Cambridge is most famous for its historic university. However, Cambridge is far older than the university. The original settlement was north of the river, on Castle Hill. There is evidence for pre-Roman activity in the area, but the Romans built the first town. It was a convenient crossing point of the river Cam, on the edge of the marshy fen land.

The town was a port, since it was the head of the navigation of what was then known as the River Granta. The area by Magdalene Bridge is still known as Quayside, although now it only has punts. St Peter’s Church, halfway up Castle Hill, has pieces of Roman tiles in its walls.

In Anglo Saxon times, there was a settlement on Castle Hill, since it could be defended, and another close to St Benedict’s Church, or St Bene’t’s as it’s known in Cambridge. The tower of St Bene’t’s is Saxon (see left), which makes it the oldest building in Cambridge. The city at the time was called Grantabrycge.

At one time it came under Danish rule. St Clement’s Church is near Quayside, and this dedication is common in Danish settlements. The Great Bridge (later replaced by Magdalene Bridge) may have been built by King Offa (756-793AD). It was the last river crossing until King’s Lynn. Cambridge had good trading links to the Continent and a market, and became prosperous.

The Norman Connection

The Normans built a castle on Castle Hill in 1068. It was particularly important to fortify Cambridge, since Hereward the Wake was defying Norman rule nearby in Ely. All that is left of the castle is Castle Mound (see right) and a few stones in the grounds of Shire Hall, off Castle Hill, belonging to Cambridgeshire County Council.

If you climb to the top of the mound, you get a fabulous view of Cambridge. It is the highest point of Cambridge, and allegedly, if you go north in a straight line, there is no higher ground until you reach the North Pole!

The Church of the Holy Sepulchre (usually known in Cambridge as the Round Church) is one of only four round Norman church in England. Built by the Knights Templar, the round arches are typical of Norman church architecture. The Leper chapel on Newmarket Road is another Norman chapel.

How Cambridge got it’s name

By now, the town was known as Grentebrige or Cantebrigge. Eventually the name became Cambridge. However, the river was still called the Granta. Someone thought “Cambridge must be the bridge over the Cam, so the river should be called the Cam instead of the Granta”. Consequently the river’s name was changed! Upstream, where it flows through Grantchester, the River is still called the Granta.

The Latin name for Cambridge is Cantabrigia, which is why degrees are called Cantab. This was not the Roman name for the town. The Roman settlement was called Duroliponte.

Cambridge University

The first recorded date connected with Cambridge University was 1209, when some Oxford students moved to Cambridge. Peterhouse, the first college, was founded in 1284. From this point, various colleges were founded.

Some amalgamated previous colleges, or took over from priories, such as St Rhadegund. Corpus Christi was founded by the Guilds of Cambridge. As the university grew, trouble broke out between Town, the people who lived in Cambridge, and Gown, the students.

The centre of the town was now definitely within the loop of the river. Although you can still see older houses on the lower parts of Castle Hill, such as the Museum of Cambridge, formerly Cambridge Folk Museum.

You are never far from the fenland in Cambridgeshire. In bygone centuries much of the fens was underwater, and only small tufts of solid ground rose above the surface to provide space for settlement.

Since the fens were drained in the 17th century the rich soil of the area has provided excellent agricultural opportunities and even the outskirts of Cambridge back onto farmer’s fields. The unique flora and fauna of the fens can be explored at the Wicken Fen Nature Reserve, the oldest such reserve in England.

Hobson’s Choice

In 1614, Cambridge needed a new water supply. Thomas Hobson built a causeway bringing water from springs at Nine Wells near Shelford outside Cambridge into the city centre. The channels still run along Trumpington Street, although the conduit fountain has been moved from the market place to the corner of Lensfield Road.

Thomas Hobson hired out horses, but hirers had to take the horse closest to the door. This led to the expression “Hobson’s Choice” meaning “No choice”! There is a Hobson Street in the centre of Cambridge.

Oliver Cromwell was educated at Sidney Sussex College, and was elected Member of Parliament for Cambridge in 1640. Previously he had been MP for Huntingdon. He became Lord Protector of England, and beheaded King Charles I.

