Blog

We share stories and give advice

Punting in Cambridge

Punting in Cambridge is the most popular activity that is enjoyed by residents and tourists every
year. You can either go book a tour with a group or hire a punt to enjoy exploring the historic
River Cam.

A traditional punt is a flat-bottomed boat with a square-cut bow that is perfect for
rowing on shallow water and small rivers. They were initially used as cargo boats and are now
used for pleasure trips for those who want to enjoy the sights around the world-famous
Cambridge University.

These boats can be rented by the hour if you want to experience your
own unique Cambridge adventure. If you are hiring a punt, you will need to know how to row
safely along the narrow and crowded waters because punting is not easy. Here are some
rowing techniques to learn for your next self-punt to ensure safety for everybody on board.

Please note we no longer offer self hire punting tours.

Rowing Style for Punting in Cambridge

The most basic technique for punting in Cambridge is to push the boat along with the quant, which
is the long pole you will be using while shoving it directly against the riverbed.

The Cambridge tradition most punters use requires them to stand on the back of the boat and punt forward
with the open end.

The River Cam is narrow and very crowded full of punts, but you will see
most chauffeurs using this style, which is known as the “Cambridge End.”

Rowing Technique for Beginners

When you have a firm grip on the quant, stand near the back or “Till.” It would be best to
position yourself closest to the side as much as balance allows as you look over the side of the
punt.

Using your forward hand, push the pole down vertically close to the side of your punt and
guide it with your lower hand. Let the quant fall down all the way until you feel it touch the
bottom of the riverbed, and then reach forward with both hands by gently pushing the pole
past your chest.

It is essential to be gentle for the first time so that you can control your
steering. When you complete each stroke, relax your muscles and let the pole float upwards
behind you like a rudder. This relaxation habit after each stroke will prevent you from falling
over if the quant gets stuck unexpectedly.

We see a lot of people fall in whilst punting in Cambridge for the first time!

Rowing Technique for Experienced Punters

Instead of using the quant as a rudder, more experienced punters will steer during their
strokes. They do this by standing forward further and stay close to one side of the punt. If they
want to turn the boat in the direction they are facing, they throw the pole close to the punt and
pull it towards them. This type of stroke is known as “Pinching” the punt. To face the other way,
they throw the pole slightly further out and pull their feet towards it. This style is called
“Shoving around.”

Some Cambridge punters with a lot of experience might also use a one-
handed technique, which is more challenging. The one-handed method requires a punter to
throw the pole forward instead of pulling up, which is a “Bucket recovery.”

The advantage of doing this is so the punter can drop their pole directly onto the riverbed at an angle facing their position without slowing momentum.

The pole is in a vertical position, and pressure is applied to steer the punt. This style is beneficial if you want more power in fast-flowing streams or if
the punt is already racing.

Cambridge Punting

There is nothing more British than going punting in Cambridge on a hot summer evening as the sun sets across the River Cam, and the glistening water under long drooping trees surrounds you.

Thousands of visitors travel from across the world to go on a Cambridge punting tour to hear fascinating stories about the renowned university that was once home to Stephen Hawking.

A Cambridge punting tour will always bring out the proud magic of England because it is a rich historical experience.

Going on gondola rides in Venice while listening to “When the moon hits your eyes,” is also a lot of fun, but you should never confuse these relaxing favourites. Here are the main differences between punting and gondola rides.

The Location

In our opinion, the best place to go Cambridge punting is the ‘College Backs’, where you will cross the shallow, narrow waters that surround the colleges.

You will hear vivid stories about all the famous people who graduated from Cambridge University and went on to change the world. The most notable alumni members are Charles Darwin, Sir Isaac Newton, Prince Charles, Emma Thompson, Stephen Hawking, Sylvia Plath, and many more.

Cambridge Punting is suitable for large groups or couples who want a romantic ride, you can hear a lot of historical facts about all the colleges, and even some funny stories involving students.

A gondola ride is famous in Italy. Although gondolas have a reputation for Italian romance, you can also ride one in groups with friends or other tourists. Since most of Venice consists of waterways, it is the best way to explore the city.

