Cambridge: General Tours

For general Guided Tours of Cambridge, The Tourist Information Centre offers flexible, daily tours for individuals and groups.

Sophie Smiley: Lead tour guide for ink & stones, TourCambridge
Sophie: one of our tour guides
Tours of Literary Cambridge: Cambridge college
George: My father says there is only one perfect view, and that's the view of the sky over our heads. Cecil: I expect your father has been reading Dante. E.M.Forster

Many rooms, many views. Only Connect

Cambridge Literary tours: references to Dougles Adams
When you are put into the Vortex you are given just one momentary glimpse of the entire unimaginable infinity of creation, and somewhere in it a tiny little mark, a microscopic dot on a microscopic dot, which says, You are here.... Only Zaphod Beeblebrox survived the Vortex unscathed. When it showed him the You Are Here marker, Zaphod correctly interpreted the Vortex as simply telling him that he was the most important being in the universe. This is due to the fact that he entered the Vortex in an artificial universe, which had been specially created for his benefit.

Do fans need daffodils - or towels for travelling far?

Cambridge Literary Tour: college cloisters
In Xanadu did Kubla Khan A stately pleasure-dome decree : Where Alph, the sacred river, ran Through caverns measureless to man Down to a sunless sea. So twice five miles of fertile ground With walls and towers were girdled round : And there were gardens bright with sinuous rills, Where blossomed many an incense-bearing tree ; And here were forests ancient as the hills, Enfolding sunny spots of greenery.

Who may have swapped the cloisters for a Stately Pleasure Dome?

Cambridge literary tours: Hugh Lawrie and Stephen Fry
An original idea. That can't be too hard. The library must be full of them

Use your QI to decide if the writer of The Liar is a friend of Hugh Laurie?

Cambridge literary tour: is case histories
She should have done science, not spent all her time with her head in novels. Novels gave you a completely false idea about life, they told lies and they implied there were endings when in reality there were no endings, everything just went on and on and on.

Is any place safe when you open case histories?

Cambridge arts theatre closed to the Tourist Office
Education: the inculcation of the incomprehensible into the indifferent by the incompetent.

Which of Virginia's group set this up?

Fitzgerald roomed here: Cambridge LIterary Tours
If you can prove to me that one miracle took place, I will believe he is a just God who damned us all because a woman ate an apple.

This moving finger writ, and moved on

English martyr: Ridely. Walking with the Faithful
Be of good comfort, and play the man, Master Ridley; we shall this day light such a candle, by God's grace, in England, as I trust shall never be put out

Stood in uncommon need of prayer when martyred at The Other Place

If bricks or poetry make your heart skip
Why not check out www.shape-east.org.uk wwww.pagetoperformance.org

If bricks or poetry make your heart skip....

Cambridge City Coat of Arms
Cambridge used to be the farthest navigable part of the River Granta, now called the Cam. Traditionally, Cambridge's wealth derived from the river-borne traffic from the coast. Note the bridge looks like a castle, and might refer to Cambridge Castle

What are the stories behind the pictures on the badge?

Cambridge Literary Tours: the triumph of man
Cambridge Literary Tours: the triumph of man

Guided tours around literary Cambridge

Our guided tours let you discover how Cambridge influenced & inspired the world's great authors & poets. Many are still living, all are widely read.

Our professionally-guided tours of Literary Cambridge feed memory and imagination. We'll  take you where writers crafted, experimented or proclaimed their works. Come with us to monuments and locations in Central Cambridge – as well as a few secret spots…  We aim to visit at least one college site.

Choose from the following guided tours:

  • Cambridge Writers, past and present:  highlights the ‘famous names’ engaged by this historic city.
    • Come with us around the environs associated with writers from Town and Gown;
    • One college site is usually included;
    • 2 hours.
  • ‘Who Wrote Here?’ A tour for English-speaking and International students. Most English Literature courses include Cambridge writers.  We:-
    • Identify local features significant to some great novelists, poets, playwrights, and diarists;
    • Led, where possible, with trained and experienced English or TEFL teachers;
    • 1 ½ - 2 hours.
  • Women Writers of Cambridge:Taking in locations known to Virginia Woolf, Sylvia Plath, Zadie Smith, PD James and Rebecca Stott, and their adepts across the genres: .
    • Touch on their influences;
    • and reactions!
    • 2 hours.
  • Women in Cambridge: Hear the surprising, shocking, and sometimes funny, story of how women made their mark on the University of Cambridge.
    • From the medieval founders to today's senior academics, college heads, and influential alumnae;
    • 2 hours
  • Book Groups off the Sofa: An informed stroll through scenes associated with:
    • Scenarios in novels;
    • spots of drama;
    • shadows of poems…;
    • Shades and vibrations from Classic and Contemporary writings;
    •  2 hours.
  • Walking with the Faithful: Cambridge contains so many writers and thinkers who were, or are, followers of the major world faiths.
    • Walk where ‘prayer has been valid’ and controversy explored by scholarship, spirituality and action;
    • Salute many Honest Doubters and Social Reformers;
    • 2 hours.

It's best to wear comfortable shoes and dress suitably for Cambridge weather!

