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Touring Cambridgeshire

The county of Cambridgeshire is made up of two different types of landscape, the north’s flat fens—land reclaimed from marsh and water—and the south’s rolling chalk hills. Travelling by car in the fenland gives you a real sense of this drained land: straight roads with somewhat isolated towns surrounded by farmlands and still watery landscape.

Cambridge Kings College Chapel courtesy Peak Districtcam The county’s most well known attraction is, of course, the city of Cambridge with its many historic colleges. Cambridge University (made up of the various colleges) dates from the early 13th century. For visitors, it is the architecture of the buildings that attracts. King’s College chapel, begun in 1446 and completed in 1515, is not to be missed. Be sure to take in the ceiling of the chapel; its fan vaulting is considered the best example of Perpendicular Gothic architecture in England. The 12 bays covered with decorated fan vaulting comprise the largest such in the world. Also of special note are the choir stalls, canopies, Ruben’s painting the Adoration of the Magi on the high altar, and the organ. Visitors are welcome at the evensong services featuring its famous choir. Other Cambridge churches of interest are Great St Mary’s, Round Church, St Benet’s, and St Peter’s.

Cambridge Queens Gate Trinity College courtesy Peak Districtcam Another university building not to be missed is Trinity College, founded in 1546 by Henry VIII. Check out the old gateways and the library built by the famous Sir Christopher Wren.

Cambridge punts for hire courtesy Peak Districtcam Cambridge is also famous for its punts (flat-bottomed boats moved by pushing a long pole into the water) along the river Cam. Visitors can take a tour along the river with a guide; many of the old college buildings are strewn along the bankside.

Cambridge St Johns College Kitchen Bridge courtesy Peak Districtcam Garden lovers may choose to visit Cambridge University’s botanic gardens where they can view a huge plant collection in glasshouses and wander in landscaped grounds. At the Cambridge and County Folk museum, housed in a 16th century former inn, is an assortment of displays on domestic, trading and rural life, fenland life, toys, kitchen equipment, tools and gear, trades and crafts. The Fitzwilliam museum is considered to be an outstanding museum, holding collections of antiquities from Greece, Rome and the Near East, European and oriental fans and armour; paintings, furniture and clocks.

A car tour of Cambridgeshire could well be organized in relation to its rivers. Begin north of the river Ouse and Nene and stop at Elm, a southern satellite village of Wisbech. The village has a collection of 18th century houses; the Black Horse Inn is of special interest. All Saints church dates from 1343 with an older tower and a double hammerbeam roof; the church is atmospheric, and its churchyard contributes to that feeling with its old trees and tombstones.

March Town Hall courtesy Dennis Smith Geograph org March, a large town straddling the river Nene, offers riverside walks, a 1900 market town hall, and a local folk museum on High St which has a collection that includes domestic, trade, agriculture, and fenland history, a reconstructed 19th century forge and fenland cottage. St Wendreda church dates from the mid 14th and early 15th centuries; it has a 140 foot spire, a tall clerestory with designs between the windows on the outside, and a famous angel roof of oak and double hammerbeams (118 angels in three tiers with wide-spread wings). Carved saints line the walls; there’s a Norman font, an enormous Bible, and, adding to the attractions, are a number of gargoyles.

Wisbech and Fenland Museum courtesy Evelyn Simak Geographic org At Wisbech, sitting in an agricultural area, visit the Wisbech and Fenland museum at Museum Square for an extensive archaeological collection with ceramics, fenland activities, and Wisbech history. St Peter and St Paul church is a large town church with a semi-detached tower; inside are lots of pillars as there are two naves and two aisles; attractions include 14th century extensions, old glass in the clerestory, and 17th century monuments. At Leverington, a suburb of Wisbech, is St Leonard church, a large building with a high spire and two-storey 14th century porch; its exceptional windows include a Tree of Jesse. There’s an early font and a 15th century lectern.

Peckover House courtesy Graham Taylor Geograph org Peckover House, at nearby North Brink, is a townhouse with fine plaster and wood rococo decoration. Outdoors is a Victorian walled garden, conservatory, ferns, orangery, hardy palms, summerhouse, roses, and herbaceous borders. The town of Whittlesey offers a museum on Market St in the town hall with displays relating to the history of the area; St Mary’s church with a glorious 15th century spire; some 17th and 18th century houses; and a buttercross in Market Place.

