cathedral city in Cambridgeshire, England

For other places with the same name, see Peterborough (disambiguation).

Peterborough is a city in Cambridgeshire in East Anglia, with a population of 202,259 in 2019. It's industrial and ringed by bland "New Town" residential districts, yet has an attractive historic centre around its cathedral, where two British monarchs were buried.

Understand edit

Peterborough Cathedral

In Jurassic times this area was covered by a tropical sea, depositing thick layers of clay, limestone and decomposing dinosaurs. The last Ice Age (the "Devensian") didn't quite reach here but its melt-off left beds of gravel. These are just what you need for pottery, bricks and road construction, and even in Roman times there were brick works here. The land is low-lying but not too low - it's just west of the Fens, so it's fertile, and a natural route for roads and later railways. An important medieval city grew up and the cathedral was built from the 12th century. In early modern times the Fens were drained, and the 19th / 20th century saw a growth in engineering, such as Perkins the diesel manufacturers. Brickmakers continued to scoop out the local clay, and their spent pits flooded to dot the landscape with lagoons.

London is only an hour away and in the mid-20th century Peterborough grew from "overspill", as industry and workforces moved north to escape city congestion and high property prices. This was formalised in 1967 when Peterborough was designated a "New Town", one of several in that era. The old centre was left largely intact while three greenfield villages were added: Bretton, Orton and Paston; a fourth was left unbuilt. It's fair to say that these were not the sort of bucolic heart-of-England villages that Constable or Turner might have painted. But there was good employment as service industries took over from manufacturing, the architecture was bland rather than brutal, and they've fared better than some of the other "New Towns".

Get in edit

By road edit

From London take A1(M) northwards. From Cambridge, take A14 northeast onto A1(M).

By rail edit

Peterborough is on the East Coast Mainline and has four trains an hour from London Kings Cross. The fastest take 46 min nonstop and are racing north to Grantham, Newark and Doncaster, fanning out towards Lincoln, Hull, Leeds, York, Newcastle and Edinburgh. The slowest may sometimes be more convenient as these start from Horsham and run via Gatwick Airport, London St Pancras and a couple of dozen other places to Peterborough, saving you from lugging bags on and off trains.

Trains run hourly from Stansted Airport via Cambridge and Ely to Peterborough and continue to Stamford, Oakham, Melton Mowbray, Leicester, Nuneaton and Birmingham New Street.

Trains from Liverpool run hourly via Manchester Piccadilly, Sheffield and Nottingham to Peterborough and continue to Ely, Thetford and Norwich.

There's a direct train from Ipswich via Bury St Edmunds every couple of hours, otherwise travel via Cambridge and change.

1 Peterborough station is west side of city centre, adjoining Queensgate shopping centre. Follow the pedestrian underpass south to come into the centre. The station has a staffed ticket office, machines, toilets, a coffee shop and heated waiting rooms. There is step-free access by the lifts to all platforms. Plus bus is available here.

By bus edit

Stagecoach X4 runs from Northampton, every 30 min via Wellingborough, Kettering, Corby and Oundle.

Stagecoach 904 runs from Huntingdon via Sawtry, and Bus 37 runs from Spalding.

Delaine Bus 201 / 202 runs from Bourne and Stamford.

First Excel buses run from Norwich, every 30 min via Dereham, King's Lynn and Wisbech.

The bus station is north side of Queensgate shopping centre, 200 yards east of the railway station.

Get around edit

Local buses run from the bus station to Orton, Paston and Bretton.

There is a good cycle and footpath network. Much of the centre is pedestrianised, with a step-free route from the bus and railway stations to the main square and Cathedral.

Taxis wait at the railway station. Operators include A2B Euro Cars (+44 1733 566666), Adams[dead link] (+44 1733 555800), Peterborough Taxis 247/365 (+44 1733 744497), Gold Star (+44 1733 777888), The Taxi Firm (+44 1733 305405) and Peterborough Cars[dead link] (+44 1733 704444).

