So what is the Traditional ‘College Backs’ Tour all about?
University of Cambridge
You might of heard that Cambridge (England) is a ‘University Town’ (even though it is a city) and is situated on the River Cam. It is home to the prestigious University of Cambridge, dating back to 1209, and is one of the best academic institutions in the world. It is steeped in history and attracts visitors from all over. Some of the University Colleges include King’s, which is famed for its choir and vaulted ceiling chapel, as well as Trinity and its beautiful Wren Library, and also St John’s, with its famous ‘Bridge of Sighs’. The University was founded by academics from Oxford University, “who didn’t actually like Oxford”, and prides itself on “contributing to society through the pursuit of education, learning and research at the highest international levels of excellence”.
But what about the ‘College Backs’?
As stated at the beginning of this post, the River Cam flows through Cambridge and navigates its way within the University Campus. The River Cam itself goes on for about 40 miles and drops in three levels, known as the Lower, Middle and Top River, as it flows through Cambridge. The 1 mile ‘Middle River’, which runs from Queens to Magdalene College is known as the ‘College Backs’, or just ‘The Backs’ for short, and is one of the most beautiful stretches of River in England. The name comes from the fact that the colleges back onto the River Cam and their grounds cover both banks of the river.
So, out of the thirty-one colleges that make up the University of Cambridge, seven of these are the riparian land owners of the middle stretch of river (‘The Backs’). Firstly, you have Magdalene College, which was founded in 1428 as a Benedictine Hostel (which in time was known as Buckingham College), but was then refounded in 1542 as the College of St Mary Magdalene. Next (number two) is St John’s, which is a charitable corporation established by a charter in 1511. This college also is home to the Bridge of Sighs which goes over the River Cam, linking the new court with the original buildings (and was named after the covered bridge in Venice). Next (number three) is Trinity, which was founded in 1546 by Henry VIII. It is the largest College in either Oxbridge Universities by the number of undergraduates and is home to the Wren Library. Next (number four) is Trinity Hall. This college was founded by Bishop Bateman of Norwich in 1350. Next (number five) is Clare College, which was founded in 1326 as University Hall. It was then refounded in 1338 as Clare Hall by an endowment from Elizabeth de Clare (this is the second-oldest surviving college after Peterhouse). This College also has gardens that back onto the River Cam, and are consisted to be the most scenic in Cambridge. Next (number six) is Kings. This College was founded in 1441 by King Henry VI, and is home to the amazing Kings Chapel, which is the largest stop-vaulted chapel in the world. Lastly, (number seven) there is Queens. Queens was founded by Margaret of Anjou and is home to both the Presidents Lodge (which is the oldest building on the river, and the Mathematical Bridge.
So what does the tour consist of?
As we have highlighted, the tour itself is of the ‘College Backs’, starting just before Magdalene College. The tour then trails the natural flowing river through the University of Cambridge campus to Silver Street Bridge (just after the Mathematical Bridge at Queens), where we turn around and come back, returning to the point of departure. On the tour you will pass seven Cambridge Colleges and nine Bridges, arguably some of the most alluring architecture in the City. The tour will enable you to see parts of the University that you cannot see by foot and will offer a different perspective of the Colleges. The chauffeurs will regale you with everything you need to know about the University, the famous alumni that have studied here and wonderful tales that have been told for generations, as you are effortlessly guided along the calm river.