Peterborough Cathedral courtesy Calvertoncam The large city of Peterborough has a cathedral, completed in 1175, in the city centre. It’s designed in the Gothic style. Inside is the tomb of Catherine of Aragon and a wood panelled and painted ceiling in the nave. The city museum and art gallery houses displays on archaeology, Victorian rooms, local history, ceramics, glass and domestic items. Two miles west of Peterborough is Longthorpe Tower (EH), containing what is considered to be the finest example of 14th century wall paintings in Britain.

Flag Fen Prehistoric house by Barbara Ballard On the outskirts of Peterborough is Flag Fen, a bronze age archaeological discovery. Finds from the site and a video explaining it reside in the visitors’ centre. Walk around and visit the Preservation Hall, the replica bronze and iron age huts, and watch a dig. It’s more than worth a visit.

Moving south of the river Nene but still north of the Ouse, we find St Mary’s church in Doddington, constructed in the 14th century. In the church are 15th century windows, a roof with angels, and a William Morris window in the north aisle. At Downham just south of March is St Leonard’s church with Norman work in the tower and a Norman south doorway with 26 carved heads. The remains of a Bishop’s Palace is privately owned. An adjacent barn has been converted into a restaurant.

Ely Cathedral Cambridgeshire by Barbara Ballard
Ely is home to one of the finest Norman cathedrals, Ely Cathedral, in Britain. The site has been a place of worship since the 7th century. In 1083 work began on rebuilding it in the Romanesque architectural style. A collapsed tower in the 14th century spurred the building of the central lantern tower. In the cathedral is a stained glass museum which has many examples over the centuries and much interesting information—allow an hour to take it in. Check ahead for the times of the cathedral rooftop tours, a unique and fascinating experience.

Ely Cambridgeshire Oliver Cromwell House interior by Barbara Ballard The tourist information centre is housed in the home where Oliver Cromwell lived from 1636 to 1646. The half timbered home has been much altered on the inside. The Ely museum in the Old Gaol House, Sacrist’s Gate, contains collections of local historical and archaeological importance, agricultural implements, fenland tools, toys and photographs. Many of Ely’s medieval buildings are now part of King’s School. The oldest house in Ely is called the Three Blackbirds.

Fenstanton Clock Tower and Lockup courtesy Nigel P. Tilbury Geograph org Fans of Capability Brown, famous landscaper, may want to visit his tomb at Fenstanton, near Huntingdon. The village centre has a lock-up in the square dating from the late 1600s. The Farmland museum in Haddenham’s High St. has a collection of horse-drawn farming equipment and domestic items from the 19th century. At Houghton Mill is a National Trust operating mill with an interactive display and riverbank trails.

Huntingdon is the birthplace of Oliver Cromwell. A settlement has existed here since Saxon times. Only overgrown earthworks remain of a castle first built by William the Conqueror in 1068 and later rebuilt and destroyed. The town’s George Inn is a former coaching inn. Two churches are of note, St Mary’s and All Saints. The Cromwell museum is located at the 12th century Grammar School once attended by Cromwell.

Godmancheter Chinese Bridge courtesy Richard Humphrey  Geograph org Godmanchester Tudor farmhouse courtesy Robert Edwards Georgraph org Godmanchester is linked by a bridge to Huntingdon. It was an important Roman centre in the Ouse valley, and much of the town is a conservation area. The Chinese bridge built in 1827 leads to a riverside walk and a lock and the great meadow of Portholme. Buildings of interest include the book shop, Quaker Centre, Island Cottage, Red House, Black Bull, Farm Hall in West St, Porch Farm in London road, and three houses in Earning Street—Plantagenet House, Gables with a timbered barn and dovecote, and the Tudor House.

Godmanchester St Marys Church courtesy John Salmon Geograph org Godmanchester Island Hall courtesy Richard Croft Geograph org Chadley Lane is one of the oldest streets and leads to St Mary’s church, dating from the 13th-15th century; inside are misericords and 15th century choir stalls with fine carvings. The Island Hall is a mid-18th century mansion set by the river, with formal gardens and an ornamental island.

