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Better than Oxford? OutUK’s own little fresher Adrian Gillan strips ‘em down for a boy-bender binge to examine if Cambridge really makes the gay grade.

From abused code-breaker Alan Turing to Mssrs Philby, Burgess and Maclean - those naughty commie spies - Cambridge has always had its fair quota of high-IQ'd queers.

And - hotbed of learned lushes in glasses between classes - this renowned town of loosely fitting gowns boasts bow-tied balls as well as brains worth the study. Altogether less bustling and crammed than arty, spire-filled Oxford, the tad more science-based Cambridge is certainly more spread out and intellectually aloof - classy yet highly stimulating. Hurrah!
The Backs (c) Visit England - Iain Lewis
Many of these earnest brain-bred boffins - whose butter wouldn't melt, newly left home - are clearly egging for a good punt around "The Backs", the grassy strip behind the big colleges just west of centre!

Sights

King's College Backs
(c) visitcambridge.org
Intellectual womb and muse of Darwin, Newton, AA Milne, Wordsworth, John Cleese, Eric Idle and Stephen Hawking! Many visitors come simply to see the historic university, its college buildings and their beautiful Backs, along the River Cam - perhaps most famously, King's College with its Chapel resplendent in fan-vaulted ceiling, stone carving and stained glass; as well as St John's College with its elegant Cam-spanning Venetian-style Bridge of Sighs, a bit older than its more tarty Oxford namesake.

Most colleges have buildings arranged around courtyards which - exams permitting - it is possible to stroll, exploring adjoining chapels and dining halls. Some colleges charge an entrance fee, some are free.

Each river-fringing college owns its own out-of-bounds part of the Cam's banks, so the best way to view the Backs is from a poled, flat-bottomed punt from Scudamores, which one can hire from Silver Street or Quayside by Magdalene Bridge. You can also hire a pro "punter" if in any way anxious!

Apart from the colleges themselves, the Church of the Holy Sepulchre, otherwise known as the Round Church, is an attractive small Norman affair at the junction of St. John's Street and Sidney Street - one of only four round churches in Britain, all built by the Knights Templar.

The wonderful and free Fitzwilliam Museum has a vast collection of art and antiquities; the likewise free Museum of Classical Archaeology boasts a massive selection of gorgeous nude male plaster casts; and the 40-acre Botanic Gardens boasts delightful landscapes and glasshouses.
Fitzwilliam Museum (c) visitcambridge.org
Catch a pro show at the Arts Theatre; or more studenty fare at the ADC. Cambridge has many other attractive parks and open spaces too - notably Christ's Pieces, Parker's Piece, Jesus Green and Midsummer Common.

Scene

Cambridge is home to a small gay and lesbian scene, with a number of themed bars, clubs and gay friendly hotels.

Much of the activity tends to be concentrated around Newmarket Road, Clifton Road, Sidney Street and Market Square, where you will find the majority of the bars and clubs. These parts of the city are at their most lively on Friday and Saturday nights, drawing university students and young locals.


Market Square (c) visitcambridge.org
During the rest of the year perched just east of centre, The Bird (73 Newmarket Road; T: 01223 464 845) is continually stuffed with preening young cuties, lured in by the latest tunes to get them jigging.

The 1000-capacity Dot Cotton Club (The Junction, Clifton Road; www.junction.co.uk) can be found just below the rail station south of centre and on many a last Saturday of the month it really drags in the gay and gay-friendly squires from across East Anglia with its top acts, vast dance hall and upper bar. The Dot Cotton Club has been going for more than 20 years, which is an incredible achievement in a city that's short of regular gay events.

If you need some fresh air - then boys oft "take airs" on Jesus Green, the big park behind Jesus College, without doubt one of the greatest student-spotting spots in Europe for daytime, term-time talent; ditto cum night.

Stay

Stay at Hotel du Vin & Bistro Cambridge (15-19 Trumpington Street, Cambridge CB2 1QA; T: 01223 227 330; hotelduvin.com), in an atmospheric former-Uni-owned building - just opposite the Fitzwilliam Museum and dating back, in parts, to medieval times. Explore the cosy library, wine tasting room and wondrously labyrinthine cellar bar; before settling into one of its 41 bedrooms and suites, some with private terraces, all with luxurious hand-sprung mattresses, fine Egyptian linen, deep roll top baths and powerful drench showers, plus plasma TVs and air conditioning.
Explore the cosy library, wine tasting room and wondrously labyrinthine cellar bar; before settling into one of its 41 bedrooms and suites, some with private terraces, all with luxurious hand-sprung mattresses, fine Egyptian linen, deep roll top baths and powerful drench showers, plus plasma TVs and air conditioning. Cambridge Hotel Du Vin & Bistro Lounge Hotel du Vin & Bistro (c) Hotel du Vin & Bistro
Open all-week-round, under head chef Jonathan Dean, fuel up for your big night out with a fab meal at the trademark buzzing-yet-spacious Bistro du Vin - at the hotel's heart, also boasting the first Hotel du Vin open-style kitchen. The bistro offers a classic, French-styled, elegant yet informal setting for local-produce-brimming, fine-wine-paired lunch or dinner, to celebrate or simply pass the time. Bravo le sommelier! Our hotel partners Booking.com also feature the Hotel du Vin & Bistro.

More info

For more info about Cambridge, including walking or punting tours check out visitcambridge.org. Cambridge is just 45 minutes, non-stop, from London King's Cross by firstcapitalconnect.co.uk.
THE LITTLE BLACK BOOK

The Bird (73 Newmarket Road; T: 01223 464 845)
Dot Cotton Club (The Junction, Clifton Road; Website)
The Junction (Clifton Road; Website)
Hotel du Vin & Bistro Cambridge (15-19 Trumpington Street; T: 01223 227 330; hotelduvin.com)

Revised June 2017.

 

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