Heritage weekend... cambridge
Brimming with beautiful architecture and rich culture, this historic city has much more to offer than its academic prowess
There is something quintessentially British about Cambridge, with its grand 17th- and 18th-century architecture, decadent college buildings and quaint back streets. Explore the plethora of independent shops, relax in one of the many historic pubs, and discover some of the delightful restaurants, cafés and hotels that this remarkable city has to offer.
Think of Cambridge and you think of the university, and no wonder: founded in 1209, it is one of the world’s oldest and most prestigious institutions, with alumni including Sir Isaac Newton, Charles Darwin, Stephen Hawking, and David Attenborough. If you’re searching for a sample of the academic intellect that Cambridge exudes, then there’s plenty of opportunity to indulge with guided tours of King’s College, Hidden Cambridge and the Parker Library at Corpus Christi College. Visit the University of Cambridge’s Fitzwilliam Museum and explore its five departments, which house antiquities from across history and the globe. Founded in 1816, this treasure trove of fascinating artefacts, impressive architecture and modern art stands up to visits time and time again. Something of a hidden gem, the museum is located just a ten-minute walk along Trumpington Road from King’s College. 2019 promises a ground-breaking graphic art exhibition showcasing the work of 19th-century illustrators and graphic designers the Beggarstaffs, alongside its permanent exhibits.
A visit to Cambridge is not complete without a punt along the river Cam. Pass under the Bridge of Sighs and explore the gardens and colleges, affectionately known as ‘the Backs’; icons of British architecture that only this city can offer.
Where to stay
Located in the historic heart of Cambridge, on the outskirts of Parker’s Piece, 25 acres of luscious parkland, The Gonville Hotel combines sophisticated interior design with an exceptional guest experience. Built in
1830 as a Senior Fellows house for Gonville & Caius College, the building was transformed into a guest house in 1845 and, in 1962, the hotel was taken on by the current chairman’s grandfather, Harold Ridgeon, who started a legacy that continues today.
The hotel has been significantly invested in and expanded over the years, and its strong family ethos ensures a welcoming, comfortable stay. With plush king-size beds, sumptuous bathrooms stocking British-produced luxury toiletries, and the award-winning on-site spa, the Gresham Wellness Centre, relaxation remains at the heart of The Gonville.
The hotel celebrates its heritage with large-scale Cambridge scenes tastefully replicated onto the bathroom tiles, along with specially commissioned artwork and maps adorning the walls. For an extra-special stay, the premium Feature rooms have stunning four-poster beds, roll-top baths, and garden access through elegant French doors.
After dark, head to The Atrium bar, with its extensive cocktail menu and specialist selection of locally produced gins. Hosting live jazz performances every Friday and Saturday night, it’s the perfect place to start a sophisticated evening in Cambridge.
Prices for double rooms start at £143 per night; visit gonvillehotel.co.uk or call 01223 366611.
For a more budget-friendly option, go slightly away from the main city for a self-catering stay at The Old Chapel in Fulbourn. The quaint twobedroom cottage has been beautifully converted from an 1855 Baptist chapel. Its large garden gives you a flavour of the beautiful local countryside, and its accessible location makes the chapel a great hub for exploring everything the city has to offer. From £79 a night, oldchapelfulbourn.co.uk. ➤
Where to eat
Opened in 1834, Parker’s Tavern, set on the edge of Parker’s Piece park, quickly became a popular stopping point for visitors and locals alike. It is this rich heritage that the recent relaunch seeks to celebrate. The buzzing, friendly atmosphere begins at the bar, and continues through into the restaurant. With interiors designed by Martin Brudnizki, Parker’s Tavern unites the old with the new, paying homage to the city’s university heritage through the blue panelled walls and library-style lamps. A quintessentially British menu, devised by head chef Tristan Welch, offers a real taste of Cambridge, with heritage-inspired cooking and local ingredients taking centre stage. Welch allows ‘Mother Nature to set the tone’, resulting in a seasonal and diverse menu that, in winter, heralds freshly caught fish and homely game pies with a warming rice pudding soufflé and Cambridge burnt cream. Described as the city’s answer to crème brûlée, it is a delicious incarnation of the classic dessert, achieving a perfect balance of rich custard and caramelised sugar. A definite must on a visit to Cambridge. Book online at parkerstavern.com or call 01223 606266. Finish the night with a nightcap at one of the oldest pubs in Cambridge. Opened in 1525, The Eagle on Bene’t Street has earned its place in history. The walls and ceilings of ‘the RAF bar’ are covered with the signatures of British and American World War II airmen, who were determined to leave their mark.