The Boat

Gondolas used to be a symbol of power for Venetian families, which is why they all decorated gondolas differently to represent each other.

The final shape of the gondola reached around eleven meters, and the stern and bow were lifted higher. This gave it a stronger symmetry and made it easier to control. A gondola operator would propel the boat by rowing a type of oar that is unique to Venice, and they do not need to be in shallow waters.

A Cambridge punt, on the other hand, is a flat-bottomed boat with a square-cut bow. It is designed to use in shallow water or small rivers. The punt is propelled by pushing the pole or quant against the bottom of the river. Punts are usually the colour of the wood that is used to make them, whereas gondolas are all painted black for uniformity.

The Operator

A punt boat operator in Cambridge is called a “Chauffeur.”

Most chauffeurs who ride on the River Cam are students from the university, and you should pick their brains for interesting titbits that are not mentioned in any brochures. Since lots of them are British, they might sound a lot like Benedict Cumberbatch.

Gondola operators are called “Gondoliers,” and they wear regulated clothing that consists of a striped red or navy t-shirt, or a white sailor’s shirt. In the movies gondoliers often serenade romantic couples with classics like “That’s Amore,” but they are not forced to sing anything in real life, so you should not expect them to.

While punting in Cambridge, anybody can sing if they want to, if they do not disturb other passengers during the ride.

Although some Cambridge punting companies hold musical events on the river, which prove to be very popular among locals and tourists alike.

Cambridge University

Cambridge University draws crowds from all over the globe.

Did you know that Cambridge is where the hole in the ozone layer and gravity were discovered?

There are so many incredible things that Cambridge/ Cambridge University has contributed to the world.

This city is globally renowned for its creativity, inventiveness, and breath-taking natural surroundings.

Here are the top reasons why you should always choose to go punting in Cambridge rather than any other place.

Cambridge Rules

Cambridge is the birthplace of football and the earliest record of the game dates to 1579.

In 1848, a group of representatives and students from Cambridge drafted a set of rules and pinned them to the trees surrounding Parker’s Piece, which is a massive open park in the centre of Cambridge that you can visit after your punting tour.

The “Cambridge Rules” were then adopted by all the teams in the area.

England’s leading clubs got together to form the Football Association in 1863, and Cambridge Rules was the basis for the new FA rules.

A History of Evolution

Charles Darwin, a naturalist, was a student at Christ’s College in Cambridge and was inspired by his professor, who established the city’s botanic garden.

Darwin founded evolutionary biology, the Theory of Evolution, which shook the world when it was published in “On the Origin of Species by Means of Natural Selection” (1859), which shaped the way future generations learn about human evolution.

IVF Treatments

This medical procedure has been a lifeline for many people around the world who struggle to start a family.

It was developed in Cambridge by Robert Edwards, a decade after he proved the technique by fertilizing an egg outside the womb.

The world’s first test-tube baby was born in 1978, and Edwards received a well-deserved Nobel Peace Prize in 2010.

Artificial Intelligence

If you have not seen the movie “The Imitation Game” starring Benedict Cumberbatch and Keira Knightley, you are seriously missing out.

It is based on the true story of Alan Turing, who was a Cambridge Universtiy Mathematician, and the father of artificial intelligence and computer science.

He had built a computer called Christopher that successfully cracked an unbreakable German Enigma code during the Second World War.

Gravity

Sir Isaac Newton was a famous scholar and student at Cambridge University.

He was sitting on the grounds one day when an apple fell on his head and helped him develop the theory of gravity.

In 1687, he also established the fact that planets revolve around the sun, and gravity is the force that controls this.

This publication became the foundation of modern physics, and the world knew that Cambridge is an unbeatable city when it comes to education and sciences.

A Collection of Nobel Prizes

When you are punting in Cambridge and admiring the beautiful views on the River Cam, remember that this city has ninety-six Nobel Prizes.

These were awarded for outstanding discoveries related to medicine, chemistry, economics, literature, and peace. Thirty-two winners were from Trinity College alone.