At the end of your tour we'll happily suggest suitable cafes, bars and restaurants to continue your discussions!
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About us

Cambridge Literary Tours are led by:

  • Members or Associates of the Institute of Tourist Guiding, VisitBritain's 'gold standard' for tour-guiding;
  • Professionals or educators experienced in the world of writing and publishing;
  • enthusiasts!

Sophie Smiley, Storyteller and Poet, co-ordinates this initiative.

Our guides

We're all trained by trained and approved by the Institute of Tourist Guides. What's more,

  • We have professional trainings relating to the world of literature.
  • Teachers, editors, and academics – many stalwarts of Book Groups - can be called on.

Telephone: +44 (0)1223 322 998 [Office hours only – or Voicemail.]

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Cambridge Writers, Past and Present [2hours]

This guided tour highlights the ‘famous names’ engaged by this historic city. Come with us around the environs associated with writers from Town and Gown. We usually like to include one college site as well. We'll:-

  • Admire key figures in the history of English Literature in same breath as eminent contemporary writers.
  • Trace the walkways where novelists, playwrights, poets and essayist lived, ambled or scurried.
  • Honour eminent, original Cambridge writers. There are so many to mention, but we'll include:
    • Adams,
    • Byron,
    • Chaucer,
    • Darwin,
    • Empson,
    • Fletcher,
    • Gray,
    • all the way to Ali or Zadie Smith.
  • Discuss visitors such as Dickens and Virginia Woolf ;
  • Picture imaginary students such as Sherlock Holmes;
  • As we look at buildings associated with them and their circle.

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‘Who Wrote Here?’ [1 ½ – 2hrs, or as requested]

A guided tour for English-speaking and International students. Syllabuses and courses usually include writers from Cambridge. We'll show you local features which should have interested:

  • Novelists such as EM Forster and Thomas Hardy;
  • Poets e.g. TS Eliot and Ted Hughes;
  • Playwrights for instance Marlowe and Peter Shaeffer;
  • Diarists like Pepys.

What's more, we'll:

  • Drop some ‘names’ from Film and Television;
  • Mention our favourite author, the son of a former Archbishop of Canterbury, as we like Granchester;
  • Check out the real locations for a few movies;
  • Open new possibilities for reading as we touch on genres such as:
    • Science Fiction;
    • Comedy; and
    • Social Comment.
  • All the way to My Beautiful Laundrette…

Where possible, our tours will be led by trained and experienced teachers of English or TEFL.

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Women Writers of Cambridge. [2hours]

Walk through lanes and locations known by world-class and gentler-flowering female writers.

  • See how Cambridge influenced prize-winning women writers:
    • AS Byatt,
    • Joanne Harris,
    • Syliva Plath,
    • Zadie Smith,
    • Rebecca Stott;
  • Pass colleges and churches known to stellar visitors such as:
    • Virginia Woolf,
    • Dorothy L Sayers,
    • Kate Atkinson;
  • See the sites that may have inspired Oscar-winning screenwriters;
  • Allow time to sense the atmosphere described by a galaxy of female crime-writers;
  • Touch on the humour depicted by Darwin's grand-daughter, Gwen Raverat;
  • Savour some insights of women journalists...

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Women in Cambridge

Walking guided tours with Cambridge Green Badge Guides:

  • Tour duration 2 hrs;
  • Maximum group size 20

Hear the surprising, shocking, and sometimes funny, story of how women made their mark on the University of Cambridge.

We'll start from the medieval founders and finish with today’s senior academics, heads of colleges, and influential alumnae.

Denied an education at the university for the first 650 years of its existence, women, backed by male supporters, faced extraordinary challenges to gain access and equality.

Early enthusiasm for change put Cambridge in the vanguard of Victorian educational reform. With their fighting spirit, alumnae of the first womens’ colleges made an indelible mark on the city and country, through pioneering civic and social activism.

But the promising start for women turned into resistance and violent protest. The university didn't award women full degrees until 1948, the last in Britain to do so.

So, who did what, along a long and rocky road? Afterall, today Cambridge women take for granted their equal rights to be learning, teaching and leading.

Why did it take so long?

This tour will change the way you see Cambridge. We'll shine a light on some remarkable characters, key events and significant places.

This tour tells a gripping, illuminating tale that will run & run. To organise your tour, please contact Ruth Meyer:

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Book Groups off the Sofa - 2 hours

An informed stroll through the parts of Cambridge associated with:

  • scenarios in novels;
  • spots of drama;
  • shadows of poems…

Cambridge has inspired so much:

  • See where Joanne Harris or Allison Pearson must have bicycled with their books;
  • Linger on a bridge where Susan Hill – or AS Byatt - might have pondered a plot;
  • Terrified by Thrillers? -
    • PD James,
    • Suzanna Gregory,
    • Jill Paton Walsh;
  • Stand beneath an archway featured in Jane Gardam's writings ;
  • Gaze at the gardens germane to Patricia Fara’s ‘Sex, Botany and Empire’;
  • Admire the Bloomsbury set.

At the end of the tour, we'll direct you for a tea or tipple, as you wish!

