city and civil parish in Cambridgeshire, England

Ely is a small, historical cathedral city in Cambridgeshire, England. Ely's character as a tiny, isolated city remains largely untouched, and the "Ship of the Fens" dominates the surrounding landscape in much the same way it has done for most of the past millennium.

Understand edit

Ely Cathedral, across the Palace Green in Summer

Built on a chalk hill, the city is thought to be named after the eels in the nearby River Ouse. The hill was once an inaccessible island in the middle of the Fens. It was also the last stronghold of Anglo-Saxon resistance, under Hereward the Wake who hid in the original cathedral until the Normans crossed the Fens in 1071.

The surrounding landscape has been transformed from watery marshland to fertile farmland, and nearby Cambridge is continuing to growth, but Ely remains apart.

Get in edit

By train edit

1 Ely train station. Ely is on a major junction of a number of lines and so it's possible to enter and exit from a large number of directions.    

Ely has direct trains to London King's Cross, Stansted Airport, Ipswich, Norwich, Kings Lynn, Peterborough, and via Peterborough to Birmingham and Liverpool. You can also connect at Peterborough for fast trains to Scotland.

If you want to get to London, then it is quicker to go to London King's Cross (70 minutes) with the train running non-stop after Cambridge, although tickets to London Liverpool Street station are a bit cheaper. The latter journey will take about 90 minutes via Bishop's Stortford (transferring at Cambridge).

Trains depart Ely to both Liverpool Lime Street and London Liverpool Street Station. Be careful as they are 200 miles apart!

By car edit

Ely is situated on the A10, some 16 miles north of Cambridge, where it is possible to join the M11 for fast access to/from London (72 miles). Nearby roads may be flooded in the winter (typically the A1123 at Earith, and A1101 at Welney). Many of the smaller roads across the Fens have uneven surfaces and unguarded ditches, which lead to a number of fatalities each year.

By bicycle edit

For the more adventurous it is possible to cycle into Ely from Cambridge [1]. The 16 mile journey follows the river and for an average person takes around an hour and a half, with the majority of the route being a designated cycle path.

Get around edit

Ely's small city centre can easily be traversed on foot. Local villages are served by buses running from Market Street, check the boards or tourist information centre for departures.

See edit

Ceiling of the nave of Ely Cathedral
  • 1 Ely Cathedral. Daily 7AM-6:30PM (in winter, to 5PM on Su). Founded by St Ethelreda as a monastery church in 673, the present cathedral building was started in the 11th century and upgraded to a separate diocese in 1109. The cathedral has a unique octagonal tower and lantern, completed in 1328 after the collapse of the original Norman tower. You can get a year pass alongside your regular ticket. Enquire inside for a tours up the west tower for fantastic panoramic views. There is a Stained Glass Museum in the cathedral South Triforium. Ground floor of the cathedral only: adult £10; ground floor, stained glass museum and tower tour: £19.59/16.50.    
  • 2 Oliver Cromwell Museum, 29 St Mary's St. In Oliver Cromwell's house opposite the cathedral, including tours of the building and a history of the fens.
  • 3 Welney Wildfowl Centre, Hundred Foot Bank, Welney, Wisbech. Wildfowl Wetlands Trust bird sanctuary. Visitor centre and café.
  • 4 Wicken Fen, Lode Lane, Wicken CB7 5XP, +44 1353 720274. Fenland National Trust nature reserve between Ely and Cambridge. One of the few remaining areas of the region's former marshland, preserved today as a Nature Reserve.    
  • 5 Stretham Old Engine, Green End, Stretham CB6 3LE (5 miles south of Ely, head for the chimney), +44 1353 648578. Apr-Oct: Su 1-5PM. Drainage of the fens relied on windmills up to 1800 then steam pumps took over. There were over 100 of these, and this beam engine of 1831 is one of the few survivors. It's occasionally set running, though nowadays by electricity. Adult £4, child £1.  
  • Further south: see Cambridge for Denny Abbey and Farmland Museum.

