Cambridge Travel Information

Mother Earth Travel > United Kingdom > Cambridge > History

Cambridge is a jewel in the crown of England's heritage. Renowned as a seat of learning, its colleges continue to hone some of the world's greatest intellects, its beauty to inspire poets and artists. A city steeped in history, Cambridge is also at the forefront of 21st Century technology. It remains a magnet to those who desire both the experience of the old and the excitement of the new. Cambridge's main attractions are all within easy walking distance, best enjoyed with a lazy stroll around its famous streets. Visitors with more time on their hands can explore the surrounding villages and towns. The following are all within a 15-mile (25km) radius of Cambridge.

Cambridge City

First-time visitors will wander anxiously, asking themselves, 'Where's the university?'. But Cambridge has no campus. Instead, the colleges are scattered around the centre, from the tight courtyards of Gonville and Caius College to the confident expanse of Trinity College; the gardens awash with floral colour; faculties tucked down alleyways.

Many of the museums are also university-owned, such as the Fitzwilliam Museum with its vast, rich galleries. Contrast this to Kettle's Yard's modern art displayed in an narrow cottage.

Abandon the car as soon as you can to explore the daily market, high street shops, pubs and cafes. Look harder and you'll find second-hand bookshops, antique stores and historic churches. Ride a punt along the river, or tour by foot or open-topped bus. Nearby parks are ideal for picnicking, so pack the frisbee.

The City Edge

The village of Grantchester, immortalised in Rupert Brooke's poem, is a 45-minute walk south along the River Cam. It can also be reached by punt (or road). If the quiet charm isn't attraction enough, the village is well served by pubs and the famous Orchard tearooms.

Go from the Great War of Brooke's poetry to the Second World War; a 15-minute bicycle ride west of the city leads to the American Military Cemetary, Madingley. Row upon row of white crosses against the peaceful green countryside have a tragic beauty.

The more energetic can follow the 16-mile riverside footpath from Cambridge to Ely. You're barely out of the city before you reach a pub serving meals, and it is here that many curtail their route.

Southern Cambridgeshire

Expect few surprises from the local geography: hills are few and far between, and much of the land is given over to farming. However, the peaceful villages are attractive and welcoming, as is the picturesque Essex town of Saffron Walden (with nearby Audley End House). Wimpole Hall is set in rolling parkland, and has a rare breeds farm. Children aged two to 92 will also enjoy the delights of Shepreth Wildlife Park, Linton Zoo and the Imperial War Museum, Duxford, the country's largest civil and military aircraft collection.

Newmarket

Just 13 miles (21km) to the east of Cambridge lies Newmarket, the home of British horseracing. Visit the National Stud and the National Horseracing Museum or - better still - have a flutter at one of the regular race meetings.

Ely and the Fens

For centuries, the region north of Cambridge was untamed by man - treacherous marshes separated isles of higher ground. Drainage has changed this, leaving a flat landscape criss-crossed by rivers and canals, and the dark peat testifies to the fertility of the soil. Wicken Fen shows the marshes as they were, with nature trails leading through reed beds. For centuries, humans struggled to conquer the fenland; now they fight to stop it from disappearing, although with the proliferation of technology sites, we may not be able to save the fens.

Anglesey Abbey became a private home; Denny Abbey, a nunnery. Both are now open to the public. Beside Denny Abbey, a farmland museum recalls the lost rural lifestyle of the last century.

Ely Cathedral - the ship of the Fens - stands proud of its flat surroundings, one of England's great Norman cathedrals. The town at its feet has a bustling Thursday market.

Huntingdon and St Ives

Oliver Cromwell, who led the Roundheads against the Cavaliers of Charles II and become Lord Protector of England following the Civil War, was born in Huntingdon in 1599. You can visit his old school here before following him across the county: St Ives has his statue; his Ely home is open to the public; and his head is buried at Sidney Sussex College, Cambridge!

The Manor House in the village of Hemingford Grey was home to Lucy Boston, author of The Children of Green Knowe. The house, originally a Norman manor, inspired many of the tales within Boston's books. It can be viewed by appointment.