Cambridge – land of chocolate-box, academia-steeped
buildings, characterful medieval lanes and flower-strewn riverside
gardens. Whether or not you’ve visited before, you’re sure to have
heard of the place’s quirky rituals and free-wheeling students.
But, while we’re not suggesting you dismiss the university’s
history, nor its impressive alumni – Sir David Attenborough and
Dame Emma Thompson, we’re looking at you – we think it’s this
destination’s thriving art scene and hip new hangouts you’re going
to be more excited about.
Step forward, the new-and-improved University Arms Hotel – aka
Cambridge’s oldest and best-loved bolthole. Overlooking the famous
Parker’s Piece green, with its main entrance located on buzzy
Regent Street, the hotel underwent a major £80million refurb in
2018, led by the dynamic duo that is architect John Simpson and
designer Martin Brudnizki. Today, the former coaching inn is barely
recognisable. From its three handsome forest-green front doors to
carpets patterned with university ties, the property effortlessly
fuses a contemporary style with a splash of English eccentricity, making for a snug and stylish
place to bed down.
There’s plenty to be said for the hotel’s grand features, but
the real beauty here is to be found in the small details. Take the
black-and-white portrait of Winston Churchill, founder of Churchill
College, delicately hung in the olive-hued entry hall. Or the fact
that all of its 192 bedrooms are named after legendary Cambridge
Choose from four room types: cosy, classic, superior and suites.
Across all categories you can expect to find walls painted in
arresting shades of Cambridge blue and silhouette-hugging beds
framed by bookshelves stocked with the classics. Bathrooms take
inspiration from the Victorian era, with monochromatic chequered
flooring, huge claw-foot bathtubs and gold taps – be sure to help
yourself to a scoop of the soothing scrub.
What’s for breakfast?
The real question is, what isn’t for breakfast? In-house
restaurant Parker’s Tavern adopts a buffet-style approach, making
it near impossible to avoid restacking your plate at least four
times. We’re talking fresh fruit platters, locally sourced honeys
and jams and baskets overflowing with toaster-ready bread. Cheat
day? Even better. There are plenty of fresh pastries to choose
from, spanning flaky croissants to sticky cinnamon swirls and
chocolate-filled buns. If you prefer to start your day with
something a little lighter, grab a berry-packed smoothie from one
of the handy dispensers. Vegan? The sweet potato waffles served
with apricots are for you.
How about lunch and dinner?
Head chef Tristan Welch really delivers the goods.
Daytime reservations are a light, airy and relaxed affair, then,
come sunset, the restaurant is made intimate and cosy with the
addition of mood lighting and candles on tables. Don’t even think
about leaving without trying the famous spaghetti bolognese.
Is there a bar?
Only the best. Cocktail connoisseurs will delight in watching
the dynamic mixologists whip up a flavoursome concoction.
The in-house gym is kitted out with all the essentials, allowing
fitness bunnies to cram in their planks and pikes. Want to go the
extra mile? Take one of the hotel’s blue bicycles out for a spin.
After touring the city, finish with a pit stop at the famous
cafe, where it would be rude not to fill your basket with a
mountain of the award-winning chelsea buns.
How about their green credentials?
The conversation regarding food waste in the hospitality
industry is a complex one. University Arms is keen to challenge the
old order. In 2019, it launched the successful Rubbish
Cooks initiative, an incredible once-a-month event comprising a
three-course meal made from only food that is considered waste. For
just £20 a head, £5 of which is donated to Jimmy’s Night Shelter,
guests can dine out for a good cause.
What about accessibility?
There are 10 spacious adapted rooms available. Staff are
incredibly attentive and happy to accommodate each individual
Things I should know
You asked, they delivered. This month, the hotel has welcomed
two tranquil treatment rooms in partnership with the fabulous
Aromatherapy Associates. Drawing on Swedish and neuromuscular
techniques, therapies focus on sleep concerns, stress and anxiety,
immune support and combating the signs of ageing.
Within a short walk I can find…
Take the 10-minute stroll to the River Cam. There, you’ll find a
handful of clued-up locals offering punting tours. We’d recommend
Rutherford’s, both for their history-packed spiel and
the bubbles on tap.
Doubles cost from £249. Discover more at universityarms.com