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Travel Report: Scudamore’s Punting, Cambridge.

Scudamore's Punting Cambridge England.

Scudamore’s Punting, Cambridge.

May 2019. Mike and I had enjoyed a comprehensive day exploring the gorgeous city of Cambridge. But now, with afternoon edging towards early evening, there was one more quintessential Cambridge experience left. In fact, it would’ve been criminal to have bid the city farewell without taking a cruise down The River Cam on a traditional punt!

With a whole host of punting companies to choose from, it can be tricky knowing who to go with. My friend Mike is a local, thus I was happy to bow to his wisdom. He was of the opinion that we should do it properly and go with one of the city’s reputable main players. Even if it meant digging a little deeper into our pockets. Hence we took a walk down to Mill Lane to have a chat with the good folk at Scudamore’s Punting.

Punting in Cambridge with Scudamore's

Scudamore’s Punting, Cambridge.

It was busy that day down at Scudamore’s Mill Lane station. Within a few seconds we found ourselves approached by a pimply twenty something with a clipboard.

“Good afternoon sir, are you in the mood for some punting today? I’ve got a feeling you are. Can I tempt you with a discount on our usual rate?”

Scudamore's Punting Cambridge England.

Punting in Cambridge is not cheap. Mike and I weren’t looking for anything fancy, just a one hour zip up and down The Cam. You know, just to see the backs of the colleges and a couple of the famous bridges. Scudamore’s Punting charges £22 per person for this privilege in a chauffeured punt that holds up to twelve people. The chatty student, with his blue Scudamore’s uniform and clipboard, was offering us a paltry two pounds off per person, bringing the total to £40. I was less than enthused with this offer, especially as it had just started raining again.

Punting in Cambridge on a rainy day.

Scudamore’s Punting, Cambridge.

Mm, I thought, as a nearby punt bobbed away from Mill Lane with its huddled group of unimpressed inhabitants. “The umbrellas are complimentary sir!” grinned student boy hopefully.

Scudamore's Punting Cambridge.

Scudamore’s Punting, Cambridge.

I had no idea if pulling the I’m a travel blogger card would work in England. I’ve done it to varying degrees of success across Asia, most notably with my amazing stay at Park Hyatt Tokyo. But would that really work here in Cambridge on this grey, rainy afternoon? Pissing in the wind, I asked if there was anything on his clipboard about giving a better discount for a travel blogger reviewing the experience?

Scudamore’s Punting, Cambridge.

This, it seemed, was beyond his pay grade. So off he went to fetch a supervisor. It was all pretty quick, the guy checked my site, looked me in the eye and said he could strike a deal at £15 apiece. Sensing this was probably as good as it was gonna get, we paid up and climbed aboard our punt.

Hayden the tour guide Scudamore's Punting Cambridge.

Hayden the tour guide, Scudamore’s Punting.

Our guide that day was Hayden, a beardy, well-spoken chap who likes to keep his tours lighthearted. Expertly steering us down the river, Hayden had a wonderfully dry sense of humour and came armed with plenty of funny stories and observations about the various sights we passed.

“If you’re filming this I hope that it doesn’t end up online!” he quipped, after giving his theory on why King’s was a “mediocre” college! Poor old Hayden, his supervisor hadn’t kept him in the loop.

Hayden was also great at answering our questions, which came thick and fast from an inquisitive Dutch girl sat behind us. Moreover, he was highly skilled in getting us out of river gridlock when we got bashed from both sides by a pair of clumsy punters. “It’s not punting on The River Cam if you don’t have a crash!” declared Hayden, matter-of-factly.

The Bridge of Sighs, Cambridge.

The Bridge of Sighs Cambridge England.

The Bridge of Sighs, Cambridge.

We got to see two of Cambridge’s most spectacular bridges during our tour with Scudamore’s Punting. Located at St. John’s College, The Bridge of Sighs dates back to 1831 and was named after the famous bridge of the same name in Venice, Italy. Which is weird, because architecturally they’re not all that similar. Here, the name refers to the students who would sigh aloud in anxiety as they headed across the bridge to find out their exam results. Or so the legend goes.

The Mathematical Bridge, Cambridge.

Mathematical Bridge Cambridge England.

The Mathematical Bridge, Cambridge.

Another great Cambridge structure, and probably my favourite of the tour, is The Mathematical Bridge at Queen’s College. Constructed in 1749 by the English architect William Etheridge, the bridge was made entirely from straight pieces of timber.

There’s a brilliant myth that it was made without bolts and held up only by clever angles and a favourable relationship with gravity. “An awesome story!” exclaimed Hayden, with a cheeky grin. “But unfortunately not true”. 

Scudamore's Punting College Backs Tour Cambridge.

Scudamore’s Punting, Cambridge.

We were certainly lucky not to get caught in a huge downpour that day. Consequently, we made it all the way back to the quayside without getting soaked. I also thought we were fortunate with Hayden, who pitched his tour with just the right balance between knowledgable, informative and silly.

Scudamore’s Punting, Cambridge.

Punting in Cambridge.

Scudamore’s Punting, Cambridge.

While on the river, I witnessed  several other guides from a variety of tour companies that afternoon. They ranged from disinterested and monotone, to the overly talkative kind who thinks every second of silence needs to be filled with dates, times and facts. So again, well done Hayden.

As a result, I definitely recommend Scudamore’s Punting! For all the info on their tours, check out the website here.

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2 Comments

  • Memo

    The waterway appeared to be amazingly crowded especially considering the threatening weather. Was that normal?

    September 11, 2020 - 8:22 pm Reply
    • Leighton

      Yes, punting is big business in Cambridge. You can imagine what it must be like in July on a sunny Saturday!

      September 11, 2020 - 8:23 pm Reply

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