Cambridge University Alumni Walking Tour

The second local tour I did back in January (after the Eco Mosque) was with the wonderful Cambridge and Oxford Alumni Tours. I was invited to join them and to create some content for their promotions – there were lots of tours to chose from and I picked the Cambridge University walking tour. This blog post wasn’t part of my content requirement, so I am choosing to write this because I genuinely thought the tour was brilliant.

If you are visiting Cambridge and fancy joining a walking tour with them, you can get a discount with my code on booking: HANNAH10.

The tour starts at Kings Parade. We met our tour guide, Lindsay, at the entrance to the college and she talked us through the history of the University starting at its founding in 1209.

Our first stop was the Corpus Clock. Built in 2008 and unveiled by Stephen Hawking, it’s one of the city’s must see sites. The clock is meant to be a piece of art and has multiple meanings. It’s a reminder of our mortality, with inscriptions reminding us that every second we are closer to our death (lovely). It also only shows the correct time once every 5 minutes – because it also represents the philosophical school of thought where time is not equal; some moments feel longer or shorter depending on who we’re with, how we’re feeling etc – so the clock changes speed.

After visiting the clock, we headed to The Eagle Pub, the most famous in Cambridge. It’s famous for two reasons, the first being that Watson and Crick announced their discovery of DNA here in 1953 (Note: Rosalind Franklin’s research was critical to this but she was left out from the narrative and wasn’t honoured with the Nobel Prize like the men). This pub was also where many RAF pilots came to drink before flying to war in WW2, and they wrote notes on the walls, meaning it’s become a pilgrimage site for RAF servicemen and women today.

Our next stop was to head in to one of the colleges – Pembroke. Pembroke is the third oldest college at the University. Its members are termed ‘Valencians’ after the College’s founder, Aymer de Valence, 2nd Earl of Pembroke. This was my favourite part of the tour and the Chapel was a real highlight.

Inside Pembroke Campus
Another Pembroke campus view

After this we headed to the river and across to see the Mathematical Bridge. Contrary to popular belief this wasn’t built by Einstein, being constructed after his death. It was fun to watch the punters go by from the riverside, even on a cold winter’s day.

We then walked round to The Backs, to get a view back to the famous King’s College Chapel. Here it was enlightening to learn that whilst women at Cambridge were admitted in 1869, they weren’t actually technically allowed to graduate or receive degrees until 1948! In fact, some colleges didn’t even admit women until nearly the 1990s, Magdalene College being the last in 1988. The male students protested the decision by donning black armbands, carrying a coffin full of books through the streets and flying the college flag at half-mast in a show of ‘grief’. A-holes. (I would also imagine most of those men are now fathers with children of University age – I’m sure they wouldn’t want their daughters facing the same A-hole behaviour).

The view to Kings Chapel from The Backs

Our final stop on the tour was at Trinity College, to have a peek at Isaac Newton’s bedroom whilst he was a student here. Outside the window is now an apple tree, cut from the famous one we all know about where the apple fell on his head. Interestingly, it’s a surprise the tree even grew here as the land outside the window had been infertile for decades as Newton used to tip his biohazardous waste out of his window given there were no laboratories at the time.

The total time the tour took was 1.5hrs, and you can then add on tickets to King’s College as well if you like to see the stunning Chapel. As I’d already done this a couple of times before, I didn’t do this part but if you’re visiting the city for the first time I highly recommend it (photos below taken on a previous visit).

Sometimes it’s nice to remember how amazing home is. I love that Cambridge is my home city and that I live just a short drive from the centre. Thank you to Christina, Lindsay and the team for having me and thank you all for following along on the walk. Stay safe and happy travelling!


  1. I can’t beleive they didn’t admit women to some faculties until the 1990s, and male students protested. That’s shocking! The heritage buildings are beautiful though, if those walls could talk. Maggie

    Liked by 1 person

  2. You have a beautiful hometown. It’s unbelievable that women weren’t admitted until the 1990s; sheesh. I also cringed when reading about Newton dumping hazardous waste out his window. Progress is slow! Thanks Han, for taking us on a tour of this beautiful location.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Thanks so much, I definitely am lucky to live here. Sexism is alive and well isn’t it, totally shocking women couldn’t get in to some colleges until then!!! Glad you enjoyed the tour and thank you so much for reading 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

  3. We punted on the Cam many years ago but didn’t tour the university. What a fascinating place and so full of history. Thanks for pointing out the contributions and history of women in regard to the university. It’s amazing how relatively recently it was that women were still being denied education at that level. Misogyny was and is alive and well, unfortunately.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Ahh that’s amazing you’ve visited and gone punting down the Cam – a definite must do when in the city. The university history is fascinating, and the untold women’s stories make me so mad!! Hopefully we’re getting better now but it’s a long road to equality that’s for sure.

      Liked by 1 person

  4. Fantastic tour! 🙂 I would love to see all the notes that the servicemen wrote on the walls of the pub- what a tender and moving experience that must be. Amazing how much has changed in regards to women being admitted and graduating from there. The men protesting just makes me want to drop kick them all into the river. I read something recently that now more women than men are graduating from college- so in your face protesting A holes.

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  5. Wow, I can’t believe women weren’t even admitted until so recently. That’s pretty disappointing. Looks like a fun tour, though. I remember being in awe of the oldest buildings on my campuses that were from the early 1900s; I can’t imagine being on a campus founded in the 1200s.

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  6. Thanks for the tour, Hannah, what a wonderful place full of history and charm. No wonder that every year the tourists pile in to come and visit the grand buildings and small cobbled streets of Cambridge. There are many reasons to love Cambridge and its legendary university is one of them. Thanks for sharing and have a good day 🙂 Aiva xx

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  7. It’s crazy to hear that some colleges didn’t admit women until nearly the 1990s and how some men even protested it. Looks like an interesting tour. I must say, the buildings are all very impressive, especially the King’s College Chapel.

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    1. Isn’t it just, it makes me absolutely livid!!! The buildings are so beautiful, I have always taken them for granted but realise and appreciate how special they are now. It’s crazy that my hairdressers is in a building from the 1500s haha! 🙂

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  8. Cambridge is one place I actually haven’t been to in England (I actually visited its rival, Oxford, several years ago). The place has always eluded me, including my recent trip to England, but this walking tour makes me interested to return just for Cambridge! One of these days, I’ll have to go back! Thanks for taking us around the campus, Han. 🙂

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  9. It’s insane that women were banned from some of the colleges until the late 1980s and just appalling that the male students protested the decision and raised the flag at half-mast in a show of grief (!!). The misogyny’s astounding. That aside, Cambridge looks beautiful. I briefly visited years ago when my sister toured one of the colleges – I really need to go back and have a proper look around.

    Liked by 1 person

  10. How beautiful! I went to Cambridge several years ago but basically only walked around in the centre and visited a few colleges! I’d love to go back and do this tour, as it seems very comprehensive and interesting! I love the idea of the Corpus Clock too! Thanks for taking us along!

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