Anna Bennett and the team at Visit Ely reflect on a busy year and look ahead to 2024.

With the weather having turned much colder, we are swiftly taken back to memories of January 2023.

Beginning in January, the team at Visit Ely didn’t let the festive break slow them down. Overall, it was a big year for Ely, with the celebration of the 1350th anniversary of the founding of the site of worship that would become Ely Cathedral being at the heart of our city. We celebrated with events to mark the occasion throughout the year.

As with every year, the calendar really opens for Visit Ely with the launch of our Visitor Guide. A wonderful handbag, jacket pocket and user-friendly publication containing many of the exciting things to see and do in Ely.

This little A5 book is distributed the length and breadth of the UK and even internationally! A lot of love and hard work goes into this annual project and yet, when that pallet of boxes containing the years supply arrives at Oliver Cromwell’s House, it’s a race to who can open the first box to see our latest publication – we truly love our 2024 edition, so do pop in mid-January and pick up a fresh, new copy.

It would be great for the team to sit back and look upon a job well done but that’s not how it works. With the close of one project, the next one begins, and the team begins to work on our annual events. The first being the infamous Eel Festival Weekend.

The event is always scheduled for the May Bank Holiday weekend, featuring two events over three days. We just loved our 2023 parade, with giant eels, adorned with crowns, thousands of attendees, much fun, and laughter it really has become a staple of the calendar.

This year had a Coronation theme to come in line with the national celebration of the ascension of King Charles III and Queen Camilla. It was three incredible days, attended by thousands of people and for the first time ever, Ely’s Eel Parade was captured from the sky!

Ely Standard: The 2023 Ely Eel Festival had a Coronation themeThe 2023 Ely Eel Festival had a Coronation theme (Image: Visit Ely)

Before and after the Eel Festival Weekend, various fantastic events took place to celebrate the 1350th anniversary, ranging from an incredible exhibition at Ely Museum looking at a remarkable archaeological dig within Ely that revealed objects and remains that would go on to wow the world.

The summer months saw Ely come to life with Ely Arts Festival, Aquafest, Armed Forces Day, and so much more. These much-loved annual events with their rich histories were complimented perfectly by several new and wonderful additions to Ely including Ben’s Yard, the shopping experience and dining location just outside Ely.

Ben’s Yard features a range of independent retailers ranging from a florist to a butcher, a homewares store and women’s fashion. It was also mid 2023 that saw the launch of the Visit Ely mobile app, a true harmonization of the very fabric of Ely – a city where Medieval meets modern.

RECOMMENDED READING: Thousands attend Ely Arts Festival events across two weeks

Ely Standard: The Ely Arts Festival committee The Ely Arts Festival committee (Image: Chris Parsons)

With a comprehensive directory of all the retail, attractions, facilities and more within Ely along with events, treasure hunts, routes and more the Visit Ely app truly puts the city we all love in the hands of people around the globe. We’re sure you’ve already downloaded it, but if you haven’t, please do (available free on the app store).

The year moved on and so did life at Visit Ely – with the harvest getting ever closer, our thoughts turned to the Apple and Harvest Fayre which was spread across two sites – Palace Green and Cross Green. 

Possibly one of the best attended Ely Apple Days in the 20 plus years of its existence, it was a true testament to the love and appreciation this quirky event holds for local people and those from further afield. With apple and spoon races, a longest peel competition and more, there really was something for everyone, and everyone enjoyed it!

RECOMMENDED READING: More than 6,000 attend Ely’s Apple and Harvest Fayre 2023

Ely Standard: More than 6,000 people attend Ely’s Apple and Harvest Fayre 2023More than 6,000 people attend Ely’s Apple and Harvest Fayre 2023 (Image: Visit Ely)

As the nights began to draw in, Visit Ely turned its attention to their regular autumnal offering of ghost walks and other spooky tours – one of the scariest elements is just how quickly they sell out.

Talking about spirits, spirits remain high at Visit Ely and, as if the year has passed in the blink of an eye, the seasons have been and gone, we find ourselves, as previously mentioned, planning the 2024 Visitor Guide.

This coming year is a “golden” opportunity to visit and celebrate Ely. In fact, it’s really quite special – Ely will be celebrating its 50th anniversary of being awarded city status so keep an eye out for commemorative events that will be happening next year.

Before we make a roaring return in 2024, we would like to take a moment to thank every single person who makes Ely the incredible place that it is: a great place to live, to shop, to visit. 

To that conclusion, we couldn’t be more proud and honoured to share our glorious city with the world.