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10 of the Best Walks in and Around Cambridge

1. A walk through historic Cambridge

One of the oldest universities in the world, Cambridge dates back to 1209. This four-mile city walk takes you through narrow backstreets lined with bicycles, across bridges, through parks and courtyards and along The Backs – the grand and opulent university buildings that straddle the River Cam.

Starting from the railway station, follow Station Road, then turn right onto Hills Road, leading to Regent Street and Downing College. Duck into Cambridge University Botanic Garden if you have time.

To reach Peterhouse College, go through metal gates on the left of the busy Regents Street. The route takes you along lanes of red-bricked townhouses and imposing limestone university buildings: St William’s Street, Trumpington Street and Silver Street. Go over the bridge to Queen’s College and turn right, crossing the river again via the famous Grade II listed Mathematical Bridge.

You are now in the area known as The Backs, where the historic university buildings and grounds straddle the River Cam. Explore the world-renowned colleges along the river: King’s College, St John’s and Trinity. Continue along Trinity Lane and admire the splendid architecture of the colleges, courtyards and chapels: Romanesque and Renaissance, Neo-classical, Neo-Gothic and Modern building styles take you through the centuries.

From Magdalene College, continue along New Parks and Lower Parks streets for the large leafy park of Jesus Green with its lido. It’s a good place to stop for a picnic on a sunny day. Admire Jesus College with its extensive grounds (writers Samuel Taylor Coleridge and Nick Hornby belonging to its alumni), then cut through the tranquil parks of Christ’s Pieces and Parker’s Piece.

From here, retrace your steps along Hill’s Road and Station Road back to the train station.

2. Cambridge to Grantchester along the River Cam

From the Gothic spires of the centuries-old university colleges and chapels, follow the River Cam for three miles through meadows to the famous Orchard Tear Garden.

This is a walk to do in spring or early summer, when the route is alive with students punting on the river or enjoying a picnic on the meadows beside abandoned bicycles. Spread out your own rug and indulge in a little al fresco dining, with delicatessen ingredients, crusty bread and fine wine, befitting of a prestigious university town.

From the punting station, follow the riverside path south, crossing the A1134 to continue along the River Cam. Head past Cambridge Canoe Club and go right at the fork. Cross the footbridge. Head round the eastern side of Lammas Land Car Park loop to join the river again and follow the riverside path through Paradise Local Nature Reserve. Where the path ends, continue west along Grantchester Meadows Road, then through Skater’s Meadow to meet the river again.

Follow the twists and turns of the river as far as Grantchester, taking a right turn to follow the edge of Eight Acre Wood into the village. Stop at the Orchard Tea Garden, enjoy high tea in the garden and relax in one of the deckchairs before taking the bus back to Cambridge. You can, of course, retrace your steps along the river.

3. Anglesey Abbey, Gardens and Lode Mill

Circular and woodland walks offer the opportunity to explore the wider gardens, iconic avenues of trees, picturesque views and wildflower meadows.

The best time to visit Anglesey Abbey and Gardens is February for snowdrop displays then April through October. The grounds are open all year round.

At the age of 30, the future Lord Fairhaven began to create his first home. Wanting to inspire and surprise visitors, he created a spectacular garden with planting for all seasons and a cosy house in which to entertain. Life revolved around horse racing and shooting, and guests enjoyed 1930s luxury.

4. Grafham Water

Explore this 13.7-km circular trail near St Neots, Cambridgeshire. Generally considered a moderately challenging route, it takes an average of 3 h 36 min to complete. This is a very popular area for birding, fishing, and hiking, so you’ll likely encounter other people while exploring. The trail is open year-round and is beautiful to visit anytime. Dogs are welcome, but must be on a lead.

This is a fantastic route that around Grafham Water. This lovely lake offers great experiences for UK families all around the lake. Many activities may be done on the lake as well as along the walkway. The views are breathtaking, and explorers will experience breathtaking moments due to the lake’s variety, which includes picnic spaces, fishing spots, places to hire a boat, and a little lagoon full with wildlife. A specific license is required to fishing in this area.

5. Wiken Fen National Nature Reserve 

The National Trust’s oldest nature reserve, and England’s most famous fen.

This 3-mile trail explores a varied landscape of reed beds, open water and wet grassland. Look out for dragonflies in summer and herds of Highland cattle and Konik ponies.

Starting from Wicken Fen Visitor Centre, follow the boardwalk in the direction of the windpump, still in working order. Continue straight on, then turn left into a wet woodland of willow and alder. Cross the Sedge Fen Drove and continue south. Turn right at the junction, following the water channel of Wicken Lode to visit the 30ft-high hide, affording great views over the flat fens.

6. Cam Towpath

Get to know this 6.3-km out-and-back trail near Cambridge, Cambridgeshire. Generally considered an easy route, it takes an average of 1 h 19 min to complete. This is a very popular area for hiking, road biking, and running, so you’ll likely encounter other people while exploring.

