Ruff Guide to… Cambridge

When you think of Cambridge, you probably think of its famous university – and while that’s one of the reasons why it attracts eight million visitors a year, there is much more to the city than its seat of learning. While Cambridge is packed full of history, it is also a very modern place – home to more Nobel Prize winners than any other city and where you’ll find some of the most exciting tech companies in Europe. It is also very green, which is great news if you’re planning to visit with your four-legged friend…

King's College, Cambridge
King’s College Chapel is one of the city’s most famous landmarks © King’s College

Dog-friendly Cambridge: the must-sees

The best way to see the city is on foot and if you sign up for a walking tour, you’re guaranteed to see all of the main sights. One of the most popular tour companies in Cambridge is Footprints, which offers two-hour guided walks led by locals. They run every day, at 11am and 2pm, and are completely free to join but the guides rely on tips. Dogs are welcome to join their owners on the walks, which cover everything from the University Library to student life.

Hidden Cambridge also organises private walking tours for dog owners, which are packed full of pooch-related tales. These are either 60 or 90 minutes long and prices start from £80. While most guided walks will take you past the city’s famous colleges, such as Trinity and King’s, be aware that you cannot go inside unless you have pre-arranged entry. Dogs are sadly not allowed inside any of the campuses either so if you’re keen to see them, do bear that in mind.

Punting past the Bridge of Sighs on the River Cam
Punting is one of the few ways to see the Bridge of Sighs © Scudamore’s Punting Company

No visit to Cambridge would be complete without going punting on the River Cam and there are several firms that allow dogs free of charge. These include Scholar’s, Scudamores, Rutherfords, Let’s Go Punting and Traditional Punting Company. Chauffeured tours tend to last around 45 minutes although you can book experiences such as picnic tours and romantic evening punts. Prices for shared tours vary, but expect to pay between £20 and £50 per person.

Punting tours leave from several different locations along the river but on a typical tour, you can expect to glide past a number of riverside colleges and under several historic bridges, including the Mathematical Bridge – which connects two parts of Queens’ College – and the Bridge of Sighs. The only other way you can get to see this Cambridge landmark is by paying to enter St John’s College.

Bikes in Cambridge
Cycling is very popular in Cambridge!

One of the most popular ways to get around in Cambridge is by bike and while there are plenty of places to hire bicycles, try taking a guided tour – where your mode of transport is included in the cost. Cambridge Bike Tours has a fleet of modern mountain bikes, and dogs that fit in baskets are welcome to join in the fun. A 2.5-hour city tour costs £25 per adult and if you’re feeling energetic, you can join a full-day tour that takes in nearby Grantchester, too.

And if you’re interested in Britain’s industrial heritage, don’t miss a trip to the Cambridge Museum of Technology, just outside the city centre. Housed in a former Victorian pumping station, the museum invites visitors to learn about everything from steam power to local electronics company, Pye. Dogs on leads are welcome throughout the attraction, which is open from Friday to Sunday. Adult tickets cost £5.40.

Jesus Green, Cambridge
Jesus Green, as viewed from Park ‘Bark’ Parade

Dog-friendly Cambridge: the best walks

It may be a city, but Cambridge is blessed with plenty of green space from riverside parks to grassy commons and flower-filled gardens. Indeed, it’s not unusual to see cows grazing within sight of King’s College Chapel. Jesus Green, near Jesus College, is one of the largest open spaces in the city and dogs can often be seen running free here. Neighbouring Midsummer Common is also vast and is a great spot to watch the rowers on the River Cam.

The Backs – the name given to the pastures and gardens behind several colleges backing on to the River Cam – also makes for a lovely walk. Historically, the land was used for grazing and while much of it is still privately owned, some is open to the public. It is especially gorgeous in the spring, when the daffodils and crocuses are in bloom. If you’re on foot, the best way to see The Backs – which is Grade I Listed – is to walk along the Queens’ Road.

