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  • Writer's pictureAlex van Terheyden

Ely Cathedral: A Must-Visit Destination for History Enthusiasts and Cultural Explorers


The Division Bell by Pink Floyd, Ely Cathedral, Ely Cambridgeshire,
Ely Cathedral features on the Pink Floyd Album Cover - "The Division Bell"

Ely Cathedral, located in the picturesque English countryside, is a masterpiece of architecture and a reminder of the country's long history and skilled construction. Since more than a thousand years ago, this magnificent building in the Cambridgeshire city of Ely has caught the attention of both tourists and residents. The fascinating history of Ely Cathedral is examined in this essay, along with its significance, architectural marvels, and the amazing experiences it can provide visitors.

The 7th century marks the beginning of Ely Cathedral's magnificent history as the Cathedral Church of the Holy and Undivided Trinity. Saxon princess-turned-queen St. Etheldreda established it as an abbey in the year 673 AD. The abbey gained fame over the years, and in 1109 it became a cathedral. Due to its connections to various significant events, such as the English Reformation and the Civil War, its historical significance is clear.

Ely Cathedral, Ely Cathedral Octagon,
Ely Cathedral from the roof. Visitors can access the roof should they book in advance

Ely Cathedral is recognised for its stunning architecture, which combines a variety of styles from many eras. The majestic Norman-style nave, which measures an astonishing 75 metres in length and rises to a lofty height of 23 metres, is the structure's most striking feature. Stone arches with exquisite carvings and vaulted ceilings are evidence of the time's master craftsmen.

An engineering marvel is the Octagon, a later addition to the church. It replaced the earlier Norman tower that had collapsed due to structural problems and was built in the fourteenth century. Visitors to The Octagon can enjoy stunning lantern tower views of the surroundings that are illuminated by natural light.

Looking up at Ely Cathedral Octagon

The remarkable art and valuables that are kept in Ely Cathedral add to its attractiveness. Beautiful stained glass windows representing biblical events can be seen in The Lady Chapel, a masterwork of mediaeval art. The elaborate woodcarvings in the cathedral, such as the well-known misericords, provide a window into the way of life and beliefs of mediaeval artisans.

The cathedral's Stained Glass Museum features priceless examples of stained glass from across the centuries. Visitors can take in the works' dazzling hues and minute details while learning about the processes and backstories that went into creating them.

Services, concerts, and other events are still regularly held at Ely Cathedral. The tranquillity of the area allows for thought and introspection on the part of visitors. Chapels, shrines, and memorials honouring saints, bishops, and historical individuals attest to the cathedral's deep spiritual past.

Cambridgeshire countryside Ely Cathedral
Ely Cathedral sits within Cambridgeshire countryside

Tourists who make the journey to Ely Cathedral will never forget their experience. Volunteer guides are available for tours of the cathedral, and they are well-versed in the building's history, architecture, and artwork. Climbing the West Tower rewards guests with panoramic vistas of the surrounding area.

Music festivals, choir concerts, and holiday celebrations are just some of the events that take place in Ely Cathedral throughout the year, contributing to the lively atmosphere and providing excellent possibilities for cultural immersion.

The perseverance, creativity, and brilliance of humanity are all on display at Ely Cathedral. This incredible building has been drawing in visitors from all around the world for centuries due to its cultural significance and jaw-dropping architecture. Ely Cathedral is a must-see if you are interested in history, appreciate architecture, or are just looking for a peaceful, beautiful spot to relax. Schedule a visit to this world-famous site and let the majesty and spirituality of it take you back in time.

I always try my best to make a video of the destinations I visit - Ely Cathedral is without exception. In my latest video, I explore the history and take in a world within a tower. Do check it out if you are curious about Ely Cathedral and possibly prepping yourself for your first or next visit to this beautiful place.

Getting to Ely by Train

From London to Ely: The train is the most practical mode of transportation between London and Ely. London King's Cross or London Liverpool Street stations are where trains depart from. A direct train runs from London King's Cross to Ely. Depending on the train service and schedule, the trip usually takes about 1 hour and 15 minutes. You can take a train to Cambridge from London Liverpool Street and then change to a different train headed for Ely. Depending on connections, the trip will take 1 hour and 30 minutes in total. From Cambridge Station, you can take a direct train to Ely, and trains between Cambridge and Ely run often, making it a practical option for travellers. The distance can be travelled in 15 to 20 minutes, depending on the timetable and train service.

Getting to Ely by other means

If you'd rather travel by car, you can get to Ely from London by taking the M11 highway. The journey's duration varies based on traffic and is roughly 70 miles long. It usually takes between one hour and thirty minutes and two hours. Between Cambridge and Ely, there are bus routes that provide a substitute for other modes of transportation. Bus trips typically last between 30 and 40 minutes, however, actual travel durations may differ based on the flow of traffic and the particular bus route. Between Cambridge and Ely, there are bus routes that provide a substitute for other modes of transportation. Bus trips typically last between 30 and 40 minutes, however, actual travel durations may differ based on the flow of traffic and the particular bus route.

What else is there to see if I venture to the Town of Ely?

Located in the county of Cambridgeshire, Ely, England, is a picturesque and historic city. It's a wonderful combination of photogenic scenery, interesting history, and fascinating sights. While visiting Ely Cathedral you may also want to take in the following sights in Ely:

  • The mediaeval feel of the city's core is still present in modern-day Ely, thanks to the historic district's winding alleyways and timber-framed buildings lined with cosy cafes. Admire the buildings as you go from shop to shop, then reward yourself with a traditional cream tea at one of the city's many quaint tea shops.

  • An interesting museum on the life of the despicable Tyrant, Oliver Cromwell's House can be found in the heart of Ely. Visitors can learn about Cromwell's historical significance through the interactive exhibits and period rooms. Although it must be noted they fail to criticise this man nearly enough – the days when the English see him for what he was can’t come soon enough.

  • The rich history of Ely can be better understood by visiting the Ely Museum, a modest but instructive museum. Explore the evolution of Ely from its first inhabitants to the current day through displays of archaeological artefacts, hands-on exhibits, and displays highlighting the region's natural and cultural history.

  • Just a short distance from Ely lies Wicken Fen, one of Britain's oldest nature reserves. This unique wetland habitat is home to an array of wildlife, including rare species of birds, plants, and insects. Visitors can explore the reserve through a network of boardwalks, nature trails, and guided tours, immersing themselves in the tranquillity of nature.

  • The presence of the Great Ouse River in Ely makes for a picturesque setting for picnics, strolls along the water, and boat rides. Rent a boat and cruise the river at your leisure while taking in the picturesque scenery and fauna. And for some relaxation and outdoor recreation, head to Jubilee Gardens and Ely Park. These well-maintained green spaces provide a tranquil setting for picnics, leisurely walks, or enjoying recreational activities.

Those are merely the tip of the iceberg when it comes to the attractions of Ely. With its friendly locals, beautiful scenery, and rich history, Bath is a great place to visit if you want to learn about England's past and relax away from the stress and bustle of the city.

I am not sponsored by the British Government, Ely Cathedral or any Travel Group, I simply have written this post as I enjoy travelling. Please check out this blog for more independent travel ideas and my YouTube Channel. As always, videos can always be found on YouTube & Odysee. I use both as sadly YouTube is now censoring content whereas Odysee is for free speech.

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