This trail is a delightful stroll along the River Cam that may be extended to include a visit to Milton Country Park. The views are breathtaking, and local adventurers will have many unforgettable experiences along this magnificent route. This trail is open to people of all ages and fitness levels. Another great site for photos along this path is Baits Bite Lock.

7. Ely Cathedral and River Trail

Explore this 5.3-km circular trail near Ely, Cambridgeshire. Generally considered an easy route, it takes an average of 1 h 8 min to complete. This is a very popular area for hiking, running, and walking, so you’ll likely encounter other people while exploring.

A circular walk from the beautiful cathedral city of Ely in Cambridgeshire. The walk leaves the market square to head out along an ancient lane to reach a viewing point at Rowsell Pits nature reserve, before returning along the River Great Ouse and through the city gardens. There’s a chance to visit the famous cathedral, great views across the nature reserve and you can enjoy the tranquillity of this stretch of the river. The walk is mostly flat with just one descent as you leave the market place and then one long and steady climb through Jubilee Park to reach the cathedral. There are no stiles, two kissing gates and a number of steps to cross over the footbridge. The paths are a mixture of pavements and tarmac/stone park paths which are all well made. The meadow alongside the river is often used to graze cattle so take care with dogs as you pass through here. Approximate time 1.5 hours.

8. Saint Ives and the Hemingfords Walk

Head out on this 9.7-km circular trail near St Ives, Cambridgeshire. Generally considered an easy route, it takes an average of 2 h 1 min to complete. This is a very popular area for birding, hiking, and walking, so you’ll likely encounter other people while exploring.

Starting from Houghton Mill, this relaxed walk takes in water meadows and the delightful Ouse Valley landscape, while also allowing you to to uncover the past glories of a market town. Discover the history of the charming St Ives before returning through the unspoiled villages of the Hemingfords. Along the way you can visit the parish church, Holt Island Nature Reserve, Norris Museum, Victoria’s Memorial and Hemingford Grey church.

9. Castor Hanglands Nature Reserve

In March, the woodlands, meadows, and marshlands of Castor Hanglands near Peterborough are literally awash with frogs and toads. Up to two thousand amphibians inhabit the reserve, the ponds filled first with clumps of frogspawn, followed by tadpoles then fully-formed adults. It’s sometimes difficult not to tread on them as you wander along the reserve’s pathways, particularly during a wet spell.

Summer is also a special time at the reserve, when the meadows are filled with orchids and wetland flowers – such as water dropworts and the delicate lesser water plantain – attracting an array of colourful butterflies. Look out for great crested newts too, along with grazing ponies and deer.

From the car park at the south end of Southey Woods, cross the road and follow the track for a short distance before taking a left into Castor Hanglands. Head south, then follow the path through open meadows. Continue through Moore Wood, crossing a track and out onto open farmland. Turn right to skirt around Manor Farm before heading up the track, passing the unusual three-roofed St John the Baptist Church, and back to Southey Wood Car Park.

10. The Hills and Holes of Barnack to Burghley House

This (roughly) eight-mile circular walk starts at the pretty village of Barnack near Stamford, home to the Hills and Holes Nature Reserve.

Criss-crossed with pathways that rise and dip with the Teletubby-esque mounds, the otherworldly landscape was created from the spoils of a medieval quarry. Come at Easter to see the rare pasqueflowers, or in June and July when the reserve is scented with fragrant orchid and butterflies flutter through the profusion of wildflowers.

From here, the path follows a country lane, then an old Roman road to the estate of Burghley House, with grounds befitting a stately home. Dipping into Lincolnshire, drop down to the historic town of Stamford – a favourite location for period dramas – then follow the Torpel Way back to Barnack.

Park in the village and walk down Walcot Road to the entrance of Hills and Holes. Follow the boundary path that runs between the nature reserve and Walcot House and emerge at Heath Road. At the junction, where The Green Drift and Mill Road meet, cross over and follow the old Roman Road, Ermine Street (also on the Hereward Way) through fields, then into the parkland of Burghley House.

Where the Hereward Way meets the Old Great North Road (less romantically known as the B1081), follow the road down towards Stamford, turning left into First Drill Lane and right over a stile to drop through fields into town. Head for the George Hotel for lunch, a historic coaching inn with opulent rooms, and a gorgeous leafy courtyard.

Take time to explore the centre of the handsome town before heading east along Barnack Road. Upon reaching open countryside, follow the sign left along a hedged path. Cross the railway and turn right to follow the Torpel Way, heading east between the train track and the River Welland.

Cross the railway line again at Uffington Road and turn left to keep on the Torpel Way (the railway now on your left). The path zig-zags through fields to Station Road. Turn right back into Barnack. Celebrate the end of your walk with a pint at the Millstone Inn.

Please note: all recommendations and text are from All Trails, Wanderlust & National Trust


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