One of the dog exercise areas at Magog Down, Cambridge
One of the dog exercise areas at Magog Down © Magog Trust

Magog Down, to the south of the city centre, is a great place to take your dog for some off-lead action. They can roam free around this beautiful site, which boasts fine views of Cambridge from afar. Magog Down, at one end of the Gog Magog Hills, has a mix of open fields and woodland and there are even two designated dog exercise areas. Wandlebury Country Park is also close by and the estate has more than six miles of footpaths to explore.

The hour-long riverside walk from Cambridge to nearby Grantchester makes for a lovely stroll, too. This quaint village – which is the setting for the ITV detective drama of the same name – is approximately 2.5 miles from the city centre. The last part of the walk passes along the Fen Rivers Way and if you’re keen to extend your walk, you can take a detour to Milton Country Park, which has several lakeside trails.

Hot Numbers in Trumpington Street, Cambridge
Hot Numbers in Trumpington Street © Hot Numbers

Dog-friendly Cambridge: the best pubs and cafe

Coffee connoisseurs will love visiting Hot Numbers. This independent coffee roasters has two cool cafes in Cambridge – in Gwydir Street and Trumpington Street – and both welcome well-behaved pooches. Dog and their owners are also welcome at Hot Numbers’ HQ, The Roastery, in nearby Shepreth, which puts on pizza nights ever Friday and Saturday. Another great place to get a caffeine fix with your dog in tow is Indigo Coffee House, in St Edward’s Passage. It may be small, but it’s perfectly formed.

Vegans should make a beeline for Stem & Glory, in Station Road, which serves award-winning plant-based fayre. Dogs are very welcome inside the industrial-feel restaurant, where you’ll find dishes such as Jamaican Jerk Jackfruit and Pumpkin Ravioli on the menu. Vegetarians are also well catered for at The Old Bicycle Shop, in Regent Street. This quirky bar and restaurant did indeed used to be a bicycle shop and is thought to have been the oldest in the UK. Rumour has it that Charles Darwin – famed for his ‘Theory of Evolution’ – was among its customers.

Toastie at The Locker Cafe, Cambridge
A sun-dried tomato, cheese and red pepper toastie at The Locker Cafe

Pets are very welcome at The Locker Cafe, in King Street, which specialises in breakfast and brunch dishes, as well as delicious toasties. Many of the cups, bowls and beakers used at this arty, family-run cafe were made by one of the former owners, who was an avid potter. As well as the main cafe, there’s a sunny upstairs terrace and colourful outdoor seating area. Novi Bar + Kitchen, in Regent Street, is also very dog-friendly and, depending on the time of day you visit, is a great place to enjoy a coffee or cocktail.

Foodies will enjoy a trip to Cambridge Cookery School & Cafe, on Purbeck Road. Whether you opt to enjoy one of the freshly baked pastries or a flavoursome filled focaccia, the light bites on offer are all fantastic – and made fresh on site every day. The cafe, which is housed in the former HQ of Rattee and Kett stonemasons, is also fully licensed and homemade dog biscuits await all pooches that pop in. If you’re a bit of whizz in the kitchen, do check out the courses on offer at the cookery school – they’ve won lots of awards for a reason.

A dog outside The Free Press in Cambridge
A dog outside The Free Press in Cambridge © The Free Press

When visiting Cambridge, a trip to The Free Press is an absolute must. This backstreet boozer, in Prospect Row, was ironically named after an 1830s paper launched in a bid to ban drinking and has changed very little in the years since it first opened. Lots of historic memorabilia is dotted around the bar and the siblings who run the pub – and offer locally sourced food – still pay homage to the paper by creating their own. The Pickerel Inn, in Magdalene Street, is also well worth a visit. It is thought to be the oldest pub in Cambridge, dating back to the 1600s.

The city also has some fantastic riverside pubs, which are great to visit on sunny summer days. The Granta, on Newnham Road, has a fine heated terrace overlooking the Mill Pond and is close to the base of dog-friendly punting company, Granta Moorings. Further along the River Cam you’ll find the Fort St George, by Midsummer Common. The pub, which is affectionately referred to as The Fort, is a great place to refuel after a walk along the towpath and welcomes dogs both inside and out.