Kimbolton Castle School courtesy Graham Taylor Kimbolton St Andrews church lych gate courtesy Graham Taylor Kimbolton’s High St has 17th and 18th century buildings and a castle (scene of the death of Katherine of Aragon in 1536, now a private school). East St, running parallel to High St, has 16th and 17th century buildings; there are many interesting lanes and alleyways. St Andrew’s church has some 13th century work, monuments and a family vault, a 15th century oak screen, paintings from the 16th century, a Tiffany window, an old font, and a broach spire.

At Little Gidding is St John the Evangelist, a small church but one of most famous in England. The rebuilding of a ruined medieval church houses a religious community. The church contains panelling and brasswork, and a medieval lectern.

Ramsey church by Barbara Ballard Ramsey Abbey gatehouse by Barbara Ballard At Ramsey is a rural museum full of agricultural implements and machinery. The parish church was once an abbey hospice and is mostly Norman, with a 1672 tower. In the ruined abbey gatehouse is an oriel window and carvings of note. At the southeast edge of the town is Ramsey Abbey Gatehouse, the remnants of a former Benedictine monastery built on an island in the Fens. The gatehouse is late 15th century and is richly carved with an ornate oriel window.

St Ives Oliver Cromwell statue courtesy Keith Evans Geograph org St Ives All Saints Church courtesy David Bartlett Geograph org St Ives is another Cromwell site. He lived here between 1631 and 1636, at which time he received an inheritance and moved to Ely. His statue sits in the market place. The town church is 15th century. A bridge has a chapel on it dated 1426, once home to the prior who lived there after Henry VIII destroyed the priory of St Ivo.

St Ives on the River Ouse courtesy Gordon Brown Geograph org St Ives Norris Museum courtesy David Kemp Geograph org The town centre is a conservation area and The Lanes, which is a network of alleyways between Market Hill and the riverside, are interesting. The quayside makes the town attractive; there are lots of pubs, restaurants and shops. The Norris museum has a local collection. A nearby mill, Over, is a mid Victorian tower mill; it’s open for the sale of flour.

Bourn St Helen and St Mary Church courtesy MYM Geograph org Driving south of the river Ouse but north of the Cam, you encounter the thatched cottage, large green and All Saints church dated from the 13th and 14th centuries in the town of Barrington. At Bourn is a 12th century church, St Helen and St Mary with a twisted spire decorating its top, while inside is a medieval rood screen and stalls and benches from the 16th century. Bourn Mill on Caxton Road, is the oldest in Cambridgeshire. It’s weatherboarded and dates from 1636 and has been restored to working order.

Croxton has many 17th and 18th century cottages, some hidden and decaying; a late medieval manor house is crumbling away. Croxton Park is an 18th century rebuilding of a mansion, and St James church, south of the Park, is mostly 13th century.

Denny Abbey by Barbara Ballard Another farmland museum is located at the remains of Denny Abbey, founded in 1159 by Benedictines; it also housed the Knights Templars and Franciscan nuns. The remains include a medieval Franciscan refectory and a church. In the museum are displays on farming through the ages and the rural history of Cambridgeshire, interactive displays, a traditional farmworker’s cottage, a 17th century stone barn and workshops.

Grantchester meadow courtesy Lambert Geograph org Grantchester St Andrew and St Mary Church courtesy Martin Pearman Geograph org At Grantchester, an attractive village southwest of Cambridge, are a popular riverside walk, good pubs, a 15th century manor farm and cottages. Fans of the poet Rupert Brooke will want to seek out his memorial in the churchyard of 12th century St Andrew and St Mary. This area was also the haunt of Byron and Tennyson.

Great Paxton Holy Trinity Church courtesy Mark Hurn Geograph org Hayley Wood Centre courtesy Rob Noble Geograph org Holy Trinity at Great Paxton is one of the few surviving cruciform Saxon churches, dating from early 11th century. Note the nave arcades, north transept arch, and the round-headed clerestory window. Hayley Woods, west of Cambridge offers 122 acres rich in wildlife, birds, trees, and ancient hedges. At Madingley is a 16th century hall, now part of Cambridge university, a well-known pub, the Three Horseshoes, and the 14th century church St Mary Magdalene.