After Cromwell died, Charles II became king, and Cromwell’s head was displayed as the head of a traitor. The head is now buried in Sidney Sussex college, but they won’t say where! Cromwell now has a statue outside the House of Commons in London.

Museums and collections

Cambridge boasts superb museums and art galleries, and the University Botanical Gardens are world-renown. Near the city is a whole range of attractions, from Duxford War Museum to the stately home of Wimpole Hall. Further afield the cathedral cities of Peterborough and Ely offer more architectural delights.

Cambridge owes its continued popularity as a tourist destination primarily to the presence of the university which bears the city’s name. The wonderful medieval architecture of the early colleges that make up the university provide a delightful glimpse of life long ago, and the history that is bound up in those colleges makes for fascinating exploring.

The University has nine museums and collections which are open to the public throughout the year and run many events and exhibitions.

Cambridge University 800 Years of history

Many of the University’s customs and unusual terminology can be traced to roots in the early years of the University’s long history. In 2009, the University of Cambridge reached a special milestone – 800 years of people, ideas and achievements that continue to transform and benefit the world.

Celebrating the best of Cambridge’s rich history and looking forward to the future, the University reflected on the myriad achievements and world-changing ideas born within its walls, from the establishment of the fundamentals of physics to the discovery of the structure of DNA; from the transformative thinking of great Cambridge philosophers, poets and artists; to the groundbreaking work of its many Nobel Prize winners.

In addition to the 800th Anniversary, Cambridge was also host of the Darwin Festival, at which the life and work of Charles Darwin was celebrated as 2009 marked 200 years since his birth and 150 years since the publication of ‘On the Origin of Species’. The festival, which took place in the summer, featured talks, discussions, performances, workshops, exhibitions and tours.

University Tour

The University of Cambridge is rich in history – its famous Colleges and University buildings attract visitors from all over the world. But the University’s museums and collections also hold many treasures which give an exciting insight into some of the scholarly activities, both past and present, of the University’s academics and students.

The University of Cambridge is one of the world’s oldest universities and leading academic centres, and a self-governed community of scholars. Its reputation for outstanding academic achievement is known world-wide and reflects the intellectual achievement of its students, as well as the world-class original research carried out by the staff of the University and the Colleges.

All College chapels are open to the public at select times and most of the Colleges also open to visitors. Their buildings are places where students live and study and academics work, so some areas are private. Colleges may have more than one site, so please check the website for the College you’re visiting for specific directions.

Please note that some Colleges charge an entrance fee and access may be limited at certain times of year – especially during the third term of the year (Easter Term) when many students sit exams.


The national pastime of Cambridge and one of the best ways to see the city. And the good news is you don’t even need to work your own arm muscles. To get within sniffing distance of Cambridge and not go punting is like going to Pisa and not seeing the leaning tower. The brave and the skilled do the stick-bit themselves, but if you’re a first-timer book a gondolier-like guide to navigate the River Cam for you.

Botanic Gardens

Lose yourself in a maze of lush foliage and leave all your troubles behind. Some 40 acres of gorgeously green (and pink and yellow and red…) botanic gardens owned by Cambridge University, where you can earnestly study horticulture or snooze on the lawn. Cambridge’s botanic gardens are an Arcadian paradise hidden behind a fairly nondescript entrance at the station end of town. What sets them apart from other city gardens is the woodland vibe.

Kettle’s Yard

The most homely art gallery you’ll ever come across (because it used to be someone’s home). Kettle’s Yard was once the residence of Jim and Helen Ede. Thanks to Jim’s job as a curator at the Tate Gallery, the couple filled their home with artworks by famous names like Barbara Hepworth and Joan Mirò. Then, in an act of extreme generosity, the Edes gave it all to Cambridge University. You can now visit it and see the art lovingly arranged around the house, which still feels like a home.

Cycle hire

Cambridge is well known for its sheer barrage of bikes. Because of this, the city is well set-up for riders and locals on foot are used to dodging wayward wheels. Given its modest size, Cambridge is best navigated by bike. There are loads of places to hire them from and you can lock them just about anywhere. While there are plenty of cycle lanes, you’ll notice that many locals go rogue and ride on the pavements. Cambridge really is a cyclist’s paradise.

