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Ely Local Information: 10 top things to know... more

  • 1. History of Ely

    Ely is a cathedral city in Cambridgeshire - 14 miles north-northeast of Cambridge. It was founded in 673 at the time Princess Etheldreda, who was the daughter of the Anglo-Saxon King Anna, adopted Christianity and created a convent one mile to the north of the Saxon village called Cratendune: this was an act that was to later ensure her elevation to Saint Etheldreda. It has be...Read moreen revealed, however, that the city dates back far further. Archaeological excavations that have taken place recently have uncovered Roman graves and remnants of Iron Age Round Houses have been found. It is said that Ely gets its name from ‘eel’ and ‘-ey’ or ’-y’ meaning island. This could be true, as due to the situation of Ely: an island located in low-lying fens that used to be very marshy and also rich in eels. The city is also called the Isle of Ely, which suggests an island. It is even said that during the 11th Century monks of Ely paid their taxes using eels as currency. It is claimed that people used boats to travel round the Fens, or walked around on stilts, and only folk of the Fens knew the right route to avoid drowning. The city was a major port until the 18th Century, which was when the Fens were drained and it ceased to be an island. A famous former resident of Ely was Oliver Cromwell. He lived in the city for a number of years after inheriting the role of local tax collector in 1636. His old home that dates back to the 16th Century is now the Tourist Information Centre as well as a museum displaying rooms as they were back in Cromwell’s time. Read less

  • 2. Now in Ely

    The historic city of Ely is a great place to visit. It is brimming with beauty and charm and is the home of one of the most stunning cathedrals in England. The cathedral was started in 1083 by William I and was finally opened in 1189 after 116 years in the planning. Today Ely still retains many impressive historic buildings as well as winding shopping streets. Every week on ...Read morea Thursday and Saturday a market is held in the city. Located on the River Great Ouse, Ely is home to a boathouse belonging to the University of Cambridge rowing team. The team trains here for the famous annual boat race, which takes place against Oxford University. Back in 1944 the Boat Race was held on the River Great Ouse close to Ely: the one and only time is has not been staged on the River Thames. Oxford won it on that occasion. Read less

  • 3. Events in Ely

    There’s always something going on in Ely and the surrounding area. Some of the events taking place in this beautiful cathedral city include the Ely Folk Festival, Ely’s annual Eel Day and Ely Art Society’s Annual Art Exhibition. There’s also the Ely Apple Festival. Close by are the tourist destinations of Newmarket and Cambridge, and London is just an hour by rail an...Read mored the Norfolk Coast is just a couple of hours by car: all offering plenty of choice when it comes to events. Read less

  • 4. Attractions in Ely

    Ely is brimming with attractions. A standout attraction is Ely Cathedral. This striking building dominates the skyline and is one of England’s largest and most beautiful cathedrals. It is known in the Ely area as the ‘Ship of the Fens’ and is best known for its unusual Octagon tower: when lit this tower can be seen for many miles around. Ely Cathedral is also the home...Read more of the only national museum that is dedicated to stained glass. For history-lovers Ely Museum is a great attraction. This museum is housed in the city’s old jail. Ely’s most famous resident was Oliver Cromwell. The Cromwell family home is now the award-winning local Tourist Information Centre. There’s a fabulous waterside area in Ely, which is a major attraction offering an abundance of antique shops and cafes. There’s also an art gallery here. Just outside Ely, there are the attractions of the Welney Wetland Centre and Wicked Fen. Go back in time and see how difficult life in the Fens could be by visiting The Farmland Museum at Denny Abbey and the Burwell Museum. Other places worth a visit are the Prickwillow Engine Museum and the Stretham Old Engine. Read less

  • 5. Things To Do in Ely

    There are lots to do in and around Ely. Some of the top things to do are to visit Ely Cathedral, to enjoy the costumed guides and a unique experience of the 17th Century at Oliver Cromwell’s House, or to take a ghostly tour. There are also Ely historic guided tours, which take a look at Ely and its monastic buildings. You could try your hand at sailing at Ely Sailing Club, ...Read moreor visit one of the city’s fabulous markets held on Thursday and Saturday each week. Read less

  • 6. Business in Ely

    A popular destination for visitors, a lot of the business in and around Ely is tourist related. There are many historic, costumed and ghost tours to join and many museums and galleries to visit. For retail therapy Ely is a good place to head for, with many shops, market days on a Thursday and Saturday each week, and lots of antique outlets.

  • 7. Transport in Ely

    Ely is served well by transport. Ely Railway Station is located on the Fen Line and is a major railway hub. There are direct trains from here to London, Cambridge, the majority of East Anglia, the Midlands and the North. There are also connecting services to Scotland and many other parts of England. The city is on the route of the north-south A10 trunk road that goes from Lo...Read morendon to King’s Lynn, although this road now bypasses the centre. Read less

  • 8. Entertainment in Ely

    Much of the entertainment in and around Ely is music-based. One of the most popular of the music events staged here is the Ely Folk Festival, which is one of the UK’s leading folk music events. The festival offers a line-up of great music acts in a very intimate, family-friendly environment and reflects the rich diversity that exists in the modern folk music scene. It alway...Read mores features top acts from throughout the UK, Ireland and even further afield. Visitors to the festival can enjoy workshops, concerts and the chance to meet the musicians. There’s also children’s entertainment, morris dancing, food and trade stands and a real ale bar. It is a major aim of the festival to offer value for money and it is one of the most keenly priced festivals in the country. Read less

  • 9. Famous Landmarks in Ely

    Ely’s most famous and loved landmark is its beautiful cathedral. The Cathedral Church of the Holy and Undivided Trinity is known as the ‘Ship of the Fens’ due to the distant views of its towers that dominate the skyline. The cathedral, which was started in 1083 by William I, eventually opened in 1189. It suffered the collapse of its main tower in 1322: this was rebuilt ...Read moreas an octagon. It was completed in 1322. Ely is the closest cathedral city to Cambridge, which is situated in the same diocese but does not feature its own cathedral. Read less

  • 10. Interesting Facts about Ely

    Clive Woodward, the rugby union player and winning manager with the England national rugby union team in the Rugby World Cup 2003, was born in Ely.


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