Orwell St Andrews Church courtesy Keith Evans Geograph org Thirty-nine of the town of Orwell’s buildings are listed with the Royal Commission for Historical Monuments. St Andrew’s church has 12th century work with a 14th century interior; the chancel has a wagon roof of note. Rampton’s village green has great trees, while its 13th and 14th century church is thatched and contains medieval wall paintings and an Elizabethan pulpit.

Soham’s St Andrew’s church is early 15th century but much is older; it has one of the finest nave roofs in the county. Next to the church is 17th century Fountain Inn. Downfield Mill dates from 1726 and is a tower mill restored to working order.

Wimpole Hall Cambridgeshire by Barbara Ballard Wimpole hall is a magnificent 18th century house in extensive wooded park. Ruyard Kipling’s daughter once lived here. Interior work is by Gibbs, Flitcroft, and Soane. In the park are a walled garden, a folly, a bridge, lakes, extensive walks, and thousands of daffodils in April. The model farm built in 1794 has a collection of rare animal breeds and farm implements dating back 200 years and an interpretive display.

Anglesey Abbey Cambridgeshire by Barbara Ballard South of the River Cam is Anglesey Abbey and Garden. The house dates from 1600 and is on the site of a 12th century priory; it is the unique collection of one man, the 1st Lord Fairhaven. Paintings, furniture, silver and tapestries, and a large collection of unusual clocks are on view. The garden has over 100 pieces of sculpture.

Burwell village sign courtesy Keith Edkins Geograph org Burwell is a large Fen-edge village with many interesting old houses and a small green. St Mary’s is a Perpendicular church with a beautiful interior, an outstanding village church. Note the oak roofs of nave and chancel. The tower has Saxon and Norman work. West of the estate village of Chippenham is one of the pest preserved peat fens in Cambridgeshire. In the village are a school of 1714 and early 1800s cottages. In St Margaret’s church are wall paintings. Foxton village has timber-framed cottages, an attractive green, and a nearby iron age settlement.

Fulbourn thatched cottages courtesy John Sutton Geograph org Gamlingay Emplins Hall courtesy Richard Thomas Geograph org Fulbourn lays claim to thatched cottages and old houses. Fulbourn Fen, an educational nature reserve, lies to the east; the two areas of public access are Beechwood and Wandlebury. Half a mile away is a mill. Gamlingay plays host to 60 buildings on the Historical Monuments list. Close to the church is Emplins, a timbered house built in the 15th and 16th centuries and Merton Manor Farm of the same period with a pigeon house and 17th century barn. Almshouses in Church St date from 1665. St Mary’s church is 13th century with a whitewashed interior and Perpendicular screen and stalls from 1442. Northwest of the village is Gamlingay Nature Reserve.

Ickleton St Mary Magdalene Church courtesy MYM Geograph org Ickleton has many fine old houses. St Mary Magdalene church is flint and pebble with a remarkable interior; much of the nave is 11th century; features include a 14th century rood screen, late medieval oak pews, and wall paintings. At Isleham village is a rare example of an early Norman church, dated 1331 and little altered. An angel roof, memorials and medieval lych gate are part of the attractions.

Linton Cottages courtesy Robert Edwards Geograph org Linton is a large village with a narrow High St lined with cottages leading to pargeted Chaundlers, the best house in the village. The church is near the river and has 13th and 14th century work. Near the church is early 16th century half-timbered Trinity Guildhall. There are lots of interesting cottages down side streets, a wooden mill, and some attractive pubs.

Swaffham Prior churches courtesy Keith Evans Geograph org Swaffham Prior has two churches in the same churchyard, St Mary, and St Cyriac and St Julitta. St Mary was begun in 1080, the other is 200 years younger. St Mary has a Norman tower and 15th century arcades; both churches were decayed and rebuilt more than once. Baldwin Manor in the town is considered a fine 16th century house. There are many charming cottages in the village and a mid Victorian tower mill above the village.