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Walking with the Faithful [2 hours]

Cambridge contains so many writers and thinkers who were, or are, followers of the major world faiths. Come with us, and also salute many honest doubters! Walk where 'prayer has been valid' and controversy explored by scholarship, spirituality and action. And perhaps consider some Social Reformers along the way.

  • Scholars, Reformers and Martyrs: thinking about the brilliant brains and stout hearts in many faiths;
  • The Spiritual and the Poetic: in this powerhouse of poetic reflection;
  • Whispers and Shouts: novelists old and new. Characters searching for acceptance in the faiths they follow;
  • Hopers and Doubters: breathe in the atmosphere of:
    • Erasmus,
    • Darwin,
    • Tennyson,
    • Wordsworth,
    • Wittgenstein,
    • Williams,
    • Elliot,
    • Dawkins,
    • Hawking,
    • Smiley.
  • Embracing Faiths: from The Enlightenment to TS Eliot;
  • Sacred Spaces and Silicon Fen;
  • A jug of wine and thou - Life and Love!

The sites we visit will depend on availability and time of day.

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90 minute Guided Tours:

all our tours last an hour and a half:

  • up to 2 people: £45;
  • 3 to 5 people: £20 per person;
  • 6 to 9 people: £18 per person;
  • 10+ people: By arrangement.

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Contact us

Why not contact Sophie to book your guided tour of literary Cambridge. Please call during normal office hours.

Please note, that mobile phone reception is not great in some parts of Cambridge, so your call might not reach Sophie.

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Thrifty Bookworms

You may like to contribute or buy at:

  • Books for Amnesty: 46 Mill Road Cambridge CB1 2AS; Tel: 01223 362 496 Bookshop website
  • Oxfam Bookshop: 28 Sidney Street, Cambridge, CB2 3HW; 01223 313373, Email shop
  • Emmaus Shop: Green End, Landbeach, Cambridge, CB25 9FD, Tel: 01223 863657 Just off the A10, about five miles north of Cambridge. Big for books! Emmaus Website
Ink & Stones: Tours of Literary Cambridge
Tripadvisor Traveller Rating
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Tripadvisor Ranking
#55 of 104 Tours in Cambridge
Recent Traveller Reviews
  • “Not-to-be-missed Women Writers of Cambridge tour!”
  • “A fascinating Literary tour”
  • “Ultimate Cambridge tour, so immersive”
  • “Absolutely fascinating”
  • “Fabulous, personalised walking tour”
Sophie Smiley: Lead tour guide for ink & stones, TourCambridge
Sophie: one of our tour guides
Tours of Literary Cambridge: Kings College
Girton, Newnham, Hughes, New Hall, Lucy Cavendish

"Why did people say 'I don't know how she does it' in the Seventeenth and then the Twenty-First Century?'

Porters at Cambridge University college.
Quality, he had called it, this assurance that those old men had. Quality

Sharpe,Tom; Sharp, Becky?

Eagle pub Cambridge: what the open window? Discovery of DNA structure announced here as well.
i'll put a girdle around the earth in 40 minutes.

Which  great English playwright encouraged his actors to perform at inns  like this one?

Was the playwright Marlowe an Elizabethan spy?
Was this the face that launch'd a thousand ships, and burnt the topless towers of Ilium?

Which Elizabethan playwright studied here and may have been a spy?

Dickens gave public readings here in Cambridge
It was the best of times, it was the worst of times.

Which major Victorian novelist gave public readings at this venue, drawing crowds as large as any rock concert which now take place here?

Cambridge Literary Tours: reference to Joanna Bell
We met on my first day at Addenbrooke’s. He said it was love at first sight. Love amidst the body parts.

Where did Joanna Bell say St Alupent’s is?

St. Johns Avenue: Cambridge Literary Tours
In this, the first Cambridge in the mirror of my mind, the sun is always shining, and there are always ladies and gentlemen sitting in the gardens under the trees, much occupied with each other. It was quite a different Cambridge which I saw later on, when I looked at it with my own eyes.

"Gwen will be a mathematician" ..... but was she?

Cambridge Kings Parade: Shades of Omar Kayyam
A Book of Verses underneath the Bough, A Jug of Wine, a Loaf of Bread--and Thou Beside me singing in the Wilderness-- Oh, Wilderness were Paradise enow!

Ghosts of Omar Kayyam or Mary Lamb here?

Browse Cambridge Bookshops
Breeze Bookshop

...and browse Cambridge's bookshops

Memorial to jews who were deported then expelled
Due to Christian religious restrictions on moneylending Jews had an essential place in the medieval economy. As a major trading centre, Cambridge had a sizeable Jewish population - before their expulsion from Cambridge in 1275. Queen Eleanor, widow of Henry III, demanded that all Jews be expelled from land she owned, which included Cambridge, so in 1275 after various pogroms (including a particularly violent one in 1266) they were deported to Huntingdon before being expelled from England altogether in 1291.

Monument to former All Saints Church is on the site of a former Jewish Quarter in Cambridge

Cambridge: General Tours

For general Guided Tours of Cambridge, The Tourist Information Centre offers flexible, daily tours for individuals and groups.