Walks index

River Cam - from Magdalene Bridge to Silver Street bridge

This is the Cambridge city centre section of the River Cam through Cambridge. In fact, you cannot walk along the river in this section. The banks are private property, belonging to some of the colleges of Cambridge University, so you can only see the river there by visiting these colleges, or by punt, and both involves paying money. This walk is entirely on public paths, and so free, but you only see the river while crossing the public bridges.

If you are visiting Cambridge, and want one walk to see things, this is the walk. You will see the famous Round Church and Mathematical bridge. You will also see some college gatehouses (St Johns and Trinity) and Kings College Chapel from the Backs. The walk is a mix of busy Cambridge city centre, and quiet woods and greenery.

Things worth looking at are marked in red. Click on them, or on the links, for descriptions and pictures.

Bridge St Through the centre Garret Hostel bridge The Backs Silver Street extra
Magdalene Bridge
St Clements
Bridge Street
Round Church
St Johns gatehouse
Trinity gatehouse
Trinity Lane
Garret Hostel bridge
Trinity bridge
Clare bridge
Garret Hostel lane
Clare gate
Kings Chapel
Kings bridge
Kings gate
Queens Green
3D map
Silver Street Bridge
Mathematical bridge
Bridge of Sighs
St Johns bridge
Magdalene Bridge St Clement Bridge St bollards Bridge St Round Church St Johns gatehouse Trinity gatehouse Trinity Lane Garret Hostel bridge Trinity bridge Clare bridge Garret Hostel lane Clare gate Kings Chapel Kings bridge Kings gate Queens Green 3D map Silver Street Bridge Mathematical bridge Bridge of Sighs St Johns bridge

Map of River Cam from Magdalene Bridge to Silver Street Bridge

You can do this as a linear walk, if you want, but feel free to see things in any order you want. The walk is marked as a blue dotted line. This sometimes goes down the centre of roads, as there is not enough room on the map, but please use your common sense and keep to the pavements when appropriate! There is a scale at the side of the map. 100 metres is similar to 100 yards and 400 metres is about a quarter of a mile, so you can see that all of this is quite close together.

Click on the photos for a bigger version.

Magdalene Bridge is the start of this walk, and the end of the previous walk. This bridge was built in 1823, and rebuilt in the same style in 1988. It is very close to the location of the Roman ford (around 40 AD), and the location of the first bridge in Cambridge (probably built by Offa in the 8th century). This was the bridge that gave Cambridge its name.

Magdalene Bridge

Castle Hill

Standing on Magdalene Bridge, you can look north up Castle Hill. Click here for the Castle Hill walk.

This area of Cambridge is called Quayside. There are punts for hire, or chauffeur punts, which will take you along the river to see the Backs (backs of the colleges). Unfortunately, you can't walk along the river here, as the banks are part of the Backs, on private college land. However, be patient - we will find the river again in a bit, and even see the Bakcs - and it will all be free! Turn south towards the city centre. This is Bridge Street.

The church on the left is St Clements. Click here for more on this church.

St Clements

Bridge St bollards

The road is occupied by rising bollards. These lower themselves automatically for buses and taxes, while blocking other traffic (apart from cyclists). It's quite fun to watch!

Further fown, on your left, there are old houses, some dating back to the 16th century. Carry on until the road divides into two. This is an important junction, as these are the main roads through Cambridge. They keep changing their names, but finally exit Cambridge the other side as Hills Road and Trumpington Street.

Bridge Street

Round Church

At this point, there is the Church of the Holy Sepulchre, better known as the Round Church. It was built around 1130, and was probably inspired by the church of the Holy Sepulchre in Jerusalem. You can look inside, but may have to pay. Click here for more on the Round Church.

Take the right-hand road, which is called St Johns Street at this point. St Johns College is on your right, with its Tudor gatehouse. Click here for more photos. You can see round this college, but will have to pay, and the college is sometimes closed, for example, during exam season.

St Johns gatehouse

Trinity gatehouse

Further along (we are now in Trinity Street), set back a little from the road, is Trinity College, with another Tudor gatehouse with a statue of Henry VIII. Click here for more photos. Again, another college where you have to pay to see round, and it is not always open. But the gatehouses are always visible from public roads!

Newton apple tree

In front of Trinity, to the right of the gatehouse, is an apple tree. This was grown from a slip from the apple tree in Isaac Newton's home, which is supposed to have inspired his thoiughts on gravity.

So where is this river, then? Walk along Trinity Street until you find a small lane turning off to the right, just before Gonville and Caius College. You may see a chalked message pointing to the river. This is Trinity Lane. Turn right down it.

Entrance to Trinity Lane

Trinity Lane

Trinity Lane is an ancient route. Click here for more information. Walk along it, away from Trinity Street, with an old wall and chimneys belonging to Trinity College on your right (this view is looking the other way). Follow the lane round to your left, and walk half way along it.

