From Alan Macfarlane's Reflections on Cambridge:
Cloisters are half open, as are the social and mental cloisters which exist everywhere in Cambridge.
The great advantage of a cloister is that it is, in Gerry Martin's phrase, bounded but leaky. It is bounded, protected, shut off from the heat of the sun on scorching days, or the drenching rain on others. Yet it is also 'leaky' or rather open; one can look out through the open, unglazed, side away from the main building. This gives the special feeling as in the marvelous cloisters in the back court of Trinity or the old court at Queen's College. It is possible to walk, talk and think while being protected.
This is an allegory for Cambridge. It is a protected space, guarded by its wealth, prestige, meticulous organization, liberal atmosphere and its traditions. It has has many protected cloisters of the mind and spirit. Yet it is not shut off. It is always possible to look out and receive impressions, fresh air and scents, movement and experience. It keeps the tension between inside and outside, private and public, secret and exposed. This cloistering effect, where people sense that they are within some half-private, half public space is but a small microcosm of something larger.
The need for such outdoor but sheltered walks partly rises partly from a realization that walking and thinking are deeply intertwined, as the Greeks knew with their idea of 'peripatetic philosophers.' I like to think of the motto solvitur ambulando, 'it is solved by walking,' or of Albert Einstein's remark that 'the legs are the wheels of creativity.' There are an infinite number of examples of the Eureka moment occurring on a walk, alone or with friends….
Kyoto with its magnificent shrines and temples is one city I have visited which I have found vides with Oxford and Cambridge for ancient beauty. It has developed its own 'philosopher's walk' along a small stream between the shrines and temples. In some ways it could be said that all of Cambridge is a 'philosopher's way.'