Car-free adventures inElyCambridgeshire
Peaceful water meadows, an ancient cathedral and an interesting town that’s easy to walk round: Ely is a great car-free destination. Plenty of people living here don’t have cars – you can get around town on foot or by bike, there are good bus routes, and the riverside railway station is a bit of a hub for longer distance train journeys. Also: two people can visit the cathedral and museums for the price of one when you arrive by train.
1. Walk through town to the cathedral
Arriving at Ely’s train station, there are lots of lovely ways to reach the cathedral, which is visible at the top of the city. This majestic, octagonal-towered architectural marvel seems to float above the flat misty fields nearby. Benedictine monks built the cathedral in the 11th-century when Ely was just a tiny hamlet on an island in the fens.
- One really scenic route – less than a mile – up to the cathedral is to turn left onto Station Road and right onto Annesdale, leading to the pretty riverside with its choice of pubs and cafés. Turn left, with the water on your right, and left again through Jubilee Gardens.
- Cross Broad Street and keep straight up the tarmac path through parkland, with the old castle mound on your left and fabulous views on your right. A lane at the top leads right to the cathedral .
- Don’t miss the tower tours, especially the fascinating climb up inside Ely’s Octagon, a marvel of medieval engineering. There are incredible views from the cathedral roof and of the interior, down through the painted panels of the octagon itself.
- Unless you’re going to a service, it costs £9 to visit the cathedral (or £13 for a joint ticket with the Museum of Stained Glass), but you can get 2 for 1 entry when you show your train ticket and a voucher (get the voucher online or pick up a leaflet in the station).
- At the Almonry café next door, you can have coffee and “fenland sticky cake”, a gingery slab topped with almonds and glacé cherries.
2. Cromwell’s House
Ely’s Tourist Info is nearby in a house that once belonged to Oliver Cromwell. Walk straight ahead from the cathedral’s entrance, passing a canon on the grass and turn left at the church to find half-timbered Cromwell’s House.
- It costs £5 to look round and there’s also a 2 for 1 deal with a train ticket and voucher.
- It’s a must for Civil War buffs, of course, but there are also lively reconstructions of everyday life in the 17th century.
- Round the corner is the shop-lined High Street. Turn right down it to find Ely’s historic market, open on Thursdays and Saturdays with a farmer’s market twice a month.
- Nearby is Ely Museum in the old Bishop’s gaol. It’s currently closed for renovations until late 2020, but will definitely be worth a visit then to check out the multi-pronged eel spears, punt guns, peat spades and the stilts and skates that people used to cross the marshes.