Half way along the long side of Trinity Lane, you will see another small lane called Garret Hostel Lane branching off to your right. There may be another chalk message pointing to the river on one of the buildings. It looks rather dull and gloomy, but turn down it, as these cyclists are doing. It leads to the river and the only public foot bridge across the river in this walk.

Entrance to Garret Hostel Lane

Garret Hostel bridge

Walk along Garret Hostel Lane to Garret Hostel bridge. This is an attractive, simple footbridge, built in 1960. There have been at least seven previous bridges on this site. It is the only public bridge across the river between Magdalene Street and Silver Street. It is a foot and cycle bridge only, but the cyclists come through very fast, so watch out for them!

The colleges along the river have their own private bridges and unfortunately you can't cross them unless you visit the college (and they usually make you pay). However Garret Hostel bridge gives you good views along the river at this point. Look north to see a glimpse of Trinity College bridge (built in 1764), plus probably several punts.

Trinity bridge

Garret Hostel bridge

Look the other way to see Clare College bridge, the oldest bridge on the river. It was built in 1640. It's the oldest bridge, as in the Civil War all other bridges were destroyed by the Parliamentarian forces to make Cambridge more defensible. Oh yes, and you'll probably see more punts.

There are lots of punts on this part of the river. The main hiring places are on Quayside, or off Mill Lane. You can either hire a punt and have a go yourself, or you can go on a punt tour, where the punter will show you the views of the colleges from the river, and tell you about them. Punting along the river gives the best view of the Backs, plus views of the two bridges of St Johns College. These bridges are north of Trinity bridge and unfortunately round a corner, so can't be seen from public land.

Carry on over the bridge, along Garret Hostel Lane to Queens Road. This side of the river starts to feel almost like the countryside. The college grounds along the river are surrounded by ditches. These originally drained the land. There are ditches both sides of Garret Hostel Lane.

Garret Hostel Lane leading to Queens Road


These ditches are called dykes in the Fens. While these ditches are stagnant, and contain a certain amount of rubbish, they also have wild plants, ducks and moorhens. Here a moorhen father watches over the mother and small chick.

Queens Road is a busy road parallel to the river. Next to it, there is a wooded area with paths through it. Turn left, or southwards, along the first path. This means that you will have Queens Road (and some trees) on your right.

Path along Queens Road

Trees along Queens Road

You are now walking along the river although it is some way away, and you can't see it. You will find yourself walking by various ditches, and there are wild flowers. The trees give shade and it is an attractive walk.

It is so wooded on your left that you can't see anything of the river or colleges at this point. You pass the gate to Clare College, and can look along the path a little.

Gate to Clare College

Kings College Chapel, seen from the Backs

Carry on walking. Eventually the trees become less, and you see the most famous view of Cambridge, Kings College Chapel from the Backs. If you look carefully at the picture, you can just see people punting along the river, but you can't see the river, or indeed, the punts.

The Backs is the name of this part of Cambridge. It means the backs of the colleges rather than the fronts, which face onto Trinity Street, Kings Parade, etc.

You can just glimpse Kings College bridge through the trees. This bridge was built in 1819.

Kings College Bridge

Gate to Kings College

Then there is a gate to Kings College. Sometimes it is manned by someone from Kings, to direct the tourists.

After the gate to Kings College, you come across a more open area. This is called Queens Green. Walk across it to Silver Street.

Queens Green

3D map on Queens Green

Towards the end of Queens Green, there is a 3D map of central Cambridge.

Turn left onto Silver Street and walk along to Silver Street Bridge. This takes road traffic, although it has the notorious rising bollards. These stop traffic into Cambridge city centre, except buses, taxis and emergency vehicles.

Silver Street Bridge

Look left, or north, from Silver Street bridge to see another famous Cambridge view, the Mathematical bridge belonging to Queens College. This was first built in 1749, but this one is the third version of the design, built in 1902.

Mathematical Bridge

Looking right, south, or upstream, the river splits in two. On the left, there is a popular pub, and places to hire punts. On the right is yet more green areas of Cambridge, which you can visit this on the fourth river walk.

Upstream from Silver Street Bridge Upstream from Silver Street Bridge

This brings this walk to an end. You can carry on walking along Silver Street, and then up Trumpington Street, to take you to Cambridge City centre. See map.

For completeness sake, here are the two bridges on this part of the river which can't be seen unless you pay money! You can hire a punt to go along the Cam (chaffeur punts will do the work for you and you're less likely to fall in.) Or you can pay to enter St Johns College, at the St Johns Street entrance. You won't be allowed to walk across the Bridge of Sighs, but you can cross St Johns Bridge, and this gives you an excellent view of the Bridge of Sighs. In fact, the Bridge of Sighs is the newer bridge, built in 1831 as a copy of the Venetian bridge. St Johns Bridge was built in 1709-11.

Bridge of Sighs

Bridge of Sighs

St Johns bridge

St Johns Bridge