River Cam - Punt
Cambridgeshire,  United Kingdom

How to try punting on a Cambridge day trip!

The university town of Cambridge is home to one of the UK’s most venerable institutions. One of the oldest universities in the world, alongside its counterpart Oxford to the west of London, the town of Cambridge is dominated by the various colleges that make up this historic seat of learning, and both Cambridge and Oxford make perfect days trips from the British capital.

Punting down the Backs, the water meadows of the River Cam, is one of the most traditional things to do in Cambridge and has been enjoyed by students, residents and visitors alike for centuries. Fancy giving it a try? Punting on the Cam River isn’t solely the preserve of university students or members of a punting club – it can be enjoyed by visitors of all ages who come on a visit to Cambridge. Here’s everything you need to know to try punting on your very own Cambridge day trip!

Pick your location

There are several locations where you can sample the full Cambridge punting experience, and it just depends on your mood. In the city centre, there are a number of places where you can rent a punt yourself, join a punting tour, or just hire a punt with chauffeur! The popular spots are, of course, busy, and although you will be gliding past the classic college views and water meadows you will also be sharing the water with a lot of other people, most of whom have no idea what they are doing. But it’s all part of the fun! Alternatively, you can do as the locals do and head further out of town where the views are less historic, but there is much more peace and quiet. You can travel down the River Cam as far as Grantchester if you really want to enjoy punting on the river and take your time.

Choose your punt

There are various shapes and sizes of punt, and you can choose the best size for your party: from small boats seating up to 5 people, perfect for a small family or a romantic moment with your beloved, to big 12-seater punts suitable for large groups (these have to be piloted by a professional, so you can lay back and enjoy the ride!). A common sight is groups of friends on stag or hen (bachelor/bachelorette) weekends, enjoying the sunshine with a cooler of beer or wine to get the party going. Those punts are probably best avoided unless you are in the group yourself!

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Do it the Cambridge way

The two ends of a punt are not identical. One end has a large, flat platform, and it is here that the punter stands. This is also the back end of the boat; your passengers are at the front. Don’t be tempted to stand inside the punt at the other end – that is the Oxford way, and not how things are done in Cambridge!

Steer it like a pro

Punting is about more than just putting your pole on the riverbed and pushing. Bend your knees and get right down as your pole hits the bottom, and give as big a push as you can. Then straighten, raise the pole slightly and let it drag in the water behind you. Let the pole drift to the left or right as required to steer the punt. Watch the professionals and you will get the idea!

Don’t lose your pole!

Of course, the most common punting fail is to push your pole so hard into the riverbed that you can’t get it back out again, and you sail away downstream with your pole stuck in the mud behind you. There should be a paddle in your punt for just this situation, allowing you to go back and retrieve the pole before the embarrassment gets too much! But it’s also a great way to make friends on the river, as other punters come to your rescue and bring your pole back to you. Be sure to do the same if you see it happen to anyone else!

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Punting in Cambridge – Practical information

Who can punt?

So you’re spending a day in Cambridge and fancy giving punting a try – but are you up to the challenge? The good news is that punting is an activity for pretty much anyone: no particular fitness level is needed. You do, of course, need to be able to stand on the back of the punt without falling off! Minimum age to operate the punt is normally 16 years.

Where to hire your punt:

See the map below for details of punting companies and locations.

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Punting in Cambridge prices: how much does it cost?:

Prices vary from company to company, but as of summer 2018 you can expect to pay around £79 for a 50-minute private tour for 6 people Monday-Friday, or £99 for up to 12 people (prices: Let’s Go Punting). Prices are higher at weekends.

Shared tours start at £12 for adults and £6 for children (more at weekends; prices: Let’s Go Punting). On these trips, you will share your punt with other visitors to make up the numbers. Book online in advance for the best prices and to secure your place at busy times.

Or hire your own for around £30 per hour (up to 6 people) or £120 for the whole day (prices: Scudamore Punting Cambridge). You need to be at least 16 years old to hire a punt. Be aware that in windy weather you may need to demonstrate that you are competent at punting.

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While you’re visiting beautiful Cambridgeshire, why not check out the town of Ely, a short drive north of the city? With one of England’s greatest cathedrals, a wealth of historic buildings and links to Oliver Cromwell, Britain’s only republican leader, there’s lots to discover!

Enjoyed reading about punting on the Cam River? Inspired to make your own Cambridge day trip and try it for yourself? Pin this post for later!

Punting on the Cam River is a quintessentially English way to spend a day in Cambridge. Here's how to try it for yourself! | A day in Cambridge | A visit to Cambridge | Punting at Cambridge | Punting Cambridge | Punting club | Punting in Cambridge prices | Scudamore punting Cambridge | Punting on the river Cam | Punting in Cambridge | Punting on river Cam | #cambridgeuk #cambridgeengland #cambridgeuniversity #puntingcambridge #cambridgepunting #thebackscambridge #visitcambridge
Punting on the Cam River is a quintessentially English way to spend a day in Cambridge. Here's how to try it for yourself! | A day in Cambridge | A visit to Cambridge | Punting at Cambridge | Punting Cambridge | Punting club | Punting in Cambridge prices | Scudamore punting Cambridge | Punting on the river Cam | Punting in Cambridge | Punting on river Cam | #cambridgeuk #cambridgeengland #cambridgeuniversity #puntingcambridge #cambridgepunting #thebackscambridge #visitcambridge
Punting on the Cam River is a quintessentially English way to spend a day in Cambridge. Here's how to try it for yourself! | A day in Cambridge | A visit to Cambridge | Punting at Cambridge | Punting Cambridge | Punting club | Punting in Cambridge prices | Scudamore punting Cambridge | Punting on the river Cam | Punting in Cambridge | Punting on river Cam | #cambridgeuk #cambridgeengland #cambridgeuniversity #puntingcambridge #cambridgepunting #thebackscambridge #visitcambridge


