Wanderer at Large: Beds, Herts & Cambs – Ely Cathedral

A tour guide’s all-time favourite UK places.

Sponsored by Your London Tours.

This September, Visit Britain, the marketing arm of the British tourist industry, is launching its ‘Great British Staycation Campaign’ to encourage people to holiday in the UK.

Soul City Wanderer (aka Frank Molloy) is one of the UK’s most accredited and experienced tour guides. Over three decades he has visited nearly every part of the country, touring many of the places that Great Britain and Ireland has to offer.

In a new blog series, he will list his all-time favourite five places by area (spiralling out from London*). These are personal choices, some obvious, some obscure.

This week, the area north of London that includes the counties of Bedfordshire, Hertfordshire and Cambridgeshire.

Ely Cathedral.

Ely Cathedral
Ely CB7 4DL.

The small city of Ely claims to have the largest collection of medieval buildings in use, but pride of place goes to the huge cathedral which dominates the town.

The cathedral has an richly impressive history. It was founded in 673 as a religious house by Queen Etheldreda. After it was destroyed in a Viking raid in 879, it was re-established as a Benedictine Abbey in 970. In 1067, the last Anglo-Saxon leader, Hereward the Wake, took refuge here while being hunted by the Norman invaders. In 1081, the Normans rebuilt the abbey with stone, purportedly bought at cost of 8,000 eels a year! It became a cathedral in 1109.

Also known as ‘the ship’, its 270ft-high.prominent towers soar above the surrounding flat landscape. At 500ft long, it has the longest nave in the UK, and the widest medieval roof at 46ft. The highlight for me is the crowning central lantern. Eight oak trees were used to make the beams to support the 216ft high octagon-shaped brick and stone structure.

In popular culture, the cathedral was a movie location for two Tudor blockbusters, Elizabeth: The Golden Age and The Other Boleyn Girl. It is also seen on the cover of Pink Floyd’s album The Division Bell.

Onr of the most impressive buildings in the country.

Note: All sites mentioned were operating pre-lockdown. Please check relevant websites before embarking on any potential visit. Another recommendation will appear tomorrow.

For the very best in guided private tours of the UK visit www.yourlondontours.com

*Operators in the UK tour industry often separate the areas of the country according to what touring can be achieved in a region in one day. As a London-based operator, my ‘map’ spirals outwards from the capital and is separated thus:

  1. London
  2. Northern Home Counties (Beds/Herts/Cambs)
  3. Eastern Home Counties (Essex/Suffolk)
  4. Southern Home Counties (Kent, Surrey, Sussex)
  5. Western Home Counties (Ox/Berks/Bucks)
  6. South coast (Hants/Dorset)
  7. Western England (Somerset/Gloucs/Wilts)
  8. South West England (Devon & Cornwall)
  9. Wales (north & south)
  10. Welsh Borders (Herefordshire/Shropshire/Cheshire)
  11. Western Midlands (Brum/Worcs/Warks/Staffs)
  12. Eastern Midlands (Northants/Leics/Rutland/Hunts)
  13. Northern Midlands (Notts/Derbys)
  14. East coast (Norfolk/Lincs)
  15. Yorks (all ridings)
  16. North West (Manchester/Merseyside/Lancs/Lakes/Cumbria)
  17. North East (Durham/Tyne & Wear/Northumberland)
  18. Southern Scotland (Borders/Lowlands)
  19. Northern Scotland (Highlands/Islands)
  20. Ireland (Northern/Southern)

Published by Soul City Wanderer

Soul City Wanderer is the alias of London journalist and author Frank Molloy, a writer on the city’s history and culture. Born south of the river, he has an MA in London history (Birkbeck) and lectures at various institutions including the Museum of London and the National Portrait Gallery. He is also a fully-qualified Blue Badge Guide (MITG), Westminster Guide and City of London Guide.

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