Punting became a fun leisure activity on the River Thames in London, but many tourists enjoy Punting in Cambridge because it gives them a chance to see the colleges at Cambridge and Oxford in style while being chauffeured by tour groups or students looking to earn some money outside class. Here is our list of the best places in England to go punting if you can’t get enough of the quintessential English pastime.

Cambridge

Punting in Cambridge is arguably the number one hotspot that most people think of because they want to visit the world-famous University, which has a lot of history. The River Cam runs through the city of Cambridge and passes through the “Backs,” which is a mile-long stretch where people can see the most prestigious colleges such as Trinity Hall, which was founded by King Henry VIII in 1546. This is where Stephen Hawking studied and became a renowned professor. Tourists can also row past St. Johns College, which was attended by William Wordsworth. Many chauffeurs are students who share a lot of stories and historical facts about Cambridge that are fun to hear, while rowing through the weeping willows over the river in the most tranquil setting.

Oxford

Tourists can go punting on the River Cherwell which flows through the city of Oxford. It passes through Oxford University’s many historically famous colleges such as St. Hilda’s College, where Theresa May attended. If you are a fan of Oscar Wilde, you might enjoy rowing past Magdalen College which is where he studied. The beautiful Oxford Botanical Gardens can also be seen from the river, and people can spot the perfect spots to have a picnic. Towards the west of Oxford, there is more incredible scenery and many local pubs that tourists can visit after their punting tour.

Stratford-Upon-Avon

If you enjoy watching swans and want some ducks paddling next to your punt, the River Avon is one of the most picturesque waterways, and you can spot the Royal Shakespeare Theatre along the riverbank. Tourists can also see the Holy Trinity Church where William Shakespeare as baptized and then later buried after his death. Punting on River Avon is the best way to experience Warwickshire, which was where Shakespeare lived, and you might feel a lot of literary inspiration in the air from all the breath-taking scenery.

Canterbury

A punting tour on The Great Stout River takes you through the historical city centre of Canterbury. You will get to see a lot of medieval churches and secret gardens. Tourists can also float along the Blackfriars Dominican Priory which dates all the way back to 1237. There is plenty of wildlife to complement the rural scenery, and the most daring people can go on a haunted punting tour to learn about all the scary and exciting ghost stories at night.

There is more to punting in Cambridge than taking selfies while admiring the breath-taking greenery. Punting is a storytelling experience, and it has a history that not many people know about unless they go on a specific historical tour.

What is Punting

Punting is an activity where people ride a small square-ended boat that has a flat bottom. A chauffeur then uses a long pole to push against the riverbed, which propels the boat in whichever direction you want to go. That propulsion is what’s known as “Punting.” Cambridge is surrounded by water, and there is lots to see, which is why tourists go for a punting adventure because they can take in the best views of the world-famous university.

History of Cambridge Punting

The little boats or “Punts,” were built in medieval times to row in shallow water. Cambridge has marshy flatlands that the locals lived near to take advantage of hunting ducks, eel fishing, and transporting cargo until the nineteenth century. Punts don’t have a keel, which is a flat blade that sticks down into the water. They do not need it because they’re only meant to be rowed on very shallow water. This makes the boats more flexible to move around in narrow waters. Their stable and generous width allows plenty of room for passengers to sit and enjoy the ride.

Modern Day Punting in Cambridge

Punts became a recreational mode of transport in Cambridge at the beginning of the 20th century. Before that, they were popular on the Thames and in Bath. Even during poor weather and strong winds, people still use them because they are unconcerned about a quick dip in shallow water that they can easily climb out of.

A punt is a little harder to navigate compared to a rowing boat, but people still enjoy riding them and getting their sightseeing done from the waterways around Cambridge. At times, the long poles get stuck at the bottom, and a chauffeur could get knocked off the boat if they yank it out too hard. They might have to go in the water to pull it out, but in the Cambridge area, there are stone beds in many areas that prevent poles from getting stuck easily. These stone beds were placed during a time when horses were allowed to wade up the river, so riders didn’t have to pay tolls to the university if they were crossing their lands.

The next time you go on a Cambridge punting tour along the River Cam, ask your chauffeur about the history of punting and what makes it so unique compared to any other mode of water transport. There are many punting tours to choose from, and they regularly compete because of the influx of tourists coming to Cambridge University. Hopefully, the number of punts can be reduced because some of the waterways are very narrow and boats can knock against each other if there’s too much traffic.

Even though a punt moves through the shallowest of waters if a passenger is not a strong swimmer, it can be a bad experience for them. Most operators are highly skilled at maneuvering a punt safely, but there is always a risk of capsizing, especially if the chauffeur is new or if another tourist onboard starts rocking the boat. Many things can go wrong, and it’s always better to take the necessary precautions before going on your Cambridge punting tour. Most punting tours are organized by reputable operators, but some chauffeurs offer a self-drive or are inexperienced. This is dangerous because punt boats are significantly heavy and need a lot of practice to navigate and maneuver safely, especially around the Cambridge University area where the waterways are extremely narrow. Many self-punts also crowd the area because they want to make money from tourists. This causes a lot of traffic on the waterways and boats can often hit each other while passing. Riders should keep their hands inside the boats because their fingers risk getting crushed every time another punt boat passes by closely. Skilled chauffeurs are in no rush to complete tours and pay more attention to safety. If they see a punt boat coming from the other side, they will stop and give it plenty of space to pass and avoid any accidents. Make sure you use an operator who demonstrates patience and has undergone safety training.

If your tour group has any small children or elderly people, they should be seated in the middle of the boat. This way, if any collisions occur, they will not be in danger of tipping overboard and falling in the water. Never sit too close to the edge of your punt because if another boat does hit, you could get hurt.

Keep a watchful eye for weirs and sluice gates. There are two of each on River Cam, and the water is usually low enough for them to be safe. However, try and stay away from them as much as possible because if safety buoys aren’t present, you could get sucked down the water, especially if it rained heavily before your trip. When there is an increased flow, small waves can form, and they can trap those who are not careful. To avoid a drowning accident, choose the best tour operator who has a lot of experience. They should be able to identify which routes are the safest and never take risks with people’s lives just to rush through tours or take shortcuts. They should also give you a little safety briefing before the trip and remind everyone to keep their limbs inside and never sit too close to the edge. If you suspect someone is too intoxicated to be taking a ride, inform your chauffeur because you don’t want to risk having someone who might suddenly move around and tip the boat.

You might have heard that Tyrrell’s Punting Co has teamed up with Uber to offer large chauffeured punts for 3 days this week. This allows you to go punting in Cambridge for just £10, and that’s not per person, it’s for a group of up to 8 people. You must be within one mile of our departure point and then you can book directly through the Uber app.
We are delighted that we were the company of choice for this collaboration.
We hope this promotional price will allow customers, who might not have been tempted to go punting, to book and come punting in Cambridge!
We are open 7 days a week but our Uber promotion will run 22/23/24 August 11am-6pm.
Book on the app and we look forward to taking you out on the river Cam………..oh and the weather looks awesome so no need to bring an umbrella!