The Waterman, Cambridge
Dogs are very welcome at The Waterman pub

The Waterman, on Chesterton Road, is also incredibly dog-friendly. The contemporary pub, just a short stroll from Midsummer Common, has a lovely sunny courtyard as well as several dog-friendly rooms. It is linked to the dinky No.30 cafe, right next-door, which also allows pets inside. Four-legged friends will also receive a warm welcome at the Cambridge Brew House, on King Street, which is one of the best places in the city to enjoy a craft beer or two. The selection on offer is excellent and the bar also has its own on-site micro-brewery.

Be sure to drink in some history at The Eagle, on Bene’t Street, too. This historic wood-panelled pub was regularly frequented by students James Watson and Francis Crick, who discovered DNA in the 1950s. Scores of RAF pilots also visited the pub during the Second World War and scrawled their names on one of the walls – which can still be seen today. Other excellent dog-friendly pubs in the city centre include The Baron of Beef, on Bridge Street, and The Clarendon Arms, on Clarendon Street.

Bedroom at The Gonville Hotel, Cambridge
Stay at The Gonville Hotel and enjoy a chauffeur-driven tour of Cambridge in a vintage Bentley

Dog-friendly Cambridge: where to stay

The Gonville Hotel, overlooking Parker’s Piece, is one of the best places to stay in the city and dogs and their owners are made to feel very welcome. Guests are invited to enjoy a number of unique experiences, including a chauffer-driven ride around Cambridge in one of the hotel’s vintage Bentleys – and yes, your dog can come along for the ride, too! As you might expect, it’s not cheap to stay at The Gonville but it’s something you’ll never forget.

Another great dog-friendly hotel in the city centre is Graduate Cambridge, right on the River Cam. This stylish boutique hotel is within easy walking distance of the key city attractions and has lots of nods to campus architecture and university alumni. The same can be said of The Varsity Hotel, which is named after the oldest newspaper in Cambridge and has a fabulous roof terrace where guests can soak up the city views.

Garden at Quy Mill Hotel, Cambridge
Quy Mill Hotel & Spa has gorgeous grounds to explore

A couple of more affordable options slightly away from the historic centre include the aforementioned The Waterman pub, which has several dog-friendly rooms ranging from Cosy to Comfy and Deluxe. Self-catering apartment Hot Numbers – which has nothing to do with the coffee company – is also a good bet for dog owners. The one-bedroom flat, on Kingston Street, has lots of independent bars and restaurants nearby and is a short hop into the city by bus.

Slightly further afield is The Cambridge Belfry, which has a great spa and regular special offers. It is part of the Q Hotels Collection, where dogs always stay for free. Pets and their owners are very welcome at the Quy Mill Hotel & Spa, too. This riverside hotel, which was once a watermill, is surrounded by lots of green space and is just a couple of minutes’ drive to a Park & Ride site, which makes getting to Cambridge easy.

Shopping in Cambridge
Shopping in Cambridge is a delight

How do I get to Cambridge?

The city is approximately 90 minutes by car from London and is well served by main roads such as the A14, M11 and the A10. Parking in Cambridge can be notoriously difficult so I would recommend using one of the five Park & Ride sites that service the city. These allow you to park for up to 18 hours free of charge with the return bus journey, on fully electric double-deckers, costing £3.50. There is no charge for dogs.

Cambridge train station is approximately one mile from the historic city centre and journeys from London Kings Cross and Liverpool Street take around an hour. Greater Anglia and Great Northern are the main train providers serving the city. National Express coaches also regularly pass through Cambridge. The closest major airport is London Stansted Airport, approximately 25 miles away.

Where can I find out more?

Take a look at the official tourism website, Visit Cambridge. Click here to see the site’s suggestions for dog-friendly places to visit. The Love Cambridge website also has a blog with tips for people visiting the city with their pets.

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