Nothing says Oxbridge more than the image of cruising down the river in a punt. It’s not surprising that punting in Oxford has been a favourite past time since before the 1880s. Without doubt, it’s one of the most relaxing ways to spend an afternoon in Oxford. The experience is enhanced greatly with the addition of a small picnic, containing a punnet of Strawberries and a cheeky bottle of bubbly!
For the unwary however, punting in Oxford can be a bit of a debacle. The Trill Mill Stream was dredged in 1930 and a Victorian punt with three skeletons on board! If this has put you off the idea of taking a punt around Oxford, then don’t worry. We at Footprints Tours have created this handy little article will give you everything you need to know about punting so that you can avoid ending up like these unfortunate tourists!
First, The Basics
Punting in Oxford differs greatly to punting in Cambridge. Firstly, in Cambridge, most punters stand on the till (the raised platform) and punt with the open end forward, while in Oxford we stand inside the boat and punt with the till forward. Students at Oxford and Cambridge frequently believe that theirs is the only correct style, to the extent that the till end is often known as the “Cambridge End”, and the other as the “Oxford End”.
Once you have established where your loyalties lie (Obviously with Oxford), you then need to get your head around the pole. One uses the pole to push off the bed of the river and propel yourself forward. Steering the punt is done by extending the pole and using it like a rudder, like you would on any other boat. If thats all sounding a bit too descriptive, the Cherwell Boathouse have provided a handy video guide of how to punt correctly.
With all this info firmly stored in your head, you’re probably feeling pretty confident that you can handle punting in Oxford. In which case, the next question is where do you go to get a punt?
Where To Hire A Punt
Without a doubt, the easiest place to hire a punt from is by Magdalen College Bridge. Punts can be rented from the Magdalen Bridge Boathouse. It costs £22 per hour during the week and £24 per hour on weekends. The route is really pleasant, taking you around the back of St. Hilda’s College (Former college of PM Teresa May) and around Christ Church meadows. Christ Church is also covered on the Footprints Free Walking Tour. The route is fairly relaxed and as the current flows south, you should be able to glide with relative ease around this route. If you’re feeling adventurous however, you can head north along the grounds of Magdalen College and into the countryside.
Another option is to head to the Cherwell Boathouse, which is in the North of the city. You’ll probably need a taxi to get there. The Boathouse is on a much wider, more secluded part of the river Cherwell. You can also rent a punt for the whole day if you fancy a real excursion! Trust us, there is a lot to explore around here. If you’re in Oxford for a while, pack a picnic and get punting! If you fancy punting in Oxford with style, the Cherwell Boathouse also boasts a pretty good restaurant with a sterling wine list.
It costs £16 per hour during the week and £18 per hour at weekends to rent a punt from the Cherwell Boathouse. It’s £80 for the day during the week and £90 on weekends.
And Finally For The Brave…
If you’re the kind of person who wants a challenge, head to Folly Bridge to the south of the city. From here you can punt along the Thames in any direction. This gives you the opportunity to head even further out of the city. One popular route is to relive the journey of Lewis Carol and punt up to Port Meadow. It’s here that he told Alice Liddel the story of Alice in Wonderland on the 4th July 1862. A word of warning, this route is only for the experienced or the daring! The Thames is often busy, with power boats and torpids traveling up and down the river. Whilst not relaxing it is good fun if you fancy a small amount of danger! Salter’s Steamers rent punts for £20 per hour.
If you fancy taking it easy, you can delegate the hard work of punting to our Footprints Tour guides. Our guides are used to providing Chauffeured punts of Oxford and will fill you in on the history, whilst you travel in style.