Wanderer at Large: Beds, Herts & Cambs – Cambridge

A tour guide’s all-time favourite UK places.

Sponsored by Your London Tours.

This September, Visit Britain, the marketing arm of the British tourist industry, is launching its ‘Great British Staycation Campaign’ to encourage people to holiday in the UK.

Soul City Wanderer (aka Frank Molloy) is one of the UK’s most accredited and experienced tour guides. Over three decades he has visited nearly every part of the country, touring many of the places that Great Britain and Ireland has to offer.

In a new blog series, he will list his all-time favourite five places by area (spiralling out from London*). These are personal choices, some obvious, some obscure.

This week, the area north of London that includes the counties of Bedfordshire, Hertfordshire and Cambridgeshire.


WWII airmen graffiti on the ceiling of the Eagle pub, Cambridge

Cambridge

Cambridge is a market town north-west of London. The centre is fairly compact and easily walkable. The main square often bustles with traders’ stalls and carts. However, it is primarily noted as a centre of academic excellence. Its famous university is referred to by arch-rivals Oxford as the ‘Other Place’! Unlike Oxford, there seems to be a more symbiotic relationship between ‘Town and Gown’. The academic communities perhaps sit more comfortably with the locals so the atmosphere is generally more relaxed. If you have time to visit one of the colleges, I would go for King’s, simply for its Gothic glory.

Other highlights include the Fitzwilliam Museum, famous for 18th & 19th century art and classical antiquities, and the puzzling Mathematical Bridge… how on earth was it put together? A walk along the ‘Backs’, an expanse of riverside lawns, trees and meadows which ‘back’ onto the River Cam, is a must. Many students earn pocket-money punting boats along the Cam, so as alternative to all that walking, turn off your mind, relax, and float downstream…

For eating options, I recommend fish and chips at the Eagle pub, a former coaching inn much used during WWII by air force pilots who burned their names onto the ceiling with cigarette lighters. A decade later, leading lights from the science community, Francis Crick and James Watson came and celebrated their discovery of DNA.

Cambridge? Just walk around and be impressed.


Note: All sites mentioned were operating pre-lockdown. Please check relevant websites before embarking on any potential visit. More recommendations will appear next week.

For the very best in guided private tours of the UK visit www.yourlondontours.com


*Operators in the UK tour industry often separate the areas of the country according to what touring can be achieved in a region in one day. As a London-based operator, my ‘map’ spirals outwards from the capital and is separated thus:

  1. London
  2. Northern Home Counties (Beds/Herts/Cambs)
  3. Eastern Home Counties (Essex/Suffolk)
  4. Southern Home Counties (Kent, Surrey, Sussex)
  5. Western Home Counties (Ox/Berks/Bucks)
  6. South coast (Hants/Dorset)
  7. Western England (Somerset/Gloucs/Wilts)
  8. South West England (Devon & Cornwall)
  9. Wales (north & south)
  10. Welsh Borders (Herefordshire/Shropshire/Cheshire)
  11. Western Midlands (Brum/Worcs/Warks/Staffs)
  12. Eastern Midlands (Northants/Leics/Rutland/Hunts)
  13. Northern Midlands (Notts/Derbys)
  14. East coast (Norfolk/Lincs)
  15. Yorks (all ridings)
  16. North West (Manchester/Merseyside/Lancs/Lakes/Cumbria)
  17. North East (Durham/Tyne & Wear/Northumberland)
  18. Southern Scotland (Borders/Lowlands)
  19. Northern Scotland (Highlands/Islands)
  20. Ireland (Northern/Southern)

Published by Soul City Wanderer

Soul City Wanderer is the alias of London journalist and author Frank Molloy, a writer on the city’s history and culture. Born south of the river, he has an MA in London history (Birkbeck) and lectures at various institutions including the Museum of London and the National Portrait Gallery. He is also a fully-qualified Blue Badge Guide (MITG), Westminster Guide and City of London Guide.

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