Hours can be spent exploring Cambridge, from the streets to the river to the numerous stretches of green, but the surrounding area also has a great deal to offer. Cambridgeshire itself is a relatively small county, sharing borders with Bedfordshire, Essex, Lincolnshire, Hertfordshire and Norfolk, among others. Here are six of the best options.
You don’t need to stay in Cambridge to get a hands-on history lesson. A small neighbouring city, the centrepiece of Ely is a cathedral which has been standing for over 1,000 years. Ely is located in a region called the Fens and it’s rich in scenery and long nature walks. You can also visit Oliver Cromwell’s house. Ely can be reached either by train or car, just 14mi (22.5km) from Cambridge.
Long before Romans and Tudors, the Anglo Saxons ruled Britain, and Sutton Hoo is one of the best preserved examples of their culture. It features several burial mounds, including a ship burial, which can be visited alongside a visitors centre where many of the artefacts are now kept. Sutton Hoo is in Woolbridge, around 90 minutes east of Cambridge by car.
Turns out you don’t have to go to Africa for a worthwhile safari experience. Woburn is the biggest ex-situ conservation park in Europe, and allows visitors to drive a route featuring lions, rhinos, tigers, bison, bears, zebra, monkeys and more. The on-foot portion of the park also offers close encounters with many more animals and plenty of educational material. Woburn is just under an hour southeast of Cambridge by car.
While the city of Royston itself might not be a particularly vibrant destination, it plays host to a genuine historical mystery. Royston Cave is a large man-made bell chamber, hundreds of years old. Its original purpose remains unknown, although it is thought to have been used by the Knights Templar. Royston Cave is open daily to visitors and the city itself can be reached by car or train in under 30 minutes.
While you have to travel further north to see a lot of the famous English countryside, Cambridge is a close neighbour to the largest pine forest in the country. Thetford Forest is a 47,000-acre (19,020-hectare) forest planted during WWI to create a new timer supply. Now, it boasts some of the best walks, mountain bike routes and even a Go Ape canopy walk. Thetford Forest is 45 minutes from Cambridge by car.
Cambridge is by no means a coastal city, but the beach isn’t as far as you might think. Norfolk county offers miles of idyllic coastline, dotted with tourