The Best Places to Visit in Cambridgeshire
Looking for a country escape, an intellectual city break or a picturesque village within easy reach of London? Then look no further
Cambridge may be all about walking the halls of university colleges and punting on the Cam - and that is, frankly, rather special - but there's a lot more to Cambridgeshire than that. Whether you’re in search of open countryside for taking long walks in, villages with cultural history and Pink Floyd songs written about them, or an English country take on a Japanese sake brewery, we've got you covered.
And why not make a whole weekend of it, by booking one of our exclusive Plum Guide homes in Cambridgeshire? Our homes critics have professionally vetted each and every one - from the design to the practical details like water pressure - to make sure our listings contain only the top 3% of holiday rental homes. Either way - and without further ado - here are our expert tips for places to visit in Cambridgeshire.
England’s second-smallest city Ely has charm in spades, thanks to its impressive cathedral (conversely one of the country’s biggest) and its location on a picturesque stretch of river. In fact, many people head to Ely for its waterways: you can take a boat up the Rivers Cam and Great Ouse to get here from Cambridge, if you like. For more watery tranquility, the Roswell Pits Nature Reserve provides walking trails and a habitat for kingfishers. Ely’s cultural offerings include a stained-glass museum, Ely Museum, housed in the old gaol, Oliver Cromwell’s former home, and an old brewery on the riverside that’s now home to a small arts centre, the Babylon Gallery. Just outside Ely at Fordham Abbey Estate, you’ll find a brewery that actually has booze in, but not the kind you’d expect: the Dojima Sake Brewery is the first Japanese-owned sake brewery in the UK, and yes, they do offer tastings and tours. Wondering about the name Ely? It got it for its abundance of eels in medieval times - the trade made the Abbots of Ely quite wealthy back then. Ely’s eely past is honoured in its annual Eel Day festivities (yes, really).
It might be most recently known for being the brooding setting for the TV detective drama of the same name, set in the village in the 1950s (you might recognise the Grade II listed church) but there’s more to Grantchester than murder mysteries. The village was also immortalised in the Pink Floyd song ‘Grantchester Meadows’, complete with its very-countryside-indeed birdsong (even a goose pops up on the recording at one point). Grantchester is hands down one of the most inspiring places to visit in Cambridgeshire.
The creative and intellectual weight of this little spot is pretty significant: Cambridge students have been making the trip to Grantchester for more than 700 years, and Alan Turing is said to have conceived the idea of artificial intelligence while running in Grantchester Meadow. So it’s little surprise that Grantchester is said to have the highest concentration of Nobel Prize winners in the world. Head to The Orchard Tea Garden, whose trees were first planted in 1868, for afternoon tea in a historical setting. Virginia Woolf, Bertrand Russell and Stephen Hawking have all been here for tea - you never know, maybe some of that brilliance will rub off.
We know we said there was more to Cambridgeshire than Cambridge - and there is - but we couldn't write a list of places to visit in Cambridgeshire without mentioning the university city. You'll find ample inspiration in institutions such as the Fitzwilliam Museum and Britain’s oldest university playhouse the ADC Theatre, where you might spot the stars of tomorrow (Emma Thompson, Ian McKellen and Stephen Fry all performed here as students). Explore the university’s colleges, and its Botanic Garden, before having an obligatory punting session on the River Cam. Cambridge is surprisingly green - so do take advantage of the river walks and enjoy the all-round bucolic feel here. It also makes a great base for exploring quieter villages and countryside around Cambridgeshire.
Gog Magog Hills
Cambridgeshire’s towns and cities are anything but fast-paced, but if you are looking to escape to somewhere a little more rural - and more amusingly named - then Gog Magog Hills are for you. Think English countryside trails through woodland, wildflower meadow, fields where cattle graze and plenty of picturesque picnic spots to settle down in between walking. Explore the Wandlebury Country Park estate for a wildlife-viewing hide and pop-up cafes at the weekend. And be sure to stock up on fresh produce to bring back to your Plum Guide home at The Gog Farm Shop, which stocks artisan cheeses, upscale chocolates, fresh-baked bread and butcher’s cuts.