Two students of pool-owning colleges review each of Cambridge's watery receptaclesEmily Lawson-Todd for Varsity

As things heat up, both weather and revision-wise, students are searching for a place to cool off. For those of you who still think the River Cam is the only place to paddle in Cambridge, think again; we’ve given the lowdown on college pools, and a couple of bonus options, so you can take that revision break in style. You’ve earned it.

Emmanuel Pool

Location: Smack bang in the middle of town, at the back corner of Emma, the pool’s handy location is countered only by its proximity to the bus station, which means all the frivolity is offset by the smell of petrol wafting gently over the wall.

Attractiveness: Like the rest of Emma, the pool is very green. Whilst the grass around the edge of the pool provides an ideal space for sunbathing and people watching, the emerald tinge of the water is less appealing. Severe chlorine problems plagued Emma last summer, and the lining of the pool is currently being replaced in an attempt to return the water to a normal colour.

Temperature: Emma pool dates back to the 1740s, and its age makes it very refreshing on a warm summer’s day, and frostbite-inducing on a cooler one.

“All the frivolity is offset by the smell of petrol wafting gently over the wall”

Vibes: Very relaxed, but only if you’re from Emma. This is not the place for serious swimming but chucking a ball about and splashing your pals. The only thing serious about Emma is the Home Office-style raids the porters run when they suspect too many sweaty Downing people are lounging on the bank. To avoid being sent packing: turn up early, have friends at Emma and talk about how you hope the Fane room isn’t too busy later.

Ducks: Exceptionally cute, especially the still-downy ducklings.

Christ’s Pool

Location: Perfect because Christ’s is the most central Cambridge college (no science-based Camfesses can change my mind).

Attractiveness: It’s thought to be the oldest pool in the UK, and is bordered by tall trees and fancy busts, including one of Christ’s’ very own John Milton. The ducks are very cute, but they tend to use the stones at the side of the pool as a toilet. Tread carefully.

Temperature: Only at high noon on the summer solstice will this freezing pool get a shred of sunlight. However, that’s not a problem, because it’s located at the far end of Christ’s’ Fellows’ Garden, which has masses of space for warming up in the sun after.

Vibes: Similar vibes to Emma, including the ban on visitors when the porters inevitably decide there’s too many. Great place to unwind with your mates, but you can also get some proper lengths in at the less busy times of day.

Girton Pool

Location: Bit too far away to be convenient. No one wants to break out the bike helmet to cool off on a summer’s day (though it is quite a nice cycle).

“Some hard cases like to go swimming at the Lido in January, but they’re clearly going through it and we hope they get better soon”

Temperature: This is the only college pool that’s heated, so your insides don’t shrivel up when you dip a toe in, but it’s also indoors, meaning its refreshingness is limited.

Vibes: Feels like you’re in a hotel, so you can forget about that exam you have tomorrow and pretend you’re on holiday. Not one for a spontaneous dip, but it’s nice and private for those of you who like a poolside natter without being overheard.

Jesus Green Lido

Location: A little off the beaten track, which gives you a sense of individuality until you go through the turnstiles and see loads of sporty Cantabrigians.

Temperature: The sun actually gets to it, so not too bad compared to some of the shadier college pools (looking at you, Christ’s). Some hard cases like to go swimming at the Lido in January, but they’re clearly going through it and we hope they get better soon.

Vibes: It’s 90 metres, so you can actually get some serious lengths in, and then show off your rippling muscles while sunbathing on the grass verge. There are also fast, medium and slow lanes for people who want to pretend they’re Michael Phelps, or overtake some grannies.

Facilities: They also have a sauna! The downside to all this is that it’s not free, but the price is worth it for regular swimmers.

The Cam


Mountain View

Procrastination: an extreme sport

Location: The city is built around the river so it couldn’t be more convenient. Grantchester Meadows is a particularly popular swimming spot, and only a short, very picturesque cycle from central Cambridge.

Vibes: Maybe culture would be more appropriate, since it’s absolutely full of bacteria, some of which are flesh-eating. You have been warned.

Temperature: Freezing. Don’t believe the hype about its September “warmth.”

The bottom line: You’ll definitely end up jumping in anyway (or being pushed in after exams). It’s swimming the way God intended.