April 16th, 2013 | Tags: Ely,

Uncover Ely, the hidden retreat of East Anglia

Ely is a quaint city just 17 miles away from Cambridge, and is the second smallest city in England. Although modest, Ely really proves that size doesn’t matter as it boasts a fascinating history, beautiful scenery and a real sense of community.

Ely is located in the Fens, known for its watery environment. The city’s name meant ‘isle of eels’, and during May a celebration of all things eel can be enjoyed, with tastings, displays and of course entertainment. The Boathouse restaurant, down by the riverside, offers up some tasty fish dishes all year round so don’t panic if you can’t get to Ely in May as eel is often on the menu.

Between The Jubilee Gardens and Broad Street, the river Cam is particularly stunning, with views across the marina. A stroll along the riverside is relaxing and interesting for all, with restaurants, pubs and  interesting narrow boats to look at. The Cutter Inn gives you the opportunity to enjoy a beer whilst sitting on the decking, taking in the view.  

As you walk further along the riverside you will find The Maltings, Ely’s hub for entertainment and cinema screenings. You may decide that The Maltings is the perfect venue for your wedding day! Continue walking along and you will soon find yourself at ADeC, the centre for the development of the arts in and around Ely with the Babylon gallery offering some superb art exhibitions throughout the year.

Next to the ADeC centre is the Peacocks Tearoom, a quintessentially English gem of a place and the frequent winner of the Tea Guild’s Award of Excellence. A beautiful courtyard style garden greets you as you enter this family-run tearoom and in the warmer months you can sit outside. You can enjoy a slice of cake, a light lunch, or just a cup of tea from the enticingly wide selection on offer, whilst you admire the décor around.

Moving away from the riverside and into the heart of the city, you can find a modest range of shops and the breathtaking Norman cathedral. Many visitors begin their trip here, and it is definitely worth it. The cathedral has been a prominent location for many historical films, such as The Other Boleyn Girl, Elizabeth: the Golden Age, and The King’s Speech. It is surrounded by greenery and a short walk through the grounds will lead you to some friendly horses. Some brilliant events take place at the Cathedral so it is always worth checking the website to see what’s going on.

The cathedral isn’t the only historical landmark to visit whilst in Ely: Oliver Cromwell’s house lies a short walk away from the cathedral as does the Ely Museum. Entry to each of these landmarks is good value for money, even more so if you buy a joint ticket which gains you entry to both venues.

Ely has everything you need for a great day trip or a short retreat, with local shops, spas, restaurants, pubs, historical landmarks. For those more familiar with Cambridge, Ely provides a nice change of scenery. The train connections are superb with links between Ely and Cambridge, London, Peterborough, Birmingham, Norwich and, even, Edinburgh being highly accessible. There is ample parking and all of the car parks are free!

City pics