Walks index

Castle Hill


The most popular parts of Cambridge are by the river, or in the centre. Yet the road leading to Castle Hill has many interesting buildings. In fact, this area was the original town of Cambridge, as it was drier, and the hill provided a good look-out point. The river banks were marshy until they were drained.

This walk starts at the top of Castle Hill, and travels down until it reaches more central areas of Cambridge. It is a linear route. I suggest that you walk briskly to the top, then come back down the hill, looking at things. You could do the route in the opposite direction, of course, and there are some pubs at the top, if you want a pause for refreshment before returning!

There is a scale at the top of the map. A hundred metres is similar to a hundred yards, so you can see that all of this is quite close together. Click on the red on the map, or on the links, for descriptions and pictures.

Top of hill Crossroads Magdalene Street
Shire Hall
Castle Mound
Cottages (top of hill)
Cottages (further downhill)
St Giles
St Peter
Kettles Yard
Turnpike notice
Museum of Cambridge
Layers of History
Houses on Magdalene Street
Bronze Flower Path
Wooden carvings
The Pickerel
Magdalene College
Magdalene bridge
Shire Hall Castle Mound Cottages (further downhill) Cottages (top of hill) St Giles St Peter Kettles Yard Turnpike notice Museum of Cambridge Layers of History Houses on Magdalene Street Wooden carvings Magdalene College The Pickerel Views from Magdalene bridge

Map of Castle Hill, Cambridge

Click on the photos for a bigger version.

Top of Hill

Climb up Castle Street until you get to Shire Hall on the right. This is just about at the top of the hill.

Shire Hall

Castle Mound

Walk through the carpark, and you will see Castle Mound on your right. This is all that is left of the Norman Castle in cambridge. Click here for more about it.

Views from the top of Castle Mound:

View from top of Castle Mound View from top of Castle Mound View from top of Castle Mound

On the left, you can see Jesus Green and the tower of the The Museum of Technology in the distance. On the right, Kings College Chapel just appears over the roof of St Giles church. If you look very carefully at the middle picture (remember, you can get a bigger version by clicking on it), you can just see the very top of the Round Church.

Notice by Castle Mound giving original plan of castle

Notice giving original plan of Cambridge Castle

Gargoyle spout near Castle Mound

If you look around by Castle Mound, you may find a stone or two from the original castle. Here is a gargoyle spout.


Walk back to the road, and cross it. There is a range of cottages which are C18 or earlier, although they have had modern alterations. They are Grade II listed.

Cottages at top of Castle Hill

Cottages further down Castle Hill

Walk downhill. On the same side of the road, further down, there is another set of C18 Grade II listed cottages, some set back from the road. They are called Bell's Court.

These cottages have mansard roofs. These roofs have two pitches, with the middle of the roof having a flat pitch, and the sides a very steep pitch. This gives them a Dutch look. There was a strong Dutch influence in the Fens, as the Dutch were involved in helping to drain the land for agricultural use.

Near crossroads with Northampton Street

As you go down the hill, you will approach a busy crossroads. There is quite a bit to see before you get there.

There are two churches either side of Castle Street. St Giles is a great barn of a Victorian church, on the left, or east of Castle Street. St Peter is a small, attractive church on the right, or west. It dates back to Norman times. Unfortunately, these churches are often shut, but you may be lucky and find them open. Click here for more information about them.


St Giles

St Giles

St Peter

St Peter

If you are not on the St Peter side of the road, then cross over to get there. (Careful - the road is busy near the junction!) Below St Peter, there is an alleyway. The way in to St Peters is off this alleyway, and it is worth having a look at the outside of the church even if you can't get in. The doorway is Norman, and there are Roman roof tiles among the stonework.

St Peter St Peter

Carry on up the alleyway for Kettles Yard. This is a museum of modern art. Click here for more details. You can carry on walking to the end of the alleyway and look back, for the best view of the buildings (see right). If you are not going to Kettles Yard, then you need to walk back along the alleyway to Castle Street.

Kettles Yard Kettles Yard


Once back on Castle Street, look up to see this notice about an old turnpike road.

Notice of turnpike road

Museum of Cambridge

There is yet another museum before you reach the crossroads. This is right on the corner, the Museum of Cambridge, formerly known as the Folk Museum. Click here for more details.


You are now at the crossroads of Castle Street, Northampton Street, Chesterton Road and Magdalene Street. (Magdalene is pronounced "Maudlin", by the way). This is a very busy junction, and I'm afraid that you need to cross both roads to get to the opposite corner! Here there is rather a strange bronze column. Its full name seems to be "Bronze engraved column carving of archaeological layers found on site" but I've called it Layers of History. A plaque on the wall nearby gives more details. Click on the picture for a larger version which you can read. There is a reference to a "Bronze Flower Path" which we will meet later.

Layers of History, on Castle Street Layers of History, on Castle Street

Magdalene Street

Walk down Magdalene Street. One side of this road has attractive houses, some of which date back to the 16th century. The best views are from the other side of the road, but there are also interesting shops here, which you may like to window browse, or even shop from, so you may have to cross the road several times. Beware buses!

House on Magdalene Street Houses on Magdalene Street Houses on Magdalene Street

One of the houses has wood carvings supporting the beams across the building.

Carving in Magdalene Street Carving in Magdalene Street
Carving in Magdalene Street Carving in Magdalene Street

While you are on the shops side of the road, look down, and you will see tiny flowers set into the pavement. This is the Bronze Flower Path that the Layers of History plaque was talking about. I have not marked these on the map, as they are too small, and there are too many of them.

Bronze Flower Path Bronze Flower Path

The Pikerel

The Pickerel pub, just before the bridge.

Opposite the shops is Magdalene College, founded in 1428, although these buildings are later.

Magdalene College

Magdalene bridge is the end of this walk. This is the 'bridge' of the name Cambridge, as Magdalene Road and Castle Street is a very old road indeed, dating back to Roman times, and so there has been a bridge round here for a long time. This particular bridge was built in 1823, and rebuilt in the same style in 1988.

View from Magdalene bridge upstream, towards St Johns college.

View from Magdalene bridge

View from Magdalene bridge downstream, towards Quayside.

View from Magdalene bridge

If you feel like continuing, you can carry on along this street (now called Bridge Street) on the third river walk. This will take you towards the city centre, where you can see some of the famous buildings of Cambridge. Or you can turn left through Quayside to walk along the river on the second river walk. This is a pleasant walk through some of the green areas of Cambridge.


Finally, I have tried to verify the facts above as much as I could, but I may have made mistakes. If you spot any or want to correct me, please email jo.edkins.walks@gwydir.demon.co.uk