Spring to Life: Fun Family Days in Cambridgeshire
Beyond chocolate and its eggcellent adventures, the Easter holidays herald warmer weather and longer days that lend themselves to perfect days-out for the whole family to enjoy. Here are our concierge’s top suggestions for Spring 2022 and beyond.
Ride along the river
Take advantage of Cambridgeshire’s flat, open, fenland landscape, which is an excellent opportunity for easy walks and rides that don’t require months of gym training. Why don't you revive and reward yourself with exquisite morsels of fudge from Fudge Kitchen on King’s Parade (the clotted cream, white chocolate and raspberry is our favourite) and stop by a local watering hole for lunch or tea.
Hop on one of our much-loved University Arms turquoise bicycles and pedal along the River Cam for about 3km towards the village of Grantchester, immortalised in the poem by Britain’s beloved poet, Rupert Brooke, in 1912 –The Old Vicarage, Grantchester. His advice cannot be bettered:
I only know that you may lie / Day long and watch the Cambridge sky / And, flower-lulled in sleepy grass / Hear the cool lapse of hours pass / Until the centuries blend and blur / In Grantchester, in Grantchester….
Your doze can be accompanied by scones and tea at The Orchard Tea Gardens, where you can sit in the pavilion or under trees planted in 1868 where Rupert Brooke himself as well as Virginia Woolf, EM Forster, JM Keynes and Bertrand Russell once passed the time of day.
Alternatively, reward yourself with lunch at The Rupert Brooke, a pub-turned-brasserie where a modern British menu is served in a cheerful interior.
Drive back in time
Just a 20-minutes by car from University Arms is the Anglo-Saxon village of Stow-Cum-Quy, fondly referred to as Quy, which is home to beautiful Anglesey Abbey, formerly a 13th-century Augustinian priory. The family that bought it in the 1920s planted 116 acres of formal and landscaped gardens that feature a notable and cheery collection of colourful dahlias, enviable herbaceous borders, island shrub beds, and arboretums of conifers and deciduous trees.
For details, visit www.nationaltrust.org.uk.
Monks, movies and mayhem
A pleasant drive or short train journey from Cambridge is Ely Cathedral, one of the wonders of the medieval world. Keen-eyed film fans will recognise this magnificent building from Elizabeth: The Golden Age; The Other Boleyn Girl; Macbeth; The King’s Speech; and an episode of The Crown.
As well as admiring its extraordinary Octagon Tower and Lantern of 1342, which is like stepping into a jewel box, visitors can climb its 170 steps, walk up to the roof to see the view, have afternoon tea in a 14th-century undercroft or enjoy the magnificent surrounding park. The Cathedral also hosts concerts, exhibitions and theatre performances.
To add to the magic, The Stained Glass Museum inside the Cathedral presents a history of this complex art-form, which has been practised in the UK for some 1,300 years.The museum has a permanent display of 125 stained glass panels from the thirteenth century to the present day, which are presented at eye-level so you can get up-close to their boiled-sweet-coloured charms.
Ely was also home to Oliver Cromwell, the 17th-century liberator or puritan kill-joy, depending on your point of view, who ordered the successful beheading of King Charles I. Despite his protestations, his home would not be considered modest by modern standards of square-footage, and history buffs and children with an appreciation of the past’s gory details will be delighted to pop in.
Magnificent men in their flying machines
“Newton would think he had made a mistake / To see those young men and the chances they take / They go up, tiddly up up / They go down, tiddly down down,” as the old song goes. Anyone with an appreciation of bravery, history, engineering and design will adore Duxford’s Imperial War Museum. A half-hour drive from the University Arms, Duxford is Europe’s largest air museum which embraces more than a century of aviation. Visitors can walk through the same hangars, cross the airfield, and see the original aircraft as the brave men and women who served at RAF Duxford during the Second World War. The famous Spitfire first took to the skies from here, and there’s so much to learn and see here that a minimum half a day is recommended.
Our concierge can help book tickets, orfor more information, visit www.iwm.org.uk.
Bye, bye, Ikea
Another 30-minute drive from University Arms is the Wimpole Hall, Royston, a working estate with a 17th-century manor house, parkland, gardens and 2,000-year-old farm. Each of Wimpole’s different owners left their mark in the form of beautiful architecture and interior design, none more so than the Third Earl of Hardwicke, who commissioned Sir John Soane to design the Yellow Drawing Room and elegantly austere bath house. Let the kids romp in the gardens and parkland – with its collection of 130 species of walnut trees – while parents inhale the design features.
For more information, visit www.nationaltrust.org.uk.
A racing start
University Arms is just a 30-minute drive away from Newmarket, the home of British horse-racing. Go watch a race, place a bet or visit the National Horse Racing Museum which tells the story of racing from its earliest days to the exhilarating spectacle it is today. There are artworks and artefacts including the silks worn by famous jockeys Lester Piggott and Frankie Dettori, and kids will adore riding a winner on the museum’s famous racehorse simulator.
For more information, visit www.nhrm.co.uk.