See edit

  • Cathedral Square is the fine plaza fronting the cathedral, but what you see first is St John the Baptist, the Anglican parish church built in 1407. This was where the townsfolk prayed, while the monks descanted in the cathedral. It's a striking building in Perpendicular style but most of the interior is 19th century. Guildhall on its east side was built in 1671, an open arcaded building with a market space on the ground floor.
  • 1 Peterborough Cathedral, PE1 1XS, +44 1733 355315. M-Sa 9AM-5PM, Su noon-3PM. Founded as an abbey in 665, with the present building started in 1118 and only completed in 1238. Enter the precincts through the gatehouse to be confronted by the West Front, triple arched in English Gothic. Highlights within are the original 13th century painted nave ceiling, the graves of Katharine of Aragon (first wife of Henry VIII) and of Mary Queen of Scots (re-interred in 1612 in Westminster Abbey), the fan vaulting of the New Building Ceiling, the Hedda Stone (an 8th century carving from the predecessor Saxon church) and St Oswald's Chapel with its original 12th century watchtower. It's an active church so you need to work around services. Donation £5.    
  • The Castle ("Mount Thorold") was an 11th century motte-and-bailey just east of the cathedral. All you see now is the mound in the cathedral gardens.
  • Town Hall is a redbrick cod-Georgian building of 1929 lining Bridge St just south of the cathedral gatehouse.
  • Peterborough Museum and Art Gallery, Priestgate PE1 1LF (200 yards south of railway station), +44 1733 343329, . Tu-Sa 10AM-4PM, Su noon-4PM. This is in a Georgian mansion, built over a Tudor predecessor. The museum depicts the area from Jurassic times to present industry. The gallery has only a small permanent collection but hosts exhibitions. Free (exhibitions charged).    
  • 2 Flag Fen Archaeology Park, The Droveway, Northey Road PE6 7QJ, +44 1733 864468. W-Sa 10AM-4PM. This is a Bronze Age structure, discovered in 1982. A neolithic trackway became inundated by rising bog so around 3500 years ago, a wooden causeway was constructed, with over 60,000 timber piles, some brought from a great distance. It led to an islet and its purpose was not to get across the bog, but to enter it for ritual purposes. The museum displays discoveries and their interpretation, and there's a replica dwelling. Adult £6, child £3.    
  • 3 Longthorpe Tower, Thorpe Rd PE3 6LU, +44 1733 864663. Sa Su 10AM-4:30PM. This is a three-storey tower, built from 1300 as an extension to a fortified house that has disappeared. The remarkable feature is its wall paintings - these were whitewashed over at the Reformation and only rediscovered in the 1940s. Adult £5.50, conc £5, child £3.30.    
  • 4 Castor Hanglands is a National Nature Reserve, an area of woodland and grazing that's never had modern agriculture.
  • 5 Sacrewell Heritage Farm, Thornhaugh PE8 6HJ (off A47), +44 1780 782254, . Daily 9AM-4:30PM. Heritage farm with traditional crafts and 18th century watermill. They also have a campsite open April-Oct for tents, caravans and motorhomes. Adult £8, conc £7, child £6.23.

Do edit

Town Hall
  • Cinema: Empire Cinema is within Queensgate Shopping Centre. Showcase is half a mile east, junction of Boongate with A1139.
  • Theatre: New Theatre is on Broadway. Key Theatre is on Embankment Rd by the river.
  • Peterborough United ("The Posh") were relegated in 2022 and now play soccer in League One, the third tier. Their home ground London Road (sponsored as Weston Homes Stadium), capacity 15,000, is a mile south of the railway station.
  • 1 Nene Valley Railway, Oundle Rd PE2 9NR, +44 1780 784444, . Daily 9AM-4:30PM. This is a standard gauge railway, often steam-hauled. In summer it makes three runs daily along a 7 mile track between Peterborough, Orton Mere, Overton, Yarwell and Wansford. Day ticket adult £18, conc £16, child £9.    
  • 2 Planet Ice, 1 Mallard Road PE3 8YN, +44 1733 260222. Variable hours. This has public skating, lessons, and is the home rink of Peterborough Phantoms ice hockey team. They play Sept-March in the National League, England's second tier.
  • Golf: nearby courses include Orton Meadows, Thorpe Wood, Peterborough Milton and Elton Furze.
  • Fitness: Vivacity is a large gym, sports complex and swimming pool on Bishops Rd east by the playing fields.
  • 3 East of England Arena is a large event showground west of the city in Orton Southgate (turn off A1 at Oundle Rd). A few are trade-only, most are public, see their website.
  • Speedway: Peterborough Panthers race in the SGB Premiership, the top tier of motorcycle speedway racing in Britain. Their home track is at East of England Arena.

