Traversing “The Backs” of Cambridge
the backs of cambridge

The tranquil scenery of The Backs in Cambridge makes an incredible backdrop for casual walkers and nature lovers. A relaxing stroll along the serene river Cam, and the vibrant streets of Cambridge can instantly get you transported to a different era altogether.

Moreover, the stunning colleges of Cambridge are open to the public throughout the year that makes them one of the “most photographed” Universities in the world. With an extensive coverage of green spaces surrounding the overall campus and its vicinities, the backs in Cambridge certainly takes the top spot as one of the most attractive spots in London. It’s not just Cambridge University but the entire surroundings are enveloped in picturesque scenery in every location.

Why are they called “The Backs” ?

Cambridge University consists of 31 distinguished colleges, out of which 8 of them have the rear/side facade of the buildings and grounds facing the “Cam”, the river associated with the backs. In medieval times these grounds were extensively used for herding cattle and cultivating crops. Also, the River Cam was a busy commercial trade route in those eras.

This stunning location comprises several colleges that are flanked on either side of the River Cam.

Darwin College

This famous college was established in 1964 and named after the renowned English naturalist Charles Darwin. The entire college was built using the Victorian and Georgian styles of architecture. Also, the college grounds are integrated with the Darwin College bridges for easy passage and connectivity to the two islands owned by the college. Furthermore, Darwin has the honour of being the first graduate college in Cambridge to admit both men and women.

Queen’s College

Several iconic, medieval and modernistic styles of buildings can be found at the Queens College in Cambridge. They are famed for having their college buildings on either side of the River Cam. The connectivity between these two halves of the college is accomplished with the help of Mathematical Bridge. As the name suggests, the Queen’s college was established by two royals of England, Queen Margaret of Anjou and later by Queen Elizabeth Woodville. They were the wives of King Henry VI and King Edward IV, respectively, of England.

King’s College

King Henry VI was the founder of this distinguished educational institution in Cambridge. Kings is globally considered as an architectural marvel that showcases an exquisite range of Gothic-style architecture designs. The largest fan vault in the world and the gorgeously stained-glass windows are the other tourist attractions at King’s. Robert Walpole, the first prime minister of Great Britain was one of the famous alumni of the King’s College.

Clare College

Formerly known as the University Hall, this famed college of the Cambridge University boasts several iconic buildings and monuments like:

Old Court

“This grade I listed building is one of the most historic structures in England. The design of the Old court is a fusion of the Classic and Gothic style of architecture.

Memorial Court

“This structure was designed by the architectural genius of Britain, Sir Giles Gilbert Scott.”

Clare Bridge

“Built completely out of stone, this is the oldest bridge in Cambridge to survive the civil war.”

Trinity College

King Henry VIII founded this esteemed college in 1546. This building houses an enclosed courtyard, which is said to be the largest in Europe. The reputation of the college lies in its impeccable architecture, the picturesque gardens and obviously, the 32 Nobel laureates from this prestigious institution. Popular attractions in the Trinity includes :

  • The Wren Library at Nevile’s Court
  • Trinity Bridge
  • Whewell’s Court north range
  • Great Court
  • The River Cam( river associated with the backs in Cambridge)
  • Clock Tower
  • Great Gate

Trinity Hall

The Bishop of Norwich, William Bateman, was the founder of this distinguished college in Cambridge. Established in the year 1350, Trinity was historically a law school but currently teaches arts, sciences and humanities. The architectural elegance of the Trinity exudes a medieval ambience, and the main building was modified to a Baroque style in the 18th century by the English jurist Sir Nathaniel Lloyd. Also, the college is open to visitors on certain days for self-guided tours and is one of the famous tourist attractions in Cambridge.

St. John’s College

Established in the year 1511, this institution is one of the eminent Oxbridge colleges in the Uk. St.John’s is renowned for producing numerous high profile alumni including Nobel laureates, prime ministers and several archbishops from various countries. The college is also well known as a tourist attraction spot in Cambridge with multiple heritage sites and architectural marvels. Some of the top sites include the Great gate, The Chapel, First Court, Second Court, Third Court, Chapel Court and Cripps Building.

Magdalene College

This institution is one of the distinguished colleges of Cambridge founded in the year 1428 and reputed for hosting the Benedictine monks in the past. The college was again founded in 1542 and thrived under the patronage of the nobles of Britain such as Duke Of Norfolk , the Duke of Buckingham and Sir Christopher Wray. Visitors can explore the magnificent college buildings , gardens , Pepys Library ,Cripps Court on certain days and also enjoy punting in Cambridge.

A chronicle of “The Backs”

The past

The lands that now constitute “The Backs” were owned by several colleges of the University in the past. These spaces were extensively filled with orchards, gardens and used as pasture grounds. For better connectivity, these lands were attached with wooden bridges built across the River Cam. Later, Lancelot Capability Brown, one of the greatest English landscape architects, laid plenty of wilderness by the Queens Road.

FACT – The Backs in Cambridge are listed as a Grade I Historic Park by the English Heritage

The Present Day

The Backs are currently set to undergo significant stages of evolution under the patronage of six colleges of Cambridge University. The next 50 years will reportedly witness drastic changes that improve the quality of the landscape and enhance the total appearance of “The Backs”. The transformations will be implemented under the expert guidance of Robert Myers, a landscape architect based in Cambridge. Moreover, the strategy involves the plan to enhance the existing landscapes and the formation of a wildlife corridor.

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