Local Information about the Ely area

Brief History of Ely

Ely is one of Cambridgeshire’s most famous landmark cities. Towering about this vibrant market town is one of the most truly stunning 7 Wonders of the Medieval World, Ely Cathedral. First built as an abbey in 673 by St Etheldreda and destroyed in 870, the magnificent building you can see today was rebuilt over 100 years later and is now one of the UKs most visited and admired cathedrals. Its place in British history has ensured Ely’s position as one of Cambridgeshires most desirable locations to both live, work and visit.

Ely is believed to derive its name from eels, which were once found in abundance around the fens and marsh land which used to surround the town, up until the 1800’s and were said to be used as a form of currency to pay taxes by the Benedictine monks who lived at the cathedral. Before the marshes were drained, Ely was an island and was a county in its own right, up until 1965 when it was merged with Cambridgeshire.

As an island and port, Ely was of great strategic importance during medieval times and was both a battle ground and refuge for soldiers and armies including those of William the Conqueror and King John.

The town was built around the cathedral and was once a busy shipping port and centre for trade. The traditional markets still held there today are a legacy of bygone eras. The development of the town was heavily influenced by the local monks and there are still many monastic buildings nestled amongst the historic architecture still standing today.

Ely was also once home to many historical characters like William 1st and Oliver Cromwell, whose home is now the Ely Tourist Information Centre and is a favourite destination for ghost hunters….


As a traditional market town, Ely plays host to up to 150 different stalls including food, general, flower, craft and farmers markets, which run twice weekly throughout the year and are enjoyed by both visitors and locals. From exotic food stalls to vintage collectables and antiques, this famous market place has something for everyone and it bustles with life and colour. For more market information, visit the Tourist website.

Ely’s winding streets are filled with both traditional and high street shops plus there is also the new Cloisters Shopping Centre, which is home to all the big brand names and houses many entertainment and leisure facilities.

Out and About

There is always plenty to do in and around Ely. With a host of both indoor and outdoor activities, there is something for all ages and abilities to get involved in.

For outdoorsy or nature lovers the famous Newmarket Race course is just a stones through away and the famous Great River Ouse winds its way through Ely and its surrounding fens and waterways, which are alive with both native and migrating wildlife. Ely is surrounded by SSSI and Nature Reserve sites so grab your binoculars and go and see the spectacular flocks of migrating birds on the Ouse Wash or the otters enjoying the many rivers and streams feeding into it. There are literally hundreds of trails for walkers and cyclist throughout the area and as Cambridgeshire is relatively flat, users of all abilities can get outside and enjoy the stunning scenery.

There are many museums in and around Ely like Ely Museum and the UK’s only Stained Glass Museum hosted by Ely Cathedral, plus you can even find out how the fens and marshes were drained at Prickwillow Engine Museum. For art and performing art lovers, check out the ADEC  website. There’s always something new and exciting coming up on this site so make sure you bookmark it.

How about a splash with the kids at Paradise Pools or a cruise down the river on one of the boats that sail from Ship Lane every half hour? Or even a tasty lunch by the river at one of the many delightful tearooms, restaurants and pubs along its banks.

One of our favourite places to relax and enjoy fabulous food in luxurious surroundings is at the Poets House hotel. This beautiful Grade II listed building has been renovated and refurbished to the highest standards and enjoys fabulous views of the Cathedral and Oliver Cromwell’s old house and is a popular wedding and event venue. Poets House is also an ideal romantic getaway destination and base for tourists and house hunters. We highly recommend its hospitality and excellent cuisine.

Ely is a great place to bring up a family and has over 40 superb schools, nurseries and colleges including excellent road and rail links plus the closest A&E hospital is the world famous Addenbrooke’s Hospital and we also benefit from the wonderful maternity and women’s hospital, the Rosie Hospital.

So as you can see, Ely could easily be called the jewel in the eye of East Cambridgeshire and we could thing of a hundred and one really good reasons to live here so why not call or register with us today and join our friendly and thriving community in one of Cambridge’s most beautiful and historic towns.