Many visitors to Cambridge will experience the relaxation of a punt down the River Cam and along the way hear some interesting stories about the nine bridges that cross the river on their tour. Of course, though, it is possible with Punting in Cambridge, to rent a punt and punt yourself but if you do you will miss the guide’s narration of the historic buildings and bridges that line the route along the river.
Cambridge, along with Oxford, is of course perhaps best known, not for its punts but for its universities and some of these universities line the banks of the river along the punting tour. On a punting tour it is usual for the punter, often a student working part-time, to give an oratory about the buildings, bridges and other things of note along the route, allowing visitors a relaxing way of learning about Cambridge’s history.
The Magdalene Bridge is thought to have been built on the site of the first bridge to cross the River Cam. That first bridge was built in Roman times as part of a Roman road creating a trade link from London to the north of the country.
The Bridge of Sighs was built in 1831 and is the only covered bridge along the route. Perhaps not as famous as its Venetian namesake, this Bridge of Sighs is famous in its own right and looks nothing like its Italian namesake.
Kitchen Bridge was built out of necessity after the new dining court for St John’s College was built on the other side of the river to the kitchens, meaning without a bridge being built, meals were always cold and perhaps even stale.
The current Trinity Bridge was rebuilt in 1765 but its predecessor was the first bridge to be rebuilt after the English Civil War around 1651. Unlike many of the other bridges, this is a road bridge.
As Garrett Hostel Bridge is accessible by the general public as well as students, it is a popular place for tourists to watch the activities on the river but this does mean it can often get congested with pedestrians and cyclists.
Clare Bridge is the oldest of these bridges as it somehow managed to survive being torn down by Cromwell’s men during the civil war that needed the stone to build a castle.
Although perhaps only fictional folklore, it is said that King’s Bridge was the last place in England where it was legal to fight duels. If true, however, it would possibly be the only thing particularly interesting about this otherwise somewhat boring to look at the bridge.
Mathematical Bridge (Queens’ Bridge) is the only wooden bridge remaining along this stretch of the River Cam and although rebuilt in 1902, the original bridge dated back to 1749.
There has been a bridge on the site of the Silver Street Bridge since the 14th century and today it is that bridge which marks the turning point for punting tours so they can return home.