Ouse the daddy; From Mrs Cromwell's kitchen to some eely nice treats, pretty Ely is staycation heaven.
AS quaint historic cities go, you can't get much better than Ely in Cambridgeshire. It offers so much charm and grace that you'll feel like you've stepped into a Dickens novel.
What you see on first glance is what you get - it's all very olde worlde.
Medieval architecture lines the crooked cobbled streets and the gardens appear to be in full bloom all year round.
The locals have a real sense of community spirit, and there's always some sort of market or fete in the city centre.
The main talking point, (not only because at 217ft high you literally can't miss it,) is the 14th century cathedral.
The third longest in England, it's a masterpiece of medieval engineering which took 300 years to build.
To visit, there is a small fee, which contributes towards the (wait for it) PS6,000 daily upkeep of the building. But your ticket includes a stained glass museum where kids (big and small) can have a pop at painting their very own design, a tour of the two towers and, if you visit on a Sunday, a seat at one of their famous organ recitals.
Not your thing? There's an A-List link too, as the cathedral recently appeared in Netflix series The Crown and stars such as Natalie Portman, Cate Blanchett and Eddie Redmayne have wandered the grounds in various period dramas.
Ely's other claim to fame is rather less glamorous and slightly slimier - its link with eels. With the name deriving from 'Isle of Eels,' this dates back to when Ely was an island surrounded by water and marshland with eels in abundance.
Nowadays, Ely likes to celebrate its slithery friends with a picturesque walk imaginatively called The Eel Trail.
It's a stroll through some of the city's most beautiful areas, dotted with artwork portraying the life cycle of an eel. The piece de resistance is a 10ft steel sculpture in the pretty Jubilee Gardens.
If none of that gives you the heebiejeebies, sample some smoked eel yourself at the award-winning Farmers Market which is open every weekend.
For tastes less fishy, the city centre boasts tea shops a-plenty while for the fancier end of the spectrum, it has to be afternoon tea at the Poets House hotel.
Booking is essential, but a selection of sandwiches, cakes, scones and a glass of fizz will cost PS25. A kids cream tea is also available for a PS10 (swapping the champers for a hot chocolate of course). The lunch menu at the Poets also has an epic pork belly and Asian slaw open sandwich and great tapas dishes. Dinner is pretty special too with three courses for PS30 (try their smoked eel terrine).
The bar also has one of the most extensive cocktail lists in the area and delicious ciders from local orchards.
But the star of this hotel's show is the rooms - especially the huge copper bathtubs where you can take in views of the cathedral while having a soak.
If you're travelling with kids, Oliver Cromwell's House is a great day out.
Restored to offer a vivid representation of 17th century life, check the website for information on the 'experience' days so you can bake something with Mrs Cromwell in her kitchen (which dates back to 1215) or meet some
Room at House hotel in Ely, Cambridgeshire PS180 a night B&B. poetshouse.uk.com
From 17 over select the run up to shady characters in Oliver's 'haunted bedroom.' The site was his childhood home, and a tour offers inside information about the Roundheads' leader in the English Civil War. Did you know he hated Christmas and banned mince pies? Worse, that law has never been abolished so we break it every year (oliver cromwellshouse.co.uk). We also enjoyed a riverside stroll by the Great Ouse and a pint at the Minster Tavern, which offers local ales, affordable wines and ghostly goings on. The staff regularly report poltergeist activity but we were assured the spirits are more mischievous than malicious.
The owner said tunnels are supposed to connect the pub basement to the cathedral but no one has been brave enough to walk the full length to check.
So if you're ever passing through the Cambridgeshire Fens and see the cathedral spire standing proud in the distance - let it beckon you in. You'd be an 'eel fool to resist this place.
TRAVEL FILE BOOK IT
Room at the Poets House hotel in Ely, Cambridgeshire start at PS180 a night B&B. poetshouse.uk.com
From November 17 over select weekends on the run up to Christmas, a festive gift market will be held in the Cathedral. Buy local produce, gifts and see seasonal demonstrations of cake decorating or flower arranging. Go by train. The station is five minutes from the centre and the car parks are tiny and very busy.
MORE INFO Go to visitely.org.uk
Who knew that Oliver Cromwell hated Christmas and banned mince pies?
FAMILY HOME Oliver Cromwell's house
RHYME FOR TEA Poet's House hotel
SOAKED VIEW Copper bathtub
MASTERPIECE Ely's medieval cathedral sits above the Ouse
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|Publication:||Sunday Mirror (London, England)|
|Date:||Oct 22, 2017|
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