College Backs Guide
Top Ten College Backs Punting Tips
Take a look at our how to punt guide, grab your favourite refreshments, collect your punt and pole and you’re ready to explore! Here are our tips on enjoying your time on the river:
1. Practise at the Mill Pond
The Mill Pond is a beautiful place to relax, enjoy the river and to be away from most the other boats. If you’re new to punting, stay around Laundress Green (away from the bridge) and take some time to get use to the unusual motion of the punt. If you're already at home on a punt, spend some time reviewing our College Backs History so that you can impress your friends with Cambridge background.
2. Beware the Queen's teeth
Silver Street Bridge marks the beginning of the Backs and the bed of the river unnerves many new punters. The ground is very soft and at each edge there are concrete teeth hidden under the water - known as the Queen's Teeth. Take care as you run the risk of losing your pole! Remember, the pole is not as important as the boat and you may spot a few punters being dragged into the river as they stubbornly cling on to the pole. Don’t make this mistake! This isn’t the prettiest section and is more of a driveway up to the real treasures of Cambridge.
3. Find romance in Lovers’ Lane
Lovers’ Lane is on your left by the next bridge and a great spot to hide behind the beautiful willow tree veil. You’ll enjoy some of the best hours on the river with good company in this spot. To get there, gently nudge through the willow and tie your punt to the chain.
4. Capture King’s College Chapel
Here the view is legendary, and is the iconic face of Cambridge that everyone recognises. Not only is it beautiful, it’s the best place to hone your skills on a punt. The riverbed is harder and it is an open area so you can nearly always avoid the bumps from the other boats. A great spot for King’s Chapel selfies!
5. People watch at Clare College
Passing under the next bridge brings you onto our favourite place to drift along. On your left are the incredibly pretty Clare Gardens and you can stop up against the wall on your right hand side. Make the most of the opportunity to admire the river and bridges bustling with Cambridge life.
6. Take time for treats
Further along, between St John’s and Trinity provides a lovely shady spot where you’ll be nicely tucked away to enjoy your treats. Choose your favourite tree on the left side of the bank, we recommend the one by the black bridge. This bridge is the only link between Trinity and St John’s, who on all accounts despise each other so it’s nearly always locked from both sides.
7. Admire the Cambridge Bridge of Sighs
Not somewhere to be stopping but irrefutably the most beautiful Bridge of Sighs in the world. It was named after Queen Victoria commented that it reminded her of the famed Venetian Bridge. If you’re lucky enough to have seen the Bridge of Sighs in Venice, you will know they look nothing alike! The namesakes around the world are, of course, all inferior.
8. Foliage appreciation at New Court
The ancient tree that stands in the grounds of St John’s Masters Lodge was a sapling at the time that the New Court was built. Everyone is astounded at the beauty and the history of the New Court however the tree has seen much more! Take a moment to look up and enjoy the canopy. If it's Autumn when you visit you'll also get to see the Virginia Creeper that covers the back of New Court at its best.
9. Avoid the murky depths at Magdalene College
Magdalene is confusingly pronounced ‘Maudlin’ by Cambridge residents and students alike. Keep to the right as you approach - the left of the river is very deep and at some points your pole won’t reach the bottom. If you do end up on the left then it is likely that you’ll be consumed by the opportunistic willow tree.
10. Collect some bounty at the Quayside
Next on your journey you’ll come across the Quayside, a very famous place for drinking; used excessively by the residents and students of Cambridge on sunny days. It’s a fantastic spot to commandeer a cheap beer at The Wine Merchants. Choose from their myriad of delightful beverages and smuggle a few bottles on to your punt for the way back.
Good luck on that return journey!
College Backs Map
Print out our College Backs map for bite-sized history and an outline of your route!View Map