There are many more fascinating contributions that Cambridge University has made to the world.

These include the works of Stephen Hawking, Joe Farman, and many famous poets like Sylvia Plath and William Wordsworth.

You should take a Cambridge punting tour with loved ones, and your chauffeur will share more incredible stories about why this city is the best.

Discovery of DNA structure

After your punting tour along the ‘college backs,’ you may want to relax and refresh at The Eagle Pub.

This is not just any pub, it is located opposite one of the science labs belonging to Cambridge University.

In 1953, Francis Crick announced to the pub that he and James Watson had discovered the double helix structure of DNA.

Haunted Punting

Haunted punting might seem a bizarre concept but just because Halloween is over, it does not mean that going on a haunted trip and hearing about ghosts isn’t still a lot of fun.

Instead of the usual walking tours, why not take a ride through the River Cam and hear spooky stories about Cambridge University that will put every horror movie to shame.

This will make punting in Cambridge a lot more exciting, especially if you want a little more thrill rather than the usual stories about the architecture.

St. John’s College

The second college you will see on your haunted punting tour. This college is one where people have reported several haunted sightings and bizarre incidents.

It was built on a Medieval hospital that was forced to shut down.

You can ask your chauffeur about the ghost of Doctor James Wood, who was an impoverished student at the college. He could not even afford a light in his room while students today are spoiled with laptops, televisions, and mobile phones. Back in the day, he used to sit in the O staircase in the Second Court and use the light from other rooms to work through the night.

Some people reported that his apparition is still haunting the same place at nights and surprised a few students by following them to their rooms.

Another famous ghost is James Ashton, who was brutally murdered in 1746 in the First Court next to the library. He was discovered stabbed in his room, and everybody suspected that his friend John Brinkley killed him.

However, Brinkley escaped justice because his father had some very powerful lawyers. He fled after the murder, and Ashton’s angry spirit can sometimes be heard screaming loudly in the building.

King’s College

Arguably the most famous sight along the river, King’s College is a very popular haunting site. Naturally, Kings College has to be included in our list of haunted punting locations.

This is because the founder, King Henry VI, had gone insane after prison when he was defeated in the War of the Roses.

The chapel was used during the civil war by Oliver Cromwell to house parliamentarian cavalrymen.

Students at Cambridge have reported noises coming from inside the chapel at night. You might hear horses neighing and soldiers scraping their feet. Even the police were called many times by students and teachers because they spotted moving figures on the roof.

Another unusual haunted punting story is that of Barret’s Coffin.

A scholar named Barret was a very eccentric person and lived in the Gibbs Building while strangely keeping a coffin. People often heard him screaming loudly throughout the night but ignored him because of his quirky personality.

One day, the screaming stopped, and when scholars entered his room, they found him dead, lying in his coffin with a smile on his face.

For a long time, the Gibbs building was no longer used for accommodation because people could not sleep and always complained about the random screaming.

It was so bad to the point that the college tried exorcising the building. The exorcism did not work, and now people just continue to tolerate whatever happened in the building.

Clare College

When you are haunted punting in Cambridge, ask your chauffeur about the Black Widow of the Cam.

Her name was Elizabeth De Clare, and she was married off to the richest man in England against her wishes when she was only twelve years old.

Her husband died after the wedding, and Elizabeth had to remarry. Her second husband also passed away after getting married. Then she went on to marry a third wealthy husband, who perished from food poisoning.

Elizabeth became the richest woman in Europe and was unstoppable.

Supposedly the people of Cambridge formed a mob and tortured her until she confessed to murdering all her husbands.

The local men tied Elizabeth to a boat and floated her until Clare Bridge, where she was then killed by burning arrows. She suffered an agonizing death, and her vengeful spirit continues haunting the River Cam.

Romantic Punting in Cambridge

Cambridge is an exceptionally scenic and ancient university city.

There are many romantic activities for couples to celebrate their love and punting in Cambridge is an excellent way to enjoy each other’s company. You can surprise your partner with a tour on the River Cam and relax while you are being chauffeured around this beautiful location.