I'm Jill, and I'm a British blogger who has been travelling for two decades, visiting more than 70 countries on 6 continents. I love to travel both solo and with groups, and to discover the cultures and peoples of the countries I visit. And I love to share a good story or two along the way!

29 Comments

  • Aysha

    This looks so much fun but I know it would be my luck to fall in or something. Cambridge is a lovely city, I’ve only ever been the once. If like to go back and give this a try though.

  • Cali

    Maybe this makes me a tiny bit dense, but I have never heard of punting! Maybe we don’t have this across the pond. And you can use it as a noun AND a verb! Looks like a fun day out. I will definitely have to check this out if I am in England

  • Katie

    Hehe I don’t think I would punt myself! I’ve done the boat tours before where someone else does the punting and that means that I could sit back and drink a g&t!

    • Jill Bowdery

      Ooh yes, G&T! I was going to suggest Pimms in the post, but G&T works too! Yes, the punting looks precarious to me, but nobody fell in so I gather it’s not that hard!

  • Sally

    This reminds me of the gondolas in Venice, but with sturdier watercraft 🙂 Cambridge looks like a punters paradise! I’ve almost lost my paddle in the mud while kayaking, so I can imagine how easy it could be to loose it there. I’d love to try it though- looks fun!

  • Aurelia Teslaru

    I have never heard of punting before reading your article but it sounds amazing! I would definitely want to try it someday, especially in Cambridge! Seems like a great idea!

  • alex

    What a great little guide – and after all my years of punting in Cambridge (it’s a bank holiday tradition for us) I never knew that it was slightly different positioning in Oxford : You learn something new every day!

  • Paroma

    I first learned of this word from my friend settled in London who went punting in Cambridge:-) British lexicon is way cooler than American cause punting sounds sexy, boating or rowing is so blahhhh:-)

  • Alice

    I love all water sports and I didn’t even know this existed. Now I WANT TO DO IT!! I should make it to Cambridge before next year and believe me, I’m going to punt!!

  • Kelly

    So I literally had no idea what this was about since punting in America is kickng a ball. LoL. But I quickly got the gist of it and think that this looks super fun. I wish more Americans did this. Looks like a great way to spend a sunny day.

  • Nina

    This looks like so much fun! I can’t believe I’d never heard of punting before, it looks like such a lovely way to spend an afternoon in Cambridge! I’ll have to try this when I return to England.

  • Karen

    I had previously read about the boats in Cambridge and I LOVE the idea of doing it myself. I can’t wait to try this out when I visit Cambridge

  • Tasha

    I used to live in Cambridge and I absolutely love the city. It’s such a beautiful place to go punting, especially if the weathers good too! I never knew that there was a Cambridge way and an Oxford side to punt, that’s really interesting.

  • Cambridge River Tours

    Hello,

    Interesting article. Just a couple of points I would clarify – the small punts actually seat up to 5 passengers. The large (12 seater) punts can only be piloted (for want of a better word) by professional chauffeurs.

    Tim

  • Anita

    Punting looks so much fun! I would love to try one day! It’s also great to learn that there is Cambridge way for doing that and do it right when the time comes. Your tips are also very helpful. Thanks for sharing!

  • Kiara Gallop

    I was born and brought up in Cambridge so it’s so nice to read articles about the city, which I love returning to at every available opportunity 🙂 I never knew there was an Oxford and a Cambridge way to punt!

  • Cambridge Punt Company

    Hi,

    Great read – glad to know that we’re all keeping the love of Punting alive!

    Thanks for sharing,

    Lorien

  • Josy A

    This makes me miss Cambridge!

    We used to always buy a few bottles of prosecco and plenty of strawberries and then eat/drink while we’d take turns punting. The problem with drinking and punting is that someone might fall in. The Cam is truly stinky if you do fall in!!

  • Clazz

    Ha, I’ve never thought of going punting before! Sounds really fun! I need to actually explore Cambridge properly (I’ve only ever passed through it) so this would be a great thing to do when I do go. 🙂

  • Julien

    I have done it about three times and every time I go back to Cambridge, it’s the first thing I want to do. This time, however, they warned me against it saying that it was windy. I didn’t dare going ahead with it but it really didn’t feel that windy and now I wish I had gone ahead with it. Is it really that hard with about 15 mph winds?

  • CAMBRIDGE PUNTING

    Tyrrell’s Punting Cambridge Co. was set up by locals who know Cambridge and its history inside out. Punting in Cambridge has been a favorite pastime in the UK since the 19th century. The reason it is still popular in London is due to the immense relaxation and peacefulness it brings to the mind of the traveler. Even before the 19th century punting had been utilized for fishing and trading purposes.

    https://www.cambridgepunting.co/

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