Who was Hobson and why is Hobson’s choice no choice at all? What’s a chronophage and where will you find one??
These questions and many more were answered when we joined a Cambridge Highlights Tour which, at 1.5 hours long, is perfect for visitors to Cambridge or for anyone who is pushed for time but wants to take in the iconic sights while picking up some history and anecdotes along the way. Led by a qualified Blue Badge Guide, tours start from the Visit Cambridge HQ in The Guildhall.
We stopped at the Cavendish Laboratory where James Watson and Francis Crick discovered the structure of DNA in 1953 and The Eagle pub, just around the corner, the scene of their subsequent celebrations. The pub still serves DNA ale today in honour of their groundbreaking discovery. We headed into St Bene’t’s Church with its Saxon tower and then checked out the Corpus Clock with its slightly sinister chronophage, a grasshopper which seems to eat up time. Walking on through the historic streets, we passed many colleges and University buildings including Great St. Mary’s, the University church. You might want to return here once the tour is over – if you’re feeling energetic enough to climb the 123 steps to the top of the tower, they say you’ll be rewarded (on a clear day!) with views across our very flat East Anglian landscape to Ely Cathedral.
Heading out of the lunchtime hustle and bustle into the tranquillity of Pembroke College, founded in 1347, our guide explained the University’s collegiate system as well as Pembroke’s history. Its beautiful chapel was designed by Sir Christopher Wren and was consecrated in 1665. In here, you’ll find the Cross of Migrants made by carpenter Francesco Tuccio from the timbers of a refugee boat that crossed the Mediterranean to the island of Lampedusa in 2016. It’s a moving reminder of and a memorial to those lost in the recent migrant crisis.
I have to say that these Blue Badge Guides really know their stuff. They go through nine months of training and have to pass four exams. What’s more, only Blue Badge Guides can take groups into the University of Cambridge colleges and buildings. Our guide, Mary, was so knowledgeable and gave us lots of historical facts and anecdotes but with humour and a deftness that meant we never felt we were being lectured.
A variety of tours are on offer through Visit Cambridge. If you’re really on a tight schedule, you could opt for the Essential Cambridge tour which takes just 60 minutes. More specialist tours include Kings College and “The Backs”, The Parker Library at Corpus Christi College and The Fitzwilliam Museum. They’re even offering Halloween Ghost Tours at the end of this month – scary but fun and nobody will mind if you turn up in fancy dress! Details of all these and the full programme, along with a booking facility, are on the Visit Cambridge and Beyond website.
And as for “Who was Hobson?” ….. you’ll have to go on the tour to find out!!
Cambridge Visitor Information Centre, The Guildhall, Market Square, Cambridge CB2 3QJ
We enjoyed this Cambridge Highlights Tour as guests of Visit Cambridge and Beyond.