Where to shop
Oxbow & Peach started from the founders’ personal passions of using vintage items to make their houses more homely. Located a few miles outside of Cambridge, its pop-up shop is the ideal stop for discovering a vintage gem to take back home with you. For details of opening dates and times visit oxbowandpeach.co.uk.
With stalls selling everything from handcrafted jewellery to leather wares, All Saints Garden
Art and Craft Market is not to be missed. You’re guaranteed to find beautifully bespoke handmade gifts. See allsaintsmarket-cambridge.org.uk.
Located in Gwydir Street’s impressive Dales Brewery building, Cambs Antique Centre specialises in antique furniture and studio pottery. Visit cambsantiques.com to see a sample of its stock, although this barely compares with the wealth of treasures waiting to be discovered in store.
Where to visit ANGLESEY Abbey
Just over six miles from the heart of Cambridge lies the historic Anglesey Abbey. This Jacobeanstyle manor house and its 114 acres of gardens are a sight to behold all year round. We caught up with visitor experience manager Janet Jephcott.
What’s the history of the Abbey?
Despite its name, the priory was never an abbey. Initially founded as a hospital in 1136 in memory of Henry I, who died in 1135, Anglesey Abbey was converted into an Augustinian Priory in the 13th century and continued as such until the dissolution of the monasteries in 1536 by Henry VIII. The priory’s ruins then formed the core of the current house, which was built in the early 17th century. The estate was bought by the multi-millionaire grandson of one of America’s first oil pioneers, Lord Fairhaven, in 1926 as a base from which he could oversee the family’s stud at Great Barton. Lord Fairhaven extensively remodelled the property to create the luxurious country house we see today, and turned it into a fitting home for his extensive collection of artworks.
How is the house presented today?
Today the property is under the care of the National Trust, bequeathed to them on the death of Lord Fairhaven in 1966. True to his wishes, the house today is presented just as it was at the time of his death. Historical reenactors continue to undertake the same daily tasks in the same precise manner as was demanded by Lord Fairhaven in both the house and gardens. Throughout summer 2019, we will be uncovering the untold stories of Anglesey Abbey from the 800 years since it started life as a priory. Admission: National Trust members free, adults £15.80, children £7.90 (includes admission to house and gardens). Tel; 01223 810080; nationaltrust.org.uk/anglesey-abbey
CAMBRIDGE University BOTANIC Garden
With over 8,000 plant species, spread across 40 acres, this heritage-listed garden has been designed for year-round interest and is a spectacle to behold. 2019 also marks the 40th anniversary of the
Winter Garden. Head gardener Pete Kerley shares some of his 40 years of wisdom and experience.
Tell us about the Winter Garden.
When Peter Orriss and Norman Villis began planting the Winter Garden in 1978, it was a revolutionary idea. We’ve always tried to be at the forefront of winter interest and the garden is constantly changing. Opting for trees with bright barks like the Prunus serrula, or Tibetan cherry, provides colour, while a variegated holly arch is just one element that provides structure to the garden.
To create a mystical feel, we’ve worked with the winter sun to create accents of colour and light. We’ve planted Rubus phoenicolasius, Japanese wineberry, on the north side of the path as, when the sun hits it, all the thorns become illuminated into a fabulous display. Of all the plants in the Winter Garden, my favourite is the Daphne bholua ‘Jacqueline postill’. We’ve planted them near the path so they perfume the air on entrance to the garden. It’s a magnificent scent – you could sit underneath it all day and just breathe in the smell.
What advice can you offer on how to replicate the Winter Garden at home?
Think about placing as well as colour – dogwood ‘Midwinter Fire’ becomes fluorescent if it catches the winter sun. Begonias are an excellent plant to provide a great structure through the winter while also blooming stunning pink flowers in the spring. Admission: adults £6, children free.
Tel: 01223 336265; botanic.cam.ac.uk