Rising out of the wet fenlands between Cambridge and Newmarket, the small city of Ely feels more like a large town but its magnificent cathedral, which dominates the skyline of the flat East Anglian countryside, denotes a place of one-time historic importance. Oliver Cromwell lived in the town for eleven years, and his home can be visited with a trip to the town’s tourist information office, which is now housed within the ancient black and white walls. Today visitors on a cottage holiday will find plenty to fill a day in Ely, starting at the famous cathedral, known as the Ship of the Fens, with an unusual Octagonal tower which can be seen for miles around. Learn about the region’s history with a trip to the Ely Museum, housed in the old town jail, or visit the country’s only dedicated Stained Glass museum. Water, water, everywhere…Ely’s waterside area makes a very pleasant place to stroll away an afternoon; take a boat trip down river to enjoy the views from the water, then enjoy refreshments at one of the tea rooms. There are many excellent places to eat along the riverside; after lunch make time to see the Babylon Gallery’s mixture of local and national art, on display in the town’s old brewery warehouse.
The surrounding countryside holds plenty to tempt visitors. Explore classic fenland terrain at Wicken Fen Nature reserve, where a boarded walkway makes access available for wheelchair users and those with pushchairs. A magnet for bird lovers, this area of natural beauty encapsulates the distinctive landscape of East Anglia. Families with children will enjoy the Farmland Museum at Denny Abbey, with interactive displays about fenlands farming through the ages, while the Abbey is of historical interest with its intact Norman interiors. The Burwell Museum of Village Life offers a further insight into the social history of the Cambridgeshire Fenland, as does the Prickwillow Engine Museum, in Ely itself.
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