A thriving and ancient university town, Cambridge offers many sights to its visitors. Boasting as it does a long and proud history, you’ll likely find many timeless buildings to explore and stories to unravel. That said, the city has also mastered blending the old with the new, and while it’s proud of its historical heritage it’s also made great pains to keep up with modern needs as well.
For those guests requiring additional considerations when visiting new places, Cambridge not only has much to offer but plenty of access to it as well. To help people get the best possible experience of the town, we’ve put together a brief guide to a more accessible Cambridge.
Cambridge University Tour
Undoubtedly the city’s most famous landmark, Cambridge University was founded in 1204 and quickly became a friendly rival to the nearby Oxford University. It’s been the alma mater for countless generations of students, including famous figures such as Sir David Attenborough, Sir Ian McKellen, Stephen Fry, and Stephen Hawking.
The University is open to visitors throughout with the week, with tours taking guests around the complex several times a day. There are different varieties that cover different parts of the University, so think about what especially interests you before booking.
Although Cambridge University is a rather venerable institution, efforts have been made in recent decades to make it more accessible to all its visitors and students. Many buildings are accessible to wheelchairs, multimedia guides are available, and private tours can be arranged to more specifically tailor your experience.
Punting in Cambridge
Equally iconic to the city are the numerous punters that can be seen languidly travelling down the River Cam, which gives the city its name.
There are many punting companies operating on the river, offering guests the perfect way to see some of the best sights that Cambridge has to offer. Whether it’s a chance to see the city from a new angle, or as a way to relax and unwind after more hectic activities, it’s a favourite for millions of visitors each year.
Every company will have its own details and conditions, so make sure you do your research before booking. While many strive to make themselves accessible, some will be better equipped than others. Check their websites to see what information they offer about where visitors can embark or disembark, what their policies are for inclement weather, and if any assistance can be offered to disabled guests.
If you’re still uncertain, all will be happy to answer any questions you might have by email or over the phone.
Scott Polar Research Institute and Museum
Founded in 1920 as part of the University of Cambridge, the Scott Polar Research Institute focuses on, as the name would suggest, sciences relating to Arctic and Antarctic research and exploration. Educating future generations of intrepid polar explorers, the Institute is also open to visitors looking to explore their collections at the Polar Museum.
Open Tuesdays to Saturdays from 10am to 4pm, and on the first Sunday of each month, the Museum is free to enter and welcoming to all. The collections include items taken from the Earth’s polar regions from across the ages, from Inuit canoes and artefacts to geological samples from Antarctica.
The museum makes every effort to provide wheelchair access. A ramp into the building can be found by the disabled parking space, and a wheelchair can be hired at the museum if requested in advance. While the Museum is housed in a Grade II listed building, staff are always on hand to lend assistance if required.
Parking outside is free for blue badge holders.
Whipple Museum of the History of Science
As we’re still thinking of all matters scientific, you may also want to consider dropping in to see the Whipple Museum of the History of Science. Attached once more to the University of Cambridge, it was founded in 1944 when its namesake, Robert Whipple, donated several scientific instruments.
The collection contains various scientific materials and instruments from the medieval period to the present day, from astrolabes to early electrical devices. It opens every weekday from midday to 4:30pm. Like the Polar Research Institute, admission is free.
The Museum has complete wheelchair access, with a step-free entrance found on Pembroke Street/Downing Street. Assistance from staff will be required to access the galleries.
Wandlebury Country Park
We’ll finish this guide to accessible Cambridge outside the university, and indeed outside of the city. For those looking to get away from the crowded streets and concrete of Cambridge, you can escape to Wandlebury Country Park. Found a few miles down Brabraham Road, it’s a beautiful country estate that offers peaceful walks alongside rolling hills, verdant fields, and tranquil pastures occupied by gentle Highland cattle.
Whether you want somewhere to picnic, a place to ramble, or a cup of tea and slice of cake at the pop-up café, the Wandlebury Country Park has plenty to offer. It opens every day all year round from dawn to dusk.
Accessibility in Wandlebury Country Park is a little more limited than the city. There are numerous pathways through the Park that are suitable for wheelchairs, not all areas of the park will be accessible. Dogs are allowed, which naturally includes working dogs, but must be kept on a lead.
Parking is offered but carries a £3 charge. This money is raised to help keep the Park open.