Do edit

Eat edit

Budget edit

  • Tesco 24 hours from Monday 8AM to Saturday midnight, Sunday 10AM-4PM - next to the train station.
  • The Hereward, 45 Market Street, +44 1353 772050. A large pub. Advertises cheap food. Only allows people aged 18 or over.
  • The Minster Tavern The Gallery. Nothing remarkable, but it's possibly the cheapest pub food in town and have "and beer" nights where you can enjoy a curry, grill or Sunday roast with a free pint depending on the day. Snacks from £2.
  • The Business Market Square, Thursday and Saturdays only. All sorts of sausage, burger, chicken, bacon, egg and cheese combinations. £2-4.
  • Streetcafe Coronation Parade (High Street), 7AM to 7PM daily. Very wide menu, ranging from full English breakfasts to Salads, Fish and Chips and some wonderful desserts. Expect to pay around £2.90 for a sandwich and a coke, up to £8.10 for a full English breakfast with toast and your beverage thrown in (Breakfast "C"). Very good food.
  • Ely Market Market Place and Dolphin Lane, every Thursday, Saturday and Sunday, 8:30AM-4PM. Wide range of street food from curries, samosas, curry goat, burritos, dim sum, Thai noodles, artisan roast coffee, chimney cakes and even traditional English. Ely Farmers' Market (every second and fourth Saturday) also has a good range of vegan food.

Mid-range edit

  • Market Street Brasserie, 39-41 Market Street, +44 1353 669930. This brasserie offers a wide range of good quality West and East European food, including a wonderful 12-oz rump steak with fries, herb butter and salad for £14. Expect to pay between £8 and £16 for a meal before your drinks.
  • Pizza Express, 43 High Street, +44 1353 665999. The Ely branch of this reliable pizza chain. Pizzas £6-8. Average meal for two £20 with a drink. Vouchers all over the place on the internet so you could get a bargain.
  • Prezzo, 12-14 High Street, +44 1353 659832. Italian-style pizza, pasta and chicken, with views across to the Cathedral. Pizzas £6-8. Average meal for two £20 with a drink. Lots of space over two floors.
  • Five Miles from Anywhere (No Hurry Inn) (in Upware/Wicken). This place does great pub food and beers. All sorts of A4-sized post-it notes advertise gigs on the small stage in the huge outdoor beer garden. The food is very good, the beer is very reasonable. Highly recommended, and more reasonable in terms of price than the Lazy Otter.
  • The Maltings, Ship Lane, +44 1353 662633. An exhibition centre, bar and restaurant. Sandwiches, bar snacks and main courses for £8. Restaurant closes over Winter period due to lack of bookings. Used to have semi-regular gigs. Check [2] for listings.

Splurge edit

  • The Old Fire Engine, +44 1353 662582. 200 m from the Cathedral. A relaxed restaurant for lunch, dinner as well as morning coffee and afternoon tea. There is a homely sitting room and an art gallery upstairs and the garden is lovely in good weather. The main courses at lunch cost approximately £15 and are generally very good. They also offer second helpings!
  • Peacocks Tearoom, 65 Waterside (near the river), +44 1353 661100. Winner of the UK Tea Council’s Top Tea Place 2007. Afternoon tea is £12 per person, including a choice of 40 teas, finger sandwiches, scones with jam and cake.

Drink edit

Munster Tavern

1 The Cutter Inn, 42 Annesdale, CB7 4BN (On the Great Ouse), +44 1353 662 713. Riverside pub with traditional pub food, bar snacks & daily specials board. Very overpriced, the food comes nowhere near what you're paying for.  

2 The Fountain, 1 Silver Street (South end of town, near Barton Square. Two minutes further up Silver Street from the Albert.). Good Adnams real ale and nice interior very pricey.