Buy edit

Replica roundhouse at Flag Fen
  • Queensgate is the large indoor mall stretching from just east of the railway station to Cathedral Square. Most stores are open M-Sa 9AM-5:30PM, Su 10:30AM-4PM.

Eat edit

Drink edit

Sacrewell watermill
  • The Brewery Tap, 80 Westgate PE1 2AA (north side of bus station.), +44 1733 358500. Su-Th noon-11PM, F Sa noon-1AM. The former unemployment office has been converted into a swish open-plan pub and microbrewery. It serves Thai food, but the great reviews are for its traditional Real Ales. Its micro-brewery is run by Oakham Ales - their main site is edge of town.
  • Charters, Town Bridge PE1 1FP, +44 1733 315700. Daily noon-11PM. A converted Dutch grain barge sitting at a jaunty angle in the river, forever threatening to sink. It serves traditional beers and Asian food, and has live music some nights.
  • Palmerston Arms, 82 Oundle Road PE2 9PA, +44 1733 565865. M-F 3-11PM, Sa noon-midnight, Su noon-11PM. Tiny trad pub where ales are served direct from the cellar cask.
  • Others in city centre include Draper's Arms (JD Wetherspoon), Wortley Almshouses, Stoneworks, Blind Tiger, Queen's Head, Sir Henry Royce, O'Neill's, College Arms (another Wetherspoon), Bumble Inn and Ostrich Inn.
  • Breweries: see above for Brewery Tap. Mile Tree and Oakham Ales are southwest edge of town. Further west are Nene Valley Brewery and King's Cliffe. See Thetford for the group to the north.

Sleep edit

Nene Valley Railway
  • Park Inn, Wentworth St PE1 1BA (200 yards south of railway station), +44 1733 353750. Friendly efficient chain hotel. B&B double £80.
  • 1 Bull Hotel, Westgate PE1 1RB, +44 1733 561364. Good mid-price hotel a block north of Cathedral Square. B&B double £70.
  • 2 Dragonfly Hotel, Thorpe Meadows PE3 6GA (off Longthorpe Parkway), +44 1733 564240. Comfy place a mile west of centre by a boating lake, free parking with no height restriction. B&B double £60.
  • Premier Inn have four sites: City Centre (actually two miles west, junction of A47 and Nene Parkway), Peterborough North at 1023 Lincoln Rd two miles north, Hampton two miles south, and Ferry Meadows three miles west.
  • Travelodge have three sites: Central 300 yards north of the cathedral, Eye Green on A47 five miles northeast, and Alwalton on A1 near East of England Arena.
  • 3 Holiday Inn, Thorpe Wood PE3 6SG (off Nene Parkway), +44 1733 289988. Great scores for comfort, welcome and cleanliness. B&B double £110.
  • Holiday Inn Express is another off Oundle Rd near the A1 junction.
  • 4 Peterborough Marriott Hotel, Tesla Court Peterborough Business Park, Lynch Wood PE2 6GB, +44 1733 371111. Good choice for motorists, near A1 and East of England Arena. B&B double £90.

Connect edit

As of May 2022, Peterborough has 4G from Vodafone, and 5G from EE, O2 and Three.

Go next edit

  • Nearby Stamford is a beautifully preserved Georgian market town. A couple of miles south, Burghley House is a grand Elizabethan mansion.
  • Ely is a charming cathedral town perched on what was once an island in the Fens.
  • Unmissable Cambridge is only 20 min further south.

Routes through Peterborough
GranthamStamford ← continues as    NW   S  HuntingdonLondon
LincolnBourne  N   S  END
GrimsbySpalding  NE   SW  END
LeicesterUppingham  W   E  WisbechKing's Lynn
NorthamptonOundle  SW   NE  END

This city travel guide to Peterborough 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.