If you decide to choose this path, you need to be prepared for 27km long trip. The trip starts at the Midsummer Common in Cambridge and ends in Ely at the train station. Nice thing about it is that you don’t need to cross the city to get to the station – it will be first object to come across in Ely. You may either decide to come back to Cambridge by train, which takes around 15 minutes, or go to the city to relax and refresh – when you reach the Station Rd and Ely Hight Bridge you can walk around 500m along left river side to get to the marina with some pubs and restaurants. Of course, more experienced backpackers or cyclists can extend it to 54km by simply coming back to Cambridge. In this case, you would not need to enter the city at all. You could cross the river for the return trip just before Ely and take the return trip on the other side of the river.
- Start: Midsummer Common
- Distance: 27km/54km
- Time: walk (6-9h), cycle (3-5h), kayak/canoe (4-7h)
- Loop: yes (or return by train)
- Alternative options: running, kayak/canoe, SUP
- When you get there: sightseeing in Ely, lunch in the marina
- Worth to note: cycling along right river bank from Bottisham Lock is forbidden (and inconvenient due to many gates on the way as well). You would need to have ‘written permission’ for this. Also, path along left river bank may be to bumpy and too bushy in late summer additionally. Not everyone may enjoy this, although some people will! There is an alternative National Cycling Route from Cambridge to Ely (described here). However, it doesn’t lead along the river most of the time and is longer (around 38km)
First 10km of this trip is described in the trip to Bottisham Lock section. At the Bottisham Lock, you will need to decide whether you choose path along left or right side of the river. There will be no opportunity to cross over anymore for next 8km (up to Dimmock’s Cote Rd, A1123).
Trail along the left side is wilder and runs along the river all the time. It doesn’t cross any town or a city. Apart from the Baits Bite Lock, Bottisham Lock and one marina, there are no other buildings on the way. Personally, I prefer that side. It changes a lot over the year. It may be muddy during the winter and weedy in late summer/early autumn, which may be problematic for cyclists.
It’s worth to note that around 3-4km from the Bottisham Lock, there is a small protected area, a river bend. It is located exactly in halfway through to Ely, so it’s a very nice and strategic place for longer break. Then the path reaches Willows and Washes area with many wetland species to observe (binoculars is a must on this trip). Next, there is a picturesque bunker facing River Cam on the way. Going further, you will cross the Dimmock’s Cote Rd (A1123) and reach another picturesque area with a view to a Kingfishers Bridge Natural Reserve located on the other side of the river. In 2.5km you will reach marina which is located at the confluence of River Cam and river Great Ouse – here River Cam ends and you start to walk along river Great Ouse. From this point the path leads along left river bank up to Ely with a constant view to Ely Cathedral on the horizon. Continue the trip up to the Station Rd and the Ely Hight Bridge.
Trail along the right side from the Bottisham Lock runs along the riverbank for another 5km. This is wild part with Willows and Washes area. Next, the route leads through Upware and reaches a large family pub/restaurant. Then, the path leaves the river and transforms into a dirt track going along fields and forest for around 4km. It crosses the Dimmock’s Cote Rd (A1123) and goes through amazing Kingfishers Bridge Natural Reserve and then along right riverbank up to Ely. Similar to the path along the left river bank, it reaches confluence of River Cam and river Great Ouse – here River Cam ends and you start to walk along river Great Ouse. Also from this site, from now you will have a constant view to Ely Cathedral on the horizon. Continue the trip up to the Station Rd and the Ely Hight Bridge.
Route from Cambridge to Ely is a part of the Fen Rivers Way, an 80km walk from Cambridge to King’s Lynn. The trip distance is 27km, in case you decide to take a train back to Cambridge from Ely. More experienced backpackers, cyclists or trail runners can extend it easily to 54km by taking the…Keep reading
Cycling from Cambridge to Ely via National Cycling Routes is completely different experience from trekking along the river (described here). I think that ‘open space’ would be right term to describe this 38km long track. Comfortable hard-surface cycling route leads along streets and through farmlands, villages and wetlands.Keep reading
Recently, when thinking about new ideas for trips, I decided to set myself a bit of a challenge: to uncover a journey that would need good planning, more detailed research, and a bit of in-person exploration as well. Would it possible to find something like this around Cambridge? Sources: Hunter Blair A., Along the River…Keep reading
MY PERSONAL FAVOURITE OPTION FOR THE TRIP:
Get to the Baits Bite Lock from Cambridge along the right river bank.
From Bottisham Lock, take the path on the left side of the river.
After reaching the bridge on Dimmock’s Cote Rd, A1123 (this is first and last bridge one the way from the Bottisham Lock to Ely), cross to the right side of the river to go through amazing Kingfishers Bridge Natural Reserve.
Continue your trip on this side up to Ely.