3 The Hereward, 45 Market St, CB7 4LZ, +44 1353 772 050. A functional drinking barn on the Market Street, this place is like any chain pub in any city, with little atmosphere but everything you may need a hand. Formally the hardware store Cutlacks, the pub offers relatively cheap food which is variable in quality, live sport, and occasional karaoke and bands. Best avoided on Fridays and Saturdays unless you're starting a bit of a party (in which case the Town House is across the street for the conclusion!) The occasional beer festivals there are great, with inexpensive guest ales served at one end of the bar.

4 Isle of Ely, 10 Downham Rd, CB6 2BZ, +44 1353 888 731. Green King

5 The Minster Tavern, The Minster Tavern, 1, Minster Place, CB7 4EL (directly across from Cathedral entrance). One of the oldest pubs in town with lots of character, including its very own ghost (a Benedictine monk who likes ale). Can be quiet during the day, generally busiest Fridays and Saturdays until 10PM and after midnight. Generally inexpensive drinks (£2.00 for a Tennant's Lager up to £3.00 for a Guinness).

6 The Prince Albert, 62 Silver Street, CB7 4JF (Half way down Silver Street), +44 1353 663 494. The former "Best pub in Ely". The Albert holds the vote of many for the highest standard of beer in Ely, particularly Greene King. The beer garden is lovely in summer. Food is great, and the pub still retains its living room feel. Not the best place in the world for a large group of people, but much better choice than the Fountain on a pub crawl.

7 The Royal Standard, 24 Fore Hill, CB7 4AF (Slightly out of the way down the hill from the market square (although distance is hardly an issue in Ely!)), +44 1353 645 194. The Standard is great fun on Fridays and Saturdays in particular with fun cover bands and a charismatic, Hawaiian short wearing landlord. Beer is relatively inexpensive and the back of the pub has been extended so the place is now an odd mix of traditional pub and old people's home.  

  • The Town House, On Market Street opposite the Hereward, the clientele and atmosphere of the pub is very variable depending on the day of the week. During the week, in particularly in summer it is a nice place to enjoy a drink outside. On Fridays, Saturdays and occasionally Sundays the pub is so busy it operates a one-in, one-out policy so expect a queue after 10:30PM, but in a group it can be worth it for a fun night. Great during events such as the World Cup with a BBQ outdoors and the beer festival in July is a must in terms of pub beer festivals.

Sleep edit

The Lamb

Various Bed & Breakfast establishments can be found in the city. A web search should turn up a vacancy. Most are within walking distance from the train station.

  • 1 Travelodge, Witchford Rd, +44 871 984 6028. Has cheap rates if you book in advance (as low as £15). The Ely Travelodge is at the A10/A142 junction, which is convenient for motorists, but noisy and a mile from the centre. There is a small Budgens supermarket nearby for cheap self-catering.
  • 2 [dead link] The Lamb Hotel, 2 Lynn Rd, +44 1353 663574. Can't miss it if you drive into Ely from Cambridge, as the old A10 road makes a sharp left in front of it before meandering on to Littleport. Looks posh, and is about 100 yards from the Cathedral. You may find it difficult to park during the day.
  • 3 Braham Farm (campsite), Little Thetford (1.5 miles south of Ely on the A10, off a barely marked junction.), +44 1353 662386. The Braham farm campsite is run by a friendly couple, it's far enough from the road not to be noisy. It's got a footpath to Ely from it. It's got a good view of the cathedral too. Quite small, will need to book on summer weekends. Quite basic, with no shower facilities.
  • 4 Poets House (Hotel), St Mary's Street,CB7 4EY, +44 1353 887777, . Offers in house bars, dining, luxurious rooms. Worth it if you have the money to spare and can get a room. Single room starts at £160 per night, double room starts at £200 per night.

Go next edit

Routes through Ely
King's Lynn ← Downham Market ←  NE   SW  Cambridge

This city travel guide to Ely is a usable article. It has information on how to get there and on restaurants and hotels. An adventurous person could use this article, but please feel free to improve it by editing the page.