Punting is one of the favorite pastimes of the two prestigious English universities of Cambridge and Oxford. Those two small university cities boast some of England's most stunning architecture outside of London. While visiting be sure to soak in the English atmosphere and university vibe and enjoy a go at punting.
A punt is a flat-bottomed boat with a square-cut bow. They are designed for small rivers and shallow water (like is found in the parks around Oxford and Cambridge Universities). While they may look similar, they are not to be confused with a gondola (like the boats used in Venice - gondolas are propelled by an oar instead of a pole). If one enjoys punting, then consider taking it up a notch and hire a narrowboat and explore England's stunning riverways and canals.
Punting Locations In Oxford
One of the favorite places for punting in Oxford is in the vicinity of Magdalen Bridge. Away from this iconic bridge, punting in Oxford is a rather rural and quiet experience. Most of the punting at Oxford is done on the River Cherwell (that flow's through Oxford's green belt).
Top Punting Locations At Oxford:
- Magdalen Bridge: On The Cherwell River (Tributary to The Thames)
- River Thames Below Folly Bridge: There is Competition There From Rowers and Motorboats
- River Thames Segment "The Isis": Shallow And Gravelly And Great For Punting
The nasty little secret of the River Cherwell is that it is both deep and muddy. The muddy bottom can suck in the pole and get it stuck at times.
One can also punt on the River Thames below Folly Bridge. But an issue with this stretch is that there are motorboats and rowing competitions. Perhaps the best place for punting is one the section of the Thames called "The Isis". This section of the Thames has the advantage of being both shallow and gravelly with stunning English countryside scenery. There are so pubs along the route (like the Trout Inn).
Punts were not designed for University students looking for some R&R. Instead, they were originally built as cargo boats (and for fowling and fishing).
How one punts has a different tradition in the rival universities of Cambridge and Oxford. At Cambridge, the tradition is to punt from the till (locally in Cambridge called the "deck") whereas at Oxford they punt from inside the boat. The iconic universities and their traditions and tightly bound up in English snobbery that can be fun to explore.
Magdalen Bridge Boathouse - Punt Hiring
The Magdalen Bridge Boathouse is one of the main places to rent traditionally crafted punts and rowing boats in Oxford. They are located underneath Magdalen College Tower. Guests have the option of just hiring a punt or hiring a punt and a chauffeur.
Their punts take up to 5 people - making it a great activity for groups to enjoy together. They are closed in the depth of winter (December and January) but are otherwise open every day of the year. The punts should be returned by 9.00 pm or 1 hour before sunset. The prices vary from weekdays to weekends.
One does not need to reserve a punt in advance, but if one is planning to come on a busy weekend it is advisable to enjoy a punt.
- Closed: December and January
- Times: 9.30 am – 9.00 pm (or 1 hour before sunset)
Prices For Punt Hire:
- Weekdays: £25 ($32) per hour
- Weekends: £30 ($38) per hour (Also Public Holidays)
Magdalen Bridge Boathouse - Chauffeured Option
If one chooses their chauffeured option, then one can also ask them to supply a pre-ordered picnic hamper. With this option, one can relax in style with a highly experienced trained punter (who can take up to four passengers).
The cost for a chauffeured punt ride is £35 per 30 minutes during the week. During the weekends and public holidays, it's £40 per 30 minutes.
Prices For Chauffeured Punt Tour:
- Weekdays: £35 ($44) per 30 Minutes
- Weekends: £40 ($51) per 30 Minutes (Also Public Holidays)
Relax as one is chauffeured gently past Oxford’s famous Botanic Gardens, past Magdalen College School fields, through Christ Church Meadows, and more. See the places where Lewis Carroll taught his students and wrote his novel Alice Through the Looking Glass and Alice in Wonderland.