The Green Man at Grantchester

A lovely village pub to refuel at after a walk or punt along the river to Grantchester. Make the most of the fresh air in their extensive garden. Cambridge is blessed by beautiful surrounding countryside. One of the easiest ways to get a taste of this is with a short walk to nearby Grantchester. A pint in the garden at the Green Man pub is one of the best ways to reward yourself for the exercise.

Cambridge Junction

An independent arts venue where you can see comedy, music, theatre, spoken word, movies and more. The Cambridge Junction must be one of the best UK music venues outside London. It makes some canny programming choices, is run by a friendly team and offers everything from alternative rock and folk to one-off Edinburgh Fringe previews from top stand-ups.

The Fitzwilliam Museum

Cambridge’s first-rate art and antiquities museum where you can marvel at objects from around the world. The Fitzwilliam is owned by Cambridge University and, like Oxford’s Ashmolean, is a treasure chest of a museum. Unlike the supersized British Museum in London, the Fitzwilliam is home to enough diverse trinkets, ornaments and paintings to make you marvel, but not enough to give you brain-overload. Plus, it’s free entry.

King’s College Chapel

The stunning gothic chapel that dominates the centre of Cambridge. It’s a must-visit, even if church-spotting isn’t your sport. Every December the Christmas Eve carol service is broadcast from King’s College Chapel, giving sherry-filled adults the chance to embarrassingly cry over the first crystalline bars of ‘Once in Royal David’s City’. Relive this tradition with a visit inside the breathtaking chapel itself – then head round the corner for drinks at the Eagle

Scott Polar Research Institute Museum

A niche museum that’s all about Cambridge University’s world-class polar research. Fancy yourself a bit of an explorer but only ever manage to take day trips around the UK? Well, the Polar Museum at the Scott Polar Research Institute will introduce you to genuinely intrepid (and cold) historic explorations of far-flung corners of the globe, all from the comfort of Cambridge. Free entry.

Heffers book shop

Yes it’s a bookshop, but what a bookshop! It’s a palace of literature. If there’s a city in the UK where a person shouldn’t have to apologise for being a bit of a geek, it’s Cambridge. Feed your inner bookworm until it bloats and blossoms into a beautiful butterfly at Heffers, the oddly named bookshop where browsing and buying are both a pleasure.

The Corpus Clock

A very large and bizarre clock designed to make you fear the incessant ticking away of each moment on earth. Just don’t head here if you actually need to know the time. The Corpus Clock is on the front of the Taylor Library at Corpus Christi College. It’s less a clock (although apparently it is accurate every once in a while) and more of an art piece. The marvellously creepy insect straddling it appears to ‘eat’ time – a reminder that we don’t have as much of it left as we think!

Places to wine and dine

The huge variety can sometimes be a bit intimidating, with all the amazing eateries offering mouthwatering street food and everything else in between. You won’t be stuck for choice with it’s wide range of venues for eating out.

Cambridge boasts a delicious choice of places to eat and drink, whatever your appetite there is something to suit all tastes. For a romantic dinner for two, why not choose an intimate brasserie dining setting at one of Cambridge’s many hotels, or choose from an extravagant fine dining experience at some of the region’s best Michelin Starred restaurants.

If you are looking for something a little less formal, the city and surrounding villages are host to some of the best pubs in the region, you can choose to dine at some of the vibrant and bustling inner city pubs and bars or take a trip out into the countryside to visit one of the many village pubs available.

There’s enough real ale in this picturesque place to fill the river Cam twice over – and many of the best pubs in Cambridge serve brilliant gourmet grub too. But this quintessentially English city’s food scene goes way beyond fish and chips…

For those of you that enjoy a relaxing afternoon tea or barista coffee, there are some of the best around, from charming tea rooms to quaint coffee shops, spilling out onto the bustling Market Square, linning King’s Parade or tucked away in quiet back streets – whatever you favour, Cambridge has something to suit.

How to get to Cambridge from Ipswich

By Train: It takes approximately 1 hour and 20 minutes and rail ticket prices vary between £23-£35

By Car: It takes approximately an hour depending on the traffic.

With Stone Lodge apartments being in such a central location to many places of interest in including Cambridge they make an ideal place to stay.