Cambridge is the county town of Cambridgeshire in England. Whilst not very large, its population being approximately 124,000 as of 2013 – and a third of those are students –it’s one of the jewels in the British crown for its world famous university which is constantly ranked among the top five globally, and for its history, which can be traced to the Bronze Age.
Cambridge plays a major role in the high technology stakes, jokingly referred to as Silicon Fen (a play on Silicon Valley) for its predominantly marshy surroundings. Cambridge’s apples don’t land far from its academic tree, either, as over 40% of its workforce has higher education qualifications.
Only about 40 minutes away by train from London, it is a popular tourist destination, not only with overseas visitors, but also other Brits. Many music and art festivals through the year add to this city’s attractiveness.
While you’re in the Cambridge area, it’s worthwhile taking a journey to nearby Ely.
Ely is rightly proud of its relationship with eels; even its name is derived from the Isle of Eels on which the City stood amongst marshland and water. Eels are still fished in the River Great Ouse and, smoked, are considered a delicacy and sold at Ely’s weekly Farmers Market.
The location of the city makes for a popular riverside spot, offering interesting shops – some selling the pottery that has been produced the city for over 700 years – galleries, restaurants (where, if you wish, you can try out the city’s delicacies of eel pie and eel stew,). Alternatively, just relax and watch the many aquatic birds who visit the river.
Ely is absolutely steeped in history and, among other wonderful attractions, has a magnificent 11th century Cathedral, famous for its unique Octagon and West towers, which dominate the landscape for miles; you can climb them to appreciate the view for yourselves!
A visit to the Stained Glass Museum, located in the Cathedral’s South Triforium area, is an absolute must. It is host to a stunning collection of stained glass that is unique in the country. You can also take an audio-guided tour that relates the history of stained glass through the ages.
The Cathedral’s construction was begun in 1083 by Ely’s first Norman bishop, Simeon. Following the Reformation, it experienced many years of neglect, being finally and sympathetically restored to its former glory by the architect George Gilbert Scott between 1845 and 1870. As seat of a diocese, Ely had long been considered a city and was accordingly granted that status by Royal Charter in 1974.
Another point of interest here is Oliver Cromwell’s House, which, with the possible exception of Hampton Court Palace, is the only remaining dwelling of the Lord Protector, who had resided there with his family for ten years before the Civil War. You will get some excellent insights into 17th century life when visiting it. Audio tours are also available to rent.
Ely Museum, at the end of Market Street, is another of the city’s attractions, set in the former gaol. The museum houses a very interesting collection of memorabilia and offers the chance to learn about the area from prehistoric times to the twentieth century.
To get to Ely from Cambridge, catch one of the many buses or coaches available, which will drop you off right in the centre of town, on Market Street. Trains are available too from Cambridge Railway Station.