89km (55 miles) N of London; 129km (80 miles) NE of Oxford
The university town of Cambridge is a collage of images: the Bridge of Sighs; spires and turrets; drooping willows; dusty secondhand bookshops; carol singing on Christmas Eve in King's College Chapel; dancing until sunrise at the May balls; Elizabethan madrigals; narrow lanes upon which Darwin, Newton, and Cromwell once walked; the "Backs" where the college lawns sweep down to the River Cam; tattered black robes of hurrying upperclassmen flying in the wind.
Along with Oxford, Cambridge is one of Britain's ancient seats of learning. In many ways, their stories are similar, particularly the age-old conflict between town and gown. Cambridge can name-drop with the best of them, citing alumni such as Isaac Newton, John Milton, and Virginia Woolf. Cambridge continues to graduate many famous scientists such as physicist Stephen Hawking, author of A Brief History of Time.
In the 1990s, Cambridge became known as a high-tech outpost, or "a silicon fen," if you will. High-tech ventures continue to base themselves here to produce new software -- start-up companies produce £2 billion a year in revenues. Even Bill Gates, in 1997, financed an £80-million research center here, claiming that Cambridge was becoming "a world center of advanced technology."