Cambridgeshire has so much more to offer than the jewel in its crown, the county town of Cambridge. Beyond the university city and its ancient colleges lie some of East Anglia’s best attractions, including a wealth of museums, 2 magnificent cathedrals and a popular racecourse.

    The surrounding countryside is just as appealing, with a landscape of thriving arable farms and some of the area’s last remaining wetland habitats in its marshes and fenlands. Country estates and historic mills, riverside walks and bucolic villages complete the quintessentially English scene. The driving is easy in this flat landscape, so what’s stopping you from taking a road trip to Cambridgeshire?


    Newmarket Racecourse

    Have a flutter at Cambridgeshire’s famous flat racing tracks

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    Newmarket Racecourse is, for many, the home of horseracing in the UK due to the number of training yards nearby. It comprises two flat racing tracks, the Rowley Mile and the July Course. Racing has taken place at Newmarket since the reign of James I in the early 17th century, with the first recorded race held in 1622.

    Today, a day at the races is a popular pastime for locals and visitors. While you’re there, pay a visit to the National Horseracing Museum which tells the story of the sport. You’ll be able to see the silks of famous jockeys such as Lester Piggott and Frankie Dettori and learn what it takes to train the winning horse.

    Location: Foremans Office Rowley Mile Racecourse, Cambridge Road, Newmarket CB8 0TF, UK

    Phone: +44 (0)1638 675500


    photo by EduMark (CC BY-SA 3.0) modified


    Wimpole Estate

    Visit a working estate centred around a 17th-century mansion

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    Wimpole Hall is the largest house in Cambridgeshire, an imposing mansion built from 1640. Queen Victoria visited in the 1840s, and for a time it was owned by Rudyard Kipling’s daughter. These days, it’s owned and managed by the National Trust.

    The estate today, which also includes landscaped gardens and a working farm, is one of the county’s most popular tourist attractions. Some of the UK’s top garden designers have left their mark, among them Capability Brown. Don’t miss the glorious walled garden on your visit there.

    Location: Arrington SG8 0BW, UK

    Open: Daily from 9 am to 5 pm

    Phone: +44 (0)1223 206000


    photo by Karen Roe (CC BY 2.0) modified


    Wicken Fen Nature Reserve

    Take a waterside stroll in serene surroundings

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    Wicken Fen is one of the UK’s oldest nature reserves and has been managed by the National Trust since 1899. Much of the fenland in Cambridgeshire has been replaced by arable farms, leaving only 4 wild fens such as this. Originally, it was a 2-acre site but now stretches over 800 acres.

    Wicken Fen boasts several habitats, including reedbeds, farmland, fens and marsh. Hardy Konik ponies and Highland cattle graze on some areas of the site. It’s popular with walkers, cyclists and birdwatchers, who come to enjoy the wildlife and unspoilt views. Kingfishers, cuckoos and swans are among the birds commonly seen, and in summer, rare orchids come into bloom.

    Location: Lode Lane, Wicken, Ely CB7 5XP, UK

    Open: Daily from 10 am to 5 pm

    Phone: +44 (0)1353 720274


    Ely Cathedral

    Step inside one of England’s most wonderful cathedrals

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    Ely Cathedral can trace its history back to the year 672AD when St Etheldreda built a church here. The present building dates from the late 11th century and formally became a cathedral in 1109. It's huge because the Benedictine monks who constructed it wanted to glorify God.

    Take a look at the Stained Glass Museum before you leave. Climb a spiral staircase inside the cathedral to discover a collection of more than 125 examples of stained glass from the UK, Europe and the USA, the oldest of which date from the 13th century. It’s the only such museum in the country.