Instead of sharing a punt with other tourists, you can hire a private ride to take your significant other on the most exciting historical journey. While booking the tour, ask us to personalize the ride.  Whilst romantic punting in Cambridge our chauffeurs can make suggestions about which are the best spots to get photographs.

Why the River Cam?

The River Cam provides the most gorgeous setting for a romantic outing, and it is inspirational to share that with a special person. Ask your chauffeur to take photos of you together so that those memories can last forever.

This is one of the most relaxing tours after exploring the city together. After spending the day in Cambridge, your significant other would really appreciate getting a chance to sit back and rest their feet while taking in more breathtaking sights.

The boat can be decorated with rose petals, and cushions to give you the best experience possible. If this does not impress your date, nothing else will.

If you are celebrating an anniversary together, you can arrange to have a chilled bottle of champagne on board with flutes to sip along the ride while toasting your relationship.

During your punting in Cambridge, you do not have to worry about the weather because we will have blankets and covers on the punt. We can even supply you with a deli grazing box to share together to make the trip extra special. The views you will see along the way are nothing short of something from a Jane Austen novel, which is what makes Cambridge such a romantic city.

A romantic day out in Cambridge

There are lots of activities for couples to partake in and strengthen their bond. After the romantic tour punting in Cambridge, you can stop at a quiet spot to have a picnic in the nearby Jesus Green. If it is not too cloudy, you will see the most magnificent sunset from the water that will literally take your breath away. Dusk is the most romantic time of the day when the sun is going down, and you can stroll under the soft pastel-coloured sky while holding hands as all the buildings light up around you.

At the end of the night, you should cosy up together in a local pub, especially one that has a wood-burning fireplace to set the mood. We recommend Pickerel Inn, just off Magdalene Bridge.

After all that fresh air you experienced on your romantic punting in Cambridge. Enjoy some great food and drinks in Cambridge, and before you know it, you will be coming back to this city for more. Travelling together with loved ones is one of the most unique experiences. As you look at all the beautiful sights together, you are celebrating that there is nobody else you would rather be with to share these magical moments.

Best spots for punting in Cambridge

Best spots for punting in Cambridge is a hotly debated topic between locals and tourists alike.

Cambridge has a wealth of fascinating history that captures the soul.

Punting in Cambridge is the most popular tourist activity for a reason because you get to see all the beautiful architecture and hear the most enthralling stories.

Cambridge is also a very picturesque location if you enjoy taking photographs or even a few selfies for Instagram.

Here are the best spots for punting (in our opinion), ready for your adventure on the River Cam. So that you can truly experience everything that Cambridge is famously known around the world for.

Mathematical Bridge

This historical bridge was built during the seventeenth century and was inspired by bridges in China.

You can see that very little material was used to create this long-lasting structure.

Most people believe that the bridge was designed by Sir Isaac Newton. But it was his student, William Etheridge, who designed it in 1748.

The bridge is right beside Queen’s College, which is one of the oldest and largest colleges at Cambridge. It was founded in 1448 and spans both sides of the River Cam.

You should ask your punting chauffeur to tell you all about the bridge’s design, and how the timber sturdily holds it in place despite being a weak material.

All of the college backs punting tours pass this bridge as it is one of the hotly anticipated spots for punting photography.

The Wren Library

The Wren Library was built in 1695, as part of Trinity College in Cambridge. It was designed by famous British architect Sir Christopher Wren, constructed in 1695. The same architect also
designed the famous St. Paul’s Cathedral in London.

This is one of the most beautiful views on the River Cam, especially during sunset.

Sir Isaac Newton, Prince Charles, George VI, Eddie Redmayne, and many more have studied in this library during their time at Trinity College.

 

Bridge of Sighs

One of the most famous spots for punting is the Bridge of Sighs.

This gorgeous bridge looks like something from Harry Potter.

It was named after the Venetian Bridge of Sighs by Queen Victoria. It was built back in 1831 by Henry Hutchinson.

