, I somehow got worse.
I was looking through your posts to see if you guys have anything on the Peak or Lake District. We’re planning on heading there in a few weeks and would love to hear any of your recommendations.
Cambridge is so beautiful – I’m jealous that you guys live there! Unfortunately we haven’t made it to the Peak or Lake Districts yet, but do have some stuff on Cornwall, Isle of Wight, and Yorkshire. We’re hoping to ramp up our UK travel even more coming up so I’m sure we’ll make it there soon. We have our eye on a visit to (tasting at) the Lakes Distillery! Let us know if you find yourselves in London 🙂
You definitely picked the right time of year to visit, autumn and spring are probably the best times of the year to see Cambridge.
You can visit the colleges without a guide (without a dog in tow) and a lot of the lesser known ones are free to enter. It’s mainly King’s, Queens’, Trinity, St John’s and Clare that charge an entry fee (maybe Corpus too).
As far as punting goes, it is a great way to see the colleges, especially if you can’t go round by foot and most companies are dog friendly, as long as you have a friendly dog!
Autumn was absolutely beautiful in Cambridge – we are so happy we went then! We definitely need to head back without the dog in tow so we can explore the colleges – we just can’t resist taking him with us on UK getaways!