    Location: Chapter House, The College, Ely CB7 4DL, UK

    Open: Monday–Saturday from 10 am to 4 pm, Sunday from 10.30 am to noon

    Phone: +44 (0)1353 667735


    Imperial War Museum Duxford

    Learn about the greatest moments in aviation history

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    The aviation museum at Duxford is a branch of the Imperial War Museum and the largest of its kind in the UK. Formerly, this was RAF Duxford and today’s collection tells the story of those who worked and fought here from the end of World War I until the base closed in 1969. Filmmakers shot the flying sequences for Memphis Belle here while in 1968, one of the original WWI hangars was blown up during the making of the classic war movie, Battle of Britain (1969).

    One of the best reasons to come here is to see the aircraft on display, among them the Lancaster, Spitfire and Vulcan. Step inside the Pre-Production test Concorde G-AXDN, built to travel at twice the speed of sound and a prototype that flew faster than any of the other Concorde aircraft.

    Location: Duxford, Cambridge CB22 4QR, UK

    Open: Daily from 10 am to 6 pm

    Phone: +44 (0)2074 165000


    Anglesey Abbey

    Explore a Jacobean-style house with a working watermill

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    Anglesey Abbey is a country house built on the site of a ruined 12th-century priory. The home was begun in the early 17th century, incorporating one of the priory’s walls, but expanded later, particularly during the ownership of Lord Fairhaven in the 1930s.

    Lord Fairhaven built the Library Wing and Tapestry Hall and filled the place with paintings, silverware and works of art, all of which can be viewed. He also poured his heart and soul into transforming the extensive gardens, which today showcase striking displays of dahlias, a colourful rose garden and wildflower meadow. We also have him to thank for the restoration of the 18th-century Lode Mill, still a functioning watermill.

    Location: Quy Rd, Lode, Cambridge CB25 9EJ, UK

    Open: Daily from 9.30 am to 4.30 pm

    Phone: +44 (0)1223 810080


    photo by Karen Roe (CC BY 2.0) modified


    The Backs

    Picnic with a riverside setting and a view

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    The Backs got their name from the colleges that back onto the River Cam, namely St John’s, Trinity, Trinity Hall, Clare, King’s and Queen’s. The meadows were used for livestock to graze on and for growing crops. King’s still maintains that tradition, and you’ll see cows munching on sweet grass.

    A picnic on The Backs or in Grantchester Meadows is a fabulous way to savour the views of the colleges that back on to the River Cam. Besides these riverside parks, Mill Pond is another great location for an al fresco lunch.

    Location: Crosses the city centre east of Queen’s Road, Cambridge, UK


    Houghton Mill

    Experience a working riverside flour mill

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    Houghton Mill is the last mill standing on the River Great Ouse that produces flour using a water-powered wheel to grind the grain between stones. Milling has taken place at Houghton for around a thousand years, though the present structure dates from the 18th century.

    Taking in today’s bucolic scene, it’s hard to imagine that the Victorians produced flour here on an industrial scale. Get a sense of the past on milling days or opt for long, languid walks beside the millpond and beyond into the surrounding countryside.

    Location: Mill St, Houghton PE28 2AZ, UK

    Open: Daily from 10 am to 5 pm

    Phone: +44 (0)1480 301494


    Ramsey Rural Museum

    Step back in time to a bygone age

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    Ramsey Rural Museum offers visitors the chance to step back in time and experience what rural Cambridgeshire life was like in the past. Reconstructed buildings house everything from farm machinery to traditional cobblers’ stores, with exhibits telling of local legends and folklore. 

    Almost every aspect of daily life is tackled at the Ramsey Rural Museum, with plenty of historic artefacts to bring the past to life. Displays at the forge highlight the work of the farrier and the wheelwright. An authentic chemist shop has been transported to its new home at the museum. There’s even a mock-up of a 1900s schoolroom.

