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Top places to live in Cambridgeshire Ely

This fenland town has a lot going for it - direct trains to Cambridge and London, indies aplenty and of course the cathedral. Rolling hills there are not, but the flat, water-logged countryside has a strange kind of beauty you'll come to love. Part of our Top 200 Places to Live series.

best place to live Ely
Ely Cathedral, The Ship of The Fens


Ely Cathedral is one of the wonders of eastern England and seeing this marvel of architecture rising above the flat vista has to make living here a daily delightBut Ely isn’t just amazing because its home to The Ship of The Fens. The streets of the bijou town are lined with picture-postcard historic houses and cute little cobbled squares and it lies on the beautiful River Great Ouse, where you can row and walk to your heart’s content.


The Old Fire Engine House is a traditional restaurant and art gallery in a gorgeous Georgian House that serves food inspired by the fens. The Royal Standard, a Greene King pub, is a popular place for a relaxed meal, while for something a little more special head to hotel Poet’s House. For easy lunches after a riverside walk there’s Peacocks Tearoom, Riverside Bar Kitchen and The Cutter Inn. Eleven A is the place to head for cocktails and for a unique place to eat head to The Almonry restaurant in The Undercroft of Ely Cathedral’s medieval precinct. 68 Market Street is a brilliant vegetarian restaurant too, serving locally-sourced produce.


There are lots of independent shops in Ely, plus three market days a week. Starting with the important stuff…The Ely Gin Company sells homemade fruit gins as well as local honey and gifts from their shop on the Buttermarket. There are family-run adults and children clothes shops, like Jensen’s and Little Roos and gift shops including The Eel Catcher’s Daughter and an independent department store, Cutlacks. Toppings is a proper old-school bookshop that hosts many author events, and Waterside Antiques is a huge antiques centre with around 60 dealers.


There are miles of fen waterways to discover from Ely, so you might want to leave room in the relocation budget for a pleasure boat. Ely Cathedral is worth a visit at any time of the year, but keep an eye out for some of the excellent exhibitions they run too. Oliver Cromwell lived in Ely for a decade and you can visit his house (including the haunted bedroom) and experience how life was for the Lord Protector in the 17th Century. In terms of outside activities The National Trust’s Wicken Fen and WWT Welney Weltland Centre are an easy drive away.


£363,406. House prices are up in this pretty town with detached properties selling for an average price of £438,770 in 2019. Terraced properties sold for an average of £310,435, while semi-detached properties went for £309,591. Good local estate agents include David Clark Homes and Pocock & Shaw.



Ely is home to one of the oldest schools in the UK, King’s Ely School (read my review here), which is directly opposite the Cathedral and has a really strong music, drama and arts department, as well as impressive academic results. The setting within the historic town is rather idyllic too.


Keep your eyes peeled for famous actors in this teeny city (famous films shot here include Al Pacino’s Revolution, The King’s Speech with Colin Firth, and parts of Netflix’s The Crown were filmed at Ely Cathedral.


Ely has a train station with direct semi-fast trains to London Kings Cross. It’s a bit of a hike still though with the latest trains taking 67 minutes and season tickets costing £3940. The same line goes through Cambridge though and is a much more manageable 19 minutes.

View the full Top 200 Places to Live

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