Colleges and the Cam, Cambridge (Free Route)

Route Summary

City circuit exploring Cambridge’s green spaces and threading its way between various colleges and university buildings, showcasing their impressive architecture. It also follows a stretch of the River Cam lined with the university boathouses.

Difficulty: Easy

Distance:  5.2 miles (8.4 km)

Walking Time: 02h 00m

Type: Circular

Start location

Parker’s Piece, Cambridge (TL 455579)

lat: 52.1999513

lon: 0.127928

Getting there

Regular services to Cambridge via rail, National Express and local buses. Park and ride available if arriving by car (parking free, £3 day return bus ticket).

Route Map

cambridge colleges route map



START at the corner of Parker’s Piece, an area of green space in the heart of the city. The spot is widely regarded as the birthplace of the laws of modern football. Follow the path diagonally across the middle of the common, past a large cast-iron lamp post at the path junction, commonly known as Reality Checkpoint. From the outset an interesting mix of architecture is apparent, including grand Georgian buildings, as well as contemporary architecture like the Cambridge Fire Station. After crossing the common, turn left onto Parkside. Cross the road opposite number 25 Parkside, which during WWII became a home for Jewish youths; refugees from Nazi Germany. Continue ahead onto Parker Street. The Georgian redbrick building on the left is part of Emmanuel College.


Turn right into Christ’s Pieces, another city park, and take the path straight ahead. Turn right at the path junction. Turn left out of the park, crossing the road at the church. Cross at the roundabout to enter Midsummer Common, where fairs and public events are often held. Take the path ahead. On reaching the River Cam, turn left to walk alongside the river. Many Cambridge University college boathouses line the opposite bank. Continue along the riverbank, walking beneath a bridge and past the Fort St George Pub. To your left is Jesus Green Lido.


Turn left at the lock towards the Tourist Information Centre, crossing Jesus Green with tennis courts on your right. Turn left out of the green along Park Parade. Turn right onto Lower Park St. Follow the road round to the left, passing the Maypole Pub. Turn right along Round Church Street and cross over onto St John’s Street. On your right is St John’s College.(A) Turn right along Trinity Lane, passing Gonville and Caius College,(B) then right along Garret Hostel Lane to pass Trinity College and return to the river. (A)St John's College is a constituent college of the University of Cambridge founded by the Tudor matriarch Lady Margaret Beaufort. In constitutional terms, the college is a charitable corporation established by a charter dated 9 April 1511. The aims of the college, as specified by its statutes, are the promotion of education, religion, learning and research. It is one of the larger Oxbridge colleges in terms of student numbers. (B) Caius is one of the oldest and largest colleges of the University of Cambridge. Founded in 1348, the College combines the best of Cambridge tradition with 21st century teaching and research.


Cross the bridge over the Cam. Cross the road and continue ahead along a path lined with box hedges. Turn left into the Cambridge University Library campus. Walk past the library, cross over the road and go through the Sedgewick Site. Turn left along the road. Turn right past Ridley Hall (C)and go left as the road bends right. (C) Ridley Hall is a theological college located in Sidgwick Avenue in Cambridge in the United Kingdom, which trains men and women intending to take Holy Orders, as deacon or priest of the Church of England, and members of the laity working with children and young people, as lay pioneers and within a pastoral capacity such as lay chaplaincy.


Emerge opposite the Granta pub and cross the road, continuing ahead past the MillWorks restaurant. Turn right behind the MillWorks alongside a stream. Cross the road and continue through a hand gate. At the path junction, take the second left over the green footbridge. This area is known as Coe Fen and was a popular swimming spot on the River Cam until the lido was built at Jesus Green in 1923. The late-Victorian Hodson’s Folly was once the designated women’s bathing place. Continue past the folly, following the path as it bends sharp left beneath the trees.


Exit the common and walk along Granta Place. Pass The Mill Pub, turning immediately right up Mill Lane. Pass the famous Fitzbillies bakery and cross the road onto Pembroke Street. At the end of Downing Street turn right onto St Andrew’s Street. At the end of St Andrew's Street, by the traffic lights, turn left into Parker's Piece. Take right hand path and follow it to path junction. Here turn right and continue ahead to return to your start point.