    Location: Wood Lane, Ramsey, Huntingdon PE26 2XD, UK

    Phone: +44 (0)1487 815715


    photo by Shaun Ferguson (CC BY-SA 2.0) modified


    Oliver Cromwell’s House

    Enter the home of one of England’s most controversial leaders

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    Oliver Cromwell’s House in Ely affords a fascinating glimpse into the parliamentarian turned soldier who defeated King Charles I to win the English Civil War. Staunchly religious, Cromwell was concerned about Charles’ attempts to reform the church and in 1642, was one of the first to take up arms against the monarchy.

    In the former Lord Protector’s home, displays help to explain the story behind the man who ordered the king to be beheaded but refused the crown himself. A museum in Huntingdon, the town where Cromwell was born, offers further insight into the actions and beliefs of this polarizing figure.

    Location: 29 St Mary's St, Ely CB7 4HF, UK

    Open: Daily from 11 am to 4 pm

    Phone: +44 (0)1353 662062


    Elgood’s Brewery

    Taste traditional ales from a family-run brewery

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    Elgood’s Brewery has its origins in the North Brink Brewery, established in 1795 on the north bank of the River Nene. It was one of the first Georgian breweries to be built outside London and in 1878 it was taken over and renamed by the Elgood family, who has been running the business ever since.

    Today, the brewers honour the traditional methods passed down through 5 generations. On one of the regular tours, visitors can learn more about the processes involved in turning hops, barley, yeast and water into beer. The attractive gardens are the ideal place to continue your education – just take it easy on the beer if you plan to tackle the maze.

    Location: 72 N Brink, Wisbech PE13 1LW, UK

    Open: Monday–Friday from 9 am to 5 pm, Sunday from noon to 4 pm

    Phone: +44 (0)1945 583160


    photo by Theyellowtulip (CC BY-SA 3.0) modified


    Shepreth Wildlife Park

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    Families can get up close and personal with tigers, lemurs, and marmosets at this small, educational wildlife park. It's located 7 miles south of Cambridge. There are plenty of kid-friendly meals in the café.

    Location: Station Road, Shepreth SG8 6PZ, UK

    Open: Daily from 10 am to 5.30 pm

    Phone: +44 (0)1763 262226


    photo by Neil McIntosh (CC BY 2.0) modified


    Evensong at Kings College

    Get inside without the college entrance charge

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    Evensong at Kings College is a wonderful occasion to witness while in Cambridge. A ticket to Kings College will set you back £9 or £10 depending on the season, but evensong is free. Much of the college is private, so even if you pay the admission fee, you’ll only get inside the chapel and the gardens – if they’re open. However, there’s a workaround. The college extends a warm welcome to anyone who wishes to join them as a guest at one of their services in the chapel.

    Worship takes place daily during term time, as well as at Easter and Christmas. You don’t have to be a Christian – members of other faiths, agnostics and atheists are also free to attend. You can sit and watch, so long as you remain there for the entire service and respect those who are participating. Don’t forget to look up to view the world's largest fan-vaulted ceiling and Rubens’ Adoration of the Magi.

    Location: King's Parade, Cambridge CB2 1ST, UK

    Phone: +44 (0)1223 331212


    The Eagle pub

    Get some free history with your pint

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    • Nightlife

    At The Eagle pub in Cambridge, you’ll have to pay for your pint – but the history that comes with it will cost you nothing. An inn has stood on this site since the middle of the 14th century, though the present incarnation dates back to 1667 – records show an ‘Egle and Chyld’ leased to Corpus Christi College.   

     Its 2 main claims to fame, however, date from the 20th century. In 1953, a pair of scientists, Francis Crick and James Watson, walked into the bar with a celebration in mind. They announced, “We have discovered the secret of life”, referring to the double helix structure of DNA. Rather more down to earth is the graffiti on the ceiling created by RAF pilots during WWII. A naked lady, thought to be the pub's landlady, is depicted in lipstick.

    Location: 8 Bene't St, Cambridge CB2 3QN, UK

    Phone: +44 (0)1223 505020


    photo by Rainer Stropek (CC BY 2.0) modified

    Julia Hammond | Contributing Writer

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