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Cambridgeshire is second only to inner London for the biggest gay, lesbian or bisexual population in the UK according to the latest figures published by The Office of National Statistics. Cambridgeshire's population was 1.8 per cent, beating other popular rural spots like Devon at 1.3 per cent and East Sussex with 1.1 per cent. Looking around though you can see no visible signs of queer life: no gay bars or cafes, and only one regular club night.

We sent OutUK’s own little fresher Adrian Gillan to strip ‘em down for a bit of a boy-bender binge and examine if Cambridge really does make 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 - it's classy and stimulating.
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, Steven Fry 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 Cam-spanning Venetian-style Bridge of Sighs.

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.

Pride

The highlight of the gay and lesbian year in the university city of Cambridge is the Pink Festival, which takes place each August and welcomes all members of the general public, being completely free of charge to enter. This independent event is organized by a team of dedicated volunteers and is entirely not-for-profit. Whilst it hasn't run for 2 years, they hope to be back in 2022.

The Pink Festival is the biggest event of its kind in the East of England and is generally based around Cherry Hinton Hall, within the southeasterly suburbs of Cambridge. Attractions include concerts, cabaret acts, sporting events, street theatre and dance, as well as the chance to party well into the night.

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.

Market Square (c) visitcambridge.org
The city comes alive on Fridays and Saturdays, drawing university students and young locals, but there are events on other days of the week as well.

The Junction is an arts centre with a wide range of events and used to the home of the Dot Cotton Club, which ran for more than 20 years as a regular event. Sadly Covid did for it and they haven't been able to stage an event since. The biggest LGBTQ+ event in Cambridge is now the Tuesday night Glitterbomb Cambridge at a nightclub called Vinyl. It a modern club with boutique styling and a large dance floor, plus VIP booths and a cocktail bar found on Sydney Street.

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 you can 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. 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 Great Northern Trains.

THE LITTLE BLACK BOOK

Glitterbomb Cambridge (Vinyl, 22 Sidney St; T: 01223 324600; Website)
Hotel du Vin & Bistro Cambridge (15-19 Trumpington Street; T: 01223 227 330; hotelduvin.com)
The Junction (Clifton Road; Website)
The Pink Festival (Website)
Vinyl (22 Sidney St; T: 01223 324600; Website)

Revised October 2021.

 

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