With a population of only 15,000, Ely is the third smallest city in England – but its historic buildings and peaceful riverside prove that size isn’t everything. Ely is also an ideal base for exploring the Fens, and it’s close to Cambridge too.
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- Ely Cathedral, towering dramatically over of the Fens and housing a stained glass museum – the only one in England
- Oliver Cromwell’s House, the former residence of the Lord Protector and now the tourist information office
- Ely Museum, in the old gaol – focusing on the history of Ely and the Fens
Events and activities
- Ely markets – including a farmers’ market on every second and fourth Saturday of the month
- A ghost tour, led by the author of Haunted Ely
- An evening boat ride at Wicken Fen
- The well established Ely Folk Festival
- The World Pea Shooting Championships in Witcham Village
- The market town of Newmarket – the birthplace of thoroughbred horseracing
- Cambridge, home of Cambridge University (around 15 minutes on the train from Ely)
Location and getting there
Ely is a small city in the county of Cambridgeshire, in the East of England (see our interactive map). It is built on the Isle of Ely, an area of higher ground which actually was an island until the Fens were drained in the 17th and 18th centuries.
The River Great Ouse flows along the eastern edge of Ely and the city has a very pleasant waterside, ideal for walking or boat trips.
Ely’s railway station is just to the south of city, about half a mile from the cathedral. It is a major hub and offers direct rail connections to London Kings Cross (75 minutes) as well as the cathedral cities of Norwich (60 minutes) and Peterborough (35 minutes). Ely is also the closest city to Cambridge, about 13 miles as the crow flies.
The name ‘Ely’ is said to mean ‘isle of eels’: eels were a staple part of the local diet, and they are still caught today in the River Great Ouse.
A walking tour through the city called the Ely Eel Trail is a good way to find out more about the city’s heritage.
This mini-calendar shows events taking place in and around Ely. For events at cathedral cities across the UK, please see our main Cathedral City Calendar.
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- Visit Ely
- Ely on Google Maps
- Photos of Ely on Flickr
- Ely hotels with Booking.com
- Ely restaurants with Restaurant-Guide.com
- Twitter list for Ely by Cathedral City Guide
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