Best places to read in Cambridge

Image credit: kaboompics/Karolina

Whoa. There. Is this — is this a ray of sunshine which I see before me? Is it possible that the weather is taking a turn for the better? Quick! Here’s an article about some great places to read if you fancy a wander out of college! (Don’t let the weather see, though, or else it’ll quite literally rain on our parade. Miserable sod.)

  • There are some absolutely stunning college gardens around which get sadly neglected over a lot of Michaelmas and Lent. Now is their time to shine! Swing by one soon – stop and smell the flowers, and just have a grand old time enjoying a quiet spot that is just a stone’s throw away from the confines of your bedroom. Don’t let the lack of plug sockets and a desk put you off. Hell, why not dispense with electronics altogether and bring a book – just one – and spend some quality time with it. And if you must, bringing your revision outside might even make that whole experience a bit more bearable. 
  • While we’re on gardens, the Cambridge University Botanic Garden is surely the peak of organised nature. There are plenty of stunning greenhouses full of bizarre and beautiful plants, but if you go for a wander around the 40 acres of land, you’re sure to find a quiet nook by a tree where you’ll be left in absolute peace (possibly barring the odd squirrel disturbance). 
  • The Grantchester Meadows. Loads of cows. Loads of grass. Loads of river. ‘Nuff said. Also, The Orchard Tea Garden is just on the other end, if you fancy treating yourself to a (somewhat pricey) cuppa and scone while you read. Plus, you’ll also get a lovely nature ramble out of it.
  • Along the Cam, past all the boathouses and the railway bridge, there are some really scenic paths, flanked by fields and riverbank pubs that are definitely worth scouting out for a relaxing afternoon reading in the sun. Or for a shorter walk, you could park yourself opposite the boathouses, should you wish to strategically situate yourself to watch other people exhausting themselves while you’re having your mini book-holiday. Choose between smugness or sympathy.
  • In a punt! Okay, so this one’s a little out there. While this may require some logistical manoeuvring and a few coercible/adventurous friends, it can be done! If there was one way to condense the stereotypical Cambridge experience into one activity, it would, beyond a shadow of a doubt, be this. Choose something nautical themed for this one – Three Men in a Boat, Moby Dick, or the entire script to the Titanic movie – and enjoy your chauffeured reading excursion in sweet, pretentious bliss.
  •  And finally, this wonderful website, https://spacefinder.lib.cam.ac.uk/. I was only told about this last week and it has already changed my life. Spacefinder allows you to make very specific searches for study or relaxation spaces, based on what features you would like at your disposal. The options range all the way from free WiFi zones and food availability, to prayer rooms and baby changing facilities. While it’s currently looking up in Cambridge weather-wise, I don’t think even the most ludicrously unwavering optimist would make bets on it staying that way with any degree of reliability. Indoor spaces are great for the (inevitable) eventuality of a sunny day turned gloomy. And true, everyone’s harping on about the lovely weather, but some of us are not the biggest summer enthusiasts. Sunburn, insects, and your clothes sticking to you like cling film in the humidity are, quite understandably, not everyone’s cup of tea. Or glass of lemonade. Or other seasonal beverage. It’s perfectly justifiable and a great excuse to do some indoor space-exploring. A personal favourite is the South Reading Room in the UL. It's fully stocked with sofas and in close proximity to the tea room – what’s not to love?

Okay, I think our time is up now. I smell rain and thunderstorms. Remember to enjoy the weather, whatever you prefer, and try not to let the exam season ruin your love of reading. Rent a punt. Get lost in a cow field. Take some time out with a story.

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