9 things to do on a day trip to Ely

Ely Cathedral, Cambridgeshire

The cathedral - the great ship of The Fens - towers over the city of Ely - Credit: Terry Harris

Ely is a small city, but it is packed with things to do on a day trip.

The Cambridgeshire city is built around its stunning cathedral, with plenty of historic buildings and streets to explore.

The city is situated in the low-lying Fens, surrounded by acres of countryside and criss-crossing dykes, but there is no reason not to visit - by train, the city is just 20 minutes from Cambridge and just over one hour from London King's Cross.

Here are nine ways to spend the day in Ely.

1. Visit the famous Ely Cathedral

Ely Cathedral's history begins in 672 AD, but the present building dates back to 1083.

Known as the "ship of the Fens", the cathedral with its Octagon Tower can be seen from miles around.

Guided tours take visitors up the 170 steps to see the scenes painted on the Octagon Tower lantern before stepping out onto the cathedral roof to admire views of the Cambridgeshire countryside.

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Ely Cathedral's history is well documented - the Liber Eliensis is a 12th-century chronicle which details the lives of monks, bishops and distinguished burials in the city.

Visit Ely Cathedral online: https://www.elycathedral.org/

Sunrise over Ely Cathedral in March

Sunrise over Ely Cathedral in springtime - Credit: Terry Harris

2. Lunch like a local at one of Ely's tea rooms

The Almonry, Julia's, the Market Kitchen and Peacocks - there's plenty of choice for lunch at a traditional tea room.

Menus range from full English breakfasts and brunches to afternoon tea and cake.

Dave Aspall outside Julia's Tea Room, Ely

Julia's is a popular, family-run tea room on Ely High Street - Credit: Archant/Ben Jolley

3. Wander around the city's ancient streets

Ely city is as old as its cathedral.

Many of its winding streets are lined with quaint cottages and timber-frame buildings.

Wander beneath the Ely Porta, a 14th-century gateway to the former monastery, and the Sacrist's Gate before seeking out the site of the Ely Castle in Cherry Hill Park.

The Porta, Ely - the gate to the former monastery in the city

The Porta, Ely - the gate to the former monastery in the city - Credit: Will Durrant

4. Get some fresh air on the River Great Ouse

Walking, biking or boating, a trip along the River Great Ouse offers views of Ely, the riverside townhouses and the vast Fenland landscapes.

Under East Anglia's famous "big skies", a walk along the towpath is perfect for boat-watching and picture-perfect panoramas.

Alternatively, a ride on the Liberty Belle - with boat master Bob Todd at the tiller - takes in the sights and sounds of waterways life in Ely and the surrounding countryside.

Visit Liberty Belle Cruises on Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/LibertyBelleEly

Bob Todd, Liberty Belle boatmaster

Bob Todd, the Liberty Belle boatmaster - Credit: Terry Harris

5. Buy from an independent shop

Ely is home to independent businesses and boutiques, including Scandinavian-style retailer Jensen's and "hidden gem" gift shop The Eel Catcher's Daughter.

Waterside Antiques on the River Great Ouse is said to be the largest antique centre in the East of England, with floor space of 10,000 square feet hosting more than 65 dealers.

The centre has sold everything from pocket figurines to 10ft high armoires and wardrobes.

Topping and Company Booksellers is another indie Ely treat.

The bookshop - with shops in Bath, Edinburgh and St Andrews - is based in Ely and hosts events with bestselling authors such as chef Delia Smith and crime novelist Elly Griffiths.

Topping and Company Booksellers of Ely

Topping and Company Booksellers of Ely - Credit: Archant/Ben Jolley

6. Stop off at Oliver Cromwell's house

One timber-clad building on St Mary's Street was once the family home of Oliver Cromwell, the Lord Protector famous for his role leading the Parliamentarians - or Roundheads - against the monarchy in the English Civil War.

His house now boasts an Oliver Cromwell escape room, an English Civil War exhibition and an audio tour.

Visit Oliver Cromwell's House online: https://www.olivercromwellshouse.co.uk/

Oliver Cromwell's House in Ely

Oliver Cromwell's House in Ely - Credit: Visit Ely

7. Shop local at Ely Market

Established in 1216, Ely Market has stood at the centre of city life for more than 800 years.

There are a range of markets throughout the week, including the Saturday Craft, Food and Vintage Market, the Thursday Charter Market and the occasional Saturday Farmers' Market.

From Cromer crab, to Suffolk beer and Fenland jacket potatoes, traders throughout the East of England pitch up in Ely with fresh produce week-in, week-out.

Visit Ely Markets online: https://elymarkets.co.uk/

Ely Market

Ely Market - Credit: Harry Rutter

8. Look back at rural Cambridgeshire's past at the museum

Housed in The Old Gaol, Ely Museum tracks Cambridgeshire's past from the Roman era, to World War Two.

Visitors can learn why eels are such an important part of the city's history, and how the unusual landscape has influenced the lives and industry of the people who live and work in the city.

The first museum in the Gaol can be traced back to 1849 when Marshall Fisher - an "enthusiastic collector of a range of artefacts and natural history specimens who was also an amateur scientist."

The current organisation was founded in 1975 and has taken on collections from arts and history collectors from Ely.

Visit Ely Museum online: https://www.elymuseum.org.uk/

Ely Museum

Ely Museum - Credit: Ely Museum

9. Dine out at The Cutter

A pub on the riverside, The Cutter boasts views over the Ouse with indoor and outdoor dining.

The menu at this 5/5-star rated pub is wide-ranging, serving traditional roasts and battered fish dishes, as well as mezze and "Bargeman board" platters for sharing.

There's a bar for more relaxed drinks on the river, too.

Visit The Cutter online: https://thecutterinn.co.uk/

The Cutter Inn, on the banks of the River Ouse, Ely

The Cutter Inn on the riverside - Credit: Daniel Mason