With the weather currently set to changeable, thoughts turn to what to do when showers are in the forecast. Many cities look fantastic in the sunshine but sometimes the coast and countryside beckon on days when the sun is on its brightest setting. So, on days when the sky is not so blue, perhaps it’s time to visit a city.
We have many beautiful cities in the UK and one of my favourites is Cambridge. Cambridge has beautiful open spaces like Parker’s Peace, home of the infamous Cambridge Beer Festival, and the beautiful River Cam, but it also has some fantastic places to visit with rooves…. perfect for those rainy days.
King’s College Chapel is well known, and many of us have watched Carols from King’s on BBC2 on Christmas Eve, but it’s not just for Christmas, it’s for rainy days in the Autumn too!
Kings College is part of the University of Cambridge, it lies beside the River Cam, and faces onto King’s Parade in the city centre and is therefore incredibly accessible on a city centre visit. It was founded by Henry VI in 1441 at around the same time as he founded its sister college in Eton. The building was finished in 1544 during the reign of Henry VIII.
The building is regarded as one of the greatest examples of late Gothic English architecture. It has fine stained-glass windows and the world’s largest fan vault. What’s a vault? Well it’s a self- supporting arched form used inside a building with high ceilings to cover the space. So, what’s a fan vault? It’s a vault peculiar to England and characterised by fan-shaped clusters of decorative ribs made from cut stone.
A word of warning, events are held at the college so access is sometimes limited but you can easily check on the events calendar which can be found on the college website. http://www.kings.cam.ac.uk/
If you fancy a different kind of spiritual experience you can visit the Cambridge Gin Laboratory. Again, in the centre of Cambridge and a short walk from King’s College, you can make an impromptu visit to the laboratory. It is owned by the Cambridge Distillery and fondly referred to as the Gin Lab. Located on Green Street, it opened in September 2017. It is open from 10am to 6pm Monday to Thursday and until 7pm on a Friday and Saturday, also open on Sunday between 11am and 5pm.
If you feel like getting serious about your gin knowledge, you can book in advance into The Classroom for your gin education which includes how to taste gin and the history of gin production. You can though go and taste gin without an appointment if there are less than 4 people in your group. If you are more than 4 or want to go at the weekend, they advise booking. You can also just go into the shop and blend your own gin with no appointment if you’d like to! They have events here too, worth having a look at before your trip, such as a Gin Master class and a Molecular Cocktail Evening. It makes a rainy day a bit more attractive. Obviously strictly for over 18s.
If you require something for all the family, The Cambridge Science Centre, at Clifton Road, a short walk from Cambridge railway station, could be for you. We live in a world where technology and our environment is changing rapidly and we are being told we need children to get involved with Science, Technology, Engineering and Maths (STEM) as the UK is falling behind in the number of children following a science career. There are many jobs for people with STEM skills but the notion that science and maths are for a certain ‘type’ of person and that jobs in this area are not as fun and rewarding as in other careers may put children off.
The vision of the Cambridge Science centre is for children from all backgrounds to be able to experience hands-on ADVENTURES in STEM education. The emphasis is on hands-on experimenting encouraged by the excellent friendly and approachable staff. It is open from 3pm until 530 pm Tuesday to Friday, and 1030am until 5pm on Saturday and Sunday. Children cost £3 and Adults £4.50.
One of the jewels in Cambridge’s ‘indoor crown’ is the Fitzwilliam Museum and it’s also a place to visit if the rain looks like it is set in for a few hours. It is located in Trumpington Street so, like King’s College and the Gin Laboratory, it is very central.
It has 23 collections including silver and jewellery, Islamic Art, Ceramics, Glass and Enamels, Illuminated Manuscripts. It is closed on Sundays and Mondays and has free entry just asking for a visitors’ donation. You will need to leave bulky belongings in a locker so don’t go shopping first! There is a café too.
The Fitzwilliam has a comprehensive website which can tell you about all of the permanent exhibitions and the temporary exhibitions. Looking at, if only briefly, is not a bad idea just to get a feel for what is there and to help plan your time at the museum https://www.fitzmuseum.cam.ac.uk/collections
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But, If the weather gets all too much, a 20-minute car journey to the south of Cambridge is the Imperial War Museum at Duxford. It has permanent and temporary exhibitions. The permanent exhibitions – ‘Airspace’, ‘American Air Museum in Britain’ and ‘Battle of Britain’- are vast and have the wow factor. There are many aeroplanes you can get up close to including the Lancaster, Spitfire, Concorde and a Vulcan. The American Air Museum in Britain explores the story of the relationship between the US and UK during the war and the Battle of Britain exhibition describes how Britain’s air defences developed during the First World War through to the Cold War.
The airfield is still in use today and runs events through the summer including the Duxford Air Show. RAF Duxford was pivotal in the Battle of Britain and the first Spitfires flew from the airfield.
It is located just off the M11 and well signposted so very easy to get to with ample car parking and there is a bus which goes from close to Cambridge Station directly to the Imperial War Museum. Admission at £18 for an adult feels quite high but there is so much to see, it really is value for money. There are various concessions and family tickets and you can book online.