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Old 10-07-2010, 09:27 AM
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Default Ely offers plenty for the explorer looking to stay close to home

Ely offers plenty for the explorer looking to stay close to home

10-07-2010 07:56 AM

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Thu, 2010-10-07 15:52

Ely offers plenty for the explorer looking to stay close to home

Heather Joy

Ely offers plenty for the explorer looking to stay close to home

Heather Joy

While your expectations of tourist’s destinations in Ely may no doubt be the city’s medieval Cathedral it behooves visitors to explore more and find the not so hidden treasures that make Ely a growing day-tripper destination.
Located just 13 miles or 25 minutes from RAF Mildenhall this charming city has a variety of attractions with something that is sure to interest just about everyone in the family according to Aileen Sharp, Tourism Development Officer for East Cambridgeshire District Council. “ We are very diverse, we have lots of activities and community events, with a lot of culture and history and we are very well situated.”
So where do you begin your tour of Ely, well of course, at its number one attraction, The 12th-century Ely Cathedral which is both an architectural wonder as well as spiritual landmark. Have a look around this magnificent building on your own or take a guided tour offered by informative volunteers. The cathedral boosts an impressive corridor, which stretches more than 500 feet, while its ceiling brimming with paintings of religious icons rises about 100 feet.
Take an optional tour to the Octagon and the 215-feet-tall West Tower also known as the “Ship of the Fens” for impressive views of Ely and the surrounding fens. According to the cathedral’s management it requires 3000 pounds a day to keep the church open to the public which makes it necessary to charge admission. Admission is 5.50 – 9 pounds for adults; free for children 12 and under and free to anyone on Sundays.
Housed inside the Cathedral’s South Triforium, the Stained Glass Museum hosts a collection of stained glass from eight different centuries. The museum provides audio-guides that unveil the story of the illuminated displays. There is an additional fee of 3.50 pounds for adults to enter the museum or a museum and cathedral combined ticket for 8.30 pounds.
Stepping away from the cathedral walk 200 yards to Oliver Cromwell’s House which doubles as the Tourist Information Center where guests can get maps, purchase attraction tickets, find souvenirs or hear a little more on Ely’s past.
For a mere 4.40 pounds visitors can tour the home of the “lord protector”, Oliver Cromwell and learn how Cromwell a commoner, rose to be King, in all but name and see how his family lived for close to 11 years before his rise. The home also provides a glimpse into the English Civil War and his eventful death at the Palace of Whitehall. The rumored haunted home is a growing attraction as Halloween draws closer and it is also a highlight along the Ely Ghost Tour route.
To understand more of Ely’s history visit the Ely Museum, another of the city’s key attractions housed in the city’s former goal – or jail. Visitors start their journey through time with displays from the prehistoric times through to the bronze and iron ages and finally into the 20th century. Throughout the museum there are exhibits that kids can touch and experience, even old sets of fen clothing.
Two notable attractions include the Velocipede that was ridden to victory in the first ever recorded bicycle race in 1868 and the model of Ely Cathedral created with using over 5000 matches. Admission to the museum is 3.50 pounds for adults and free for children under 16 years of age.
Ely also offers visitors many opportunities for a little retail therapy with a large selection of individual shops selling a range of traditional and contemporary gifts, crafts and antiques alongside many high street chains. Ely holds three different styles of markets throughout the year, including the popular farmers market on the second and fourth Saturday of every month and a regular general market on Thursdays and every other Saturday alternating with the Saturday Craft and Collectibles market.

Throughout Ely visitors will also find a variety of art galleries and antique shops including the Babylon Gallery and Waterside Antiques that sit along the River Great Ouse.
And don’t worry about running out of fuel while sightseeing or shopping, Ely boosts a number of cafes, coffee shops and pubs serving everything from light bites to gourmet meals and of course eel. Ely has a strong history with the eel, before the fens were drained and Ely was an island, eel was a large part the Elysian diet according to Sharp, so be a little adventurous and try a bite of home cooked eel.
Visitors looking for a tranquil afternoon can walk along the Great River Ouse and watch the long boats cruise along or can relax in the riverside Jubilee Gardens, take photos of the Cathedral from the palace green, or play with your puppy in Deans Meadow or Ely Park.

Upcoming Ely events:

The Apple Festival 2010 is October 16, from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. on the Palace Green opposite the Cathedral. The annual festival is in celebration of the great British Apple. Experts from the East of England Apples and Orchard Project will be on hand to help you identify those mysteries apples growing in your garden. There will also be several competitions and activities throughout the day including the ever-popular longest apple peeling competition, apple and spoon races and an apple shy. Don’t forget to stop by the Apple Café to enjoy a variety of apple related refreshments from ciders and juices to pork and apple burgers and sausages. Stop by the cookery demonstrations to see how to throw some simple apple dishes together.

Ely’s Haunted Tales Tours run October 25 – November 4 at 7:30 p.m. departing from Oliver Cromwell’s House. On the surface Ely looks peaceful and tranquil but behind doorways and passages throughout the city there are stories of murder, intrigue and mystery. For ticket information call the Ely Tourist Office at 01353 662062 or log on to

The Ely Christmas Lights Celebration on November 26 will see the city aglow in lights and holiday merriment. Enjoy the Christmas entertainment in the streets, browse stalls selling gifts for everyone on your list, enjoy some yuletide refreshments and visit Santa in his grotto.

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