The bridge crosses the River Cam linking between the New Court and Third Court colleges.

Queen Victoria once said that this was her favorite spot in the city, and that’s how this bridge became such a popular tourist attraction.

There is also a common myth that the word “Sighs” came from Cambridge University students who were very stressed during exams.

Punting in Cambridge

Punting in Cambridge is the most popular and exciting tourist activity.

Synonymous with the city, punting is a must for first-time visitors or long-term locals alike.  Cambridge and punting go hand in hand. As one of our touts says, it’s like going to Paris and not seeing the Eiffel Tower- that is if you come to Cambridge and don’t go punting!

You can go punting in Cambridge without having to compromise on comfort. You get to sit in a comfortable flat-bottomed boat with a square-cut bow. This boat is designed to show you all the beautiful sights while punting through shallow water and small rivers. Your chauffeur will propel the punt boat by pushing against the riverbed with a long pole known as a quant.

Summer is the best time to go punting in Cambridge, and here are the top reasons why you should book a punting tour to make your trip more magical.

Learn About Cambridge

Your chauffeur will be a Cambridge native or long-term resident, and they will have plenty of historical tales to share with you during the ride.

There will be lots of anecdotes and banter shared, especially if you know Cambridge well!

Some of them are students from Cambridge University. For a laugh, you can ask them to tell you funny secrets about this famous university that was once attended by Stephen Hawking, Alan Turing, Emma Thompson, and Charles Darwin.

See Beautiful Scenery

Even though Cambridge is home to some of the most beautiful historically crooked streets where you can admire the architecture. Seeing it from the rivers on a punt is an entirely unique experience.

Enjoy the majestic River Cam on a chauffeured punt and breathe in the fresh air from all the surrounding greenery and Cambridge landscape.

You will get plenty of picturesque views of the college gardens along the way.

Have Fun in Groups

Punting in Cambridge is very popular among hen parties and corporate groups.

Our punt boats usually allow up to 12 people on board. This could mean bringing a rather large family, or you can make new friends with other tourists.

You can also hire a private tour for your group to celebrate a special occasion. This is a terrific chance to spend time with fun people and share a laugh. You can also bring some drinks on the punt.

Romantic Rides

If you want to spoil your partner with a romantic trip, book a private punting tour in Cambridge just for the two of you.

It will be like a romantic gondola ride in Venice. You can bring a bottle of champagne and have a toast to celebrate love while the chauffeur punts you down the beautiful college backs.

Get a couple’s photo taken on the River Cam with the breathtaking views and surrounding architecture.

Relaxing Atmosphere

After an exhaustingly long day of walking around the city, punting in Cambridge is a great way to kick back and relax without ending your tour.

There is enough space on the boat for you to sit comfortably and be transported along the River Cam.

The punts move at slow speed so you can take plenty of photos along the way.

You will get uninterrupted views of Cambridge from a punt which makes it the perfect way to end a trip and get the most magical photos to share online when you get back to the hotel.

Punting Safety

Punting safety is very important to us. As a whole punting is a very safe activity. It is surprisingly very hard to capsize a punt, however, it is not always that hard to fall in! Especially if you are inexperienced or are unfamiliar with punting safety.

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 manoeuvring 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.

Reputable operators organize most punting tours, but some chauffeurs offer self-drive or are inexperienced. This is dangerous because punt boats are significantly heavy and need a lot of practice to navigate and manoeuvre 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.

 

Punting safety during your tour

It is vital that customers should keep their hands inside the boats because their fingers risk getting crushed anytime 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.

 

Self-hire punting safety

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.

 

Why choose us?

At Tyrrells Punting Company we have been operating for over 15 years, our staff are all highly trained professionals. We specialise in chauffeured guided tours of the ‘college backs’ and we work tirelessely to ensure that our customers have an unforgettable and safe experience with us.

Our tours purposely avoid both weirs on either end of the river so you will be safe with us.

An ‘uber’ exciting collaboration

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 their 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!

Uber Promotion

We are open 7 days a week but our 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!

WhatsApp chat