Wicken Fen by Barbara Ballard South of the River Ouse is Wicken Fen National Nature Reserve, Britain’s oldest nature reserve. Sedge beds, reeds, and Fen meadows make a haven for 5000 species of birds, plants and mammals. A visitor centre has exhibitions of the ecology and history of the fenlands.

Cambridgeshire Attractions

For opening times and full details of attractions see the Attractions section of our website.

All Saints Church
Main Rd, Elm
Tel. NA

Anglesey Abbey, Gardens, and Lode Mill
Lode, 6 miles north-east of Cambridge
Tel. 0 1223 811 200
For photos and more detail see our article Anglesey Abbey

Cambridge University
Cambridge city

Cambridge University Botanic Gardens
Tel. 0 1223 336 265
Web: Cambridge University Botanic Gardens

Cambridge and County Folk Museum
2/3 Castle St
Tel. 0 1223 355 159
Web: Cambridge and County Folk Museum

Cromwell Museum
Grammar School Walk, Huntingdon
Three miles east of the A1
Tel. 0 1480 375 830

Denny Abbey and Farmland Museum (English Heritage)
Tel. 0 1223 860 489
For photos and more information see our article Denny Abbey and Farmland Museum

Downfield Mill
Tel. 0353 707 625

Elton Hall (HHA)
.5 mile south of Elton village
Tel. 0 1832 280 468
Web: Elton Hall

Ely Cathedral
Tel. 0 1353 667 735
For photos and more information see our article Ely Cathedral
Web: Ely Cathedral

Ely Museum
The Old Gaol, Market St, Ely
Tel. 0 1353 666 655
For photos and more information see our article Ely
Web: Ely Museum

Flag Fen Bronze Age Centre
The Droveway, Northey Road, Peterborough
Tel. 0 1733 313 414
For photos and more details see our article Flag Fen
Web: Flag Fen

Houghton Mill
Houghton, signposted off the A1123
Tel. 0 1480 301 494

Imperial War Museum Duxford
Tel. 0 1223 835 000
Web: Imperial War Museum Duxford

Island Hall
Tel. 020 7491 3724

Kimbolton Castle
Tel. 0 1480 860 505

Longthorpe Tower
on the A47
Tel. 0 1733 268 482

Museum of Technology
Old Pumping Station, Cheddars Lane, Cambridge
Tel. 0 1223 368 650

Norris Museum
the Broadway, St Ives, Cambridgeshire
Tel. 0 1480 497 314
Web: Norris Museum

Octavia Hill's Birthplace House
8 South Brink, Wisbech
Tel. 0 1945 476 358
Web: Octavia Hill Birthplace House

Oliver Cromwell's House
29 Mary St, Ely
Tel. 0 1353 662 062

Peckover House
North Brink, Wisbech
Tel/Fax. 0 1945 583 463

Peterborough Cathedral
Peterborough city centre adjacent to Queensgate shopping centre
Tel. 0 1733 560 964
Web: Peterborough Cathedral

Peterborough City Museum and Art Gallery
Priestgate, Peterborough
Tel. 0 1733 343 329

Ramsey Abbey Gatehouse
Abbey School, Ramsey, Huntingdon
south-east edge of the town
Tel. 0 1480 301 1494

Stained Glass Museum
The South Triforium, Ely Cathedral, Ely
Tel. 0 1353 660 347
Web: Stained Glass Museum

St Leonard Church
1 Church End, Leverington, Cambridgeshire
Tel. check website for specific numbers

St Mary’s Church
Chadley Lane, Godmanchester
Tel. contacts listed on website
Web: St Mary’s, Godmanchester

St Peter's and St Paul's Church
Tel. Church Office: 0 1945 582 508

St Wendreda Church
Wimblington Rd, March, Cambridgeshire
Tel. church warden number on website
Web: St Wenreda Church

Wicken Fen National Nature Reserve
3 miles west of Soham on Lode Lane, Ely
Tel. 0 1353 72074

Wimpole Hall
Wimpole Estate, Arrington, Royston, Cambridgeshire
Tel. 0 1223 206 000

Wimpole Home Farm
Wimpole Estate, Arrington, Royston
Tel. 0 1223 206 000

Wisbech and Fenland Museum
Museum Square, Wisbech
Tel. 0 1945 583 817
Web: Wisbech Museum

University of Cambridge Museums and Galleries

All University of Cambridge Museums have free entry.

Fitzwilliam Museum
Trumpington St
Tel. 0 1223 332 900
University of Cambridge museum
Web: Fitzwilliam Museum

Kettle’s Yard
Castle St
Tel. 0 1223 352124
Department of the University of Cambridge
Web: Kettle’s Yard

Museum of Archaeology and Anthropology
Downing St
Tel. 0 1223 333 516
University of Cambridge museum
Web: Museum of Archaeology and Anthropology

Museum of Classical Archaeology
Sidgwick Ave
Tel. 0 1223 335 153
University of Cambridge museum
Web: Museum of Classical Archaeology

Museum of Zoology
Downing St
Tel. 0 1223 336 650
University of Cambridge museum
Web: Museum of Zoology

Scott Polar Research Institute Museum
Lensfield Rd
Tel. 0 1223 336 540
University of Cambridge museum
Web: Scott Polar Research Institute Museum

Sedgwick Museum of Earth Sciences
Downing St
Tel. 0 1223 333 456
University of Cambridge museum
Web: Sedgwick Museum

Whipple Museum of the History of Science
Free School Lane
(between Bene't Street and Pembroke Street) in the centre of Cambridge
Tel. 0 1223 330 906
University of Cambridge museum
Web: Whipple Museum of the History of Science

Cambridge Colleges (with dates of founding)
Christ 1505
Clare 1326
Corpus Christi 1352
Emmanuel 1584
Gonville and Caius 1348
Jesus 1497
King’s 1441
Magdalen 1428
Pembroke 1347
Peterhouse 1284
Queen’s 1448
Sidney Sussex 1596
St Catherine’s 1473
St John’s 1511
Trinity 1546
Trinity Hall 1350

Cambridgeshire Tourist Information Centres

The Old Library, Wheeler Street, Cambridge
Email: Cambridge Tourism
Tel. 0 906 586 2526

Oliver Cromwell's House
29 St Mary's Street, Ely
Tel. 0 1353 662 062
Email: East Cambridgeshire District Council
Web: Oliver Cromwell’s House

The Library, Princes Street
Tel. 0 870 225 4825
Email: Huntingdon Tourist Information
Web: Huntingdonshire District Council

3-5 Minster Precincts
Peterborough, PE1 1XS
Tel. 0 1733 452 336
Email: Peterborough Tourist Information
Web: Peterborough City Council

St Neots
The Old Court
8 New Street, St Neots, PE19 1AE
Tel. 0 1480 388 788
Email: St Neots Tourist Information Centre

Wisbech and the Fens
2-3 Bridge Street
Wisbech, PE13 1EW
Tel. 0 1945 583 263

Photos by Barbara Ballard, courtesy Peak District Cam, Calverton Cam and Geograph British Isles as follows:
March Town Hall by Dennis Smith
Wisbech Fenland Museum and church by Evelyn Simak
Fenstanton clock tower and lockup by Nigel P. Tilbury
Godmanchester Chinese bridge by Richard Humphrey
Godmanchester Tudor farmhouse and Linton cottages by Robert Edwards
Godmanchester St Mary church by John Salmon
Godmanchester Island Hall by Richard Croft
Peckover House , Kimbolton castle school and St Andrews church lych gate by Graham Taylor
St Ives Cromwell statue, Orwell church, and Swaffham Prior churches by Keith Evans
St Ives church by David Bartlett
St Ives River Ouse by Gordon Brown
St Ives Norris Museum by David Kemp
Swaffam Prior church by Keith Evans
Bourn church and Ickleton church by MYM
Grantchester meadows by Lambert
Grantchester St Andrew and St March by Martin Pearman
Great Paxton church by Mark Hurn
Hayley Woods by Rob Noble
Burwell village sign by Keith Edkins
Fulbourn thatched cottages by John Sutton
Gamlingay Emplins Hall by Richard Thomas

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Some of our Cambridgeshire Articles
Anglesey Abbey
Flag Fen
Wimpole Hall
Ely City Walking Tour
Ely Cathedral
Oliver Cromwell’s House
Denny Abbey and Farmland Museum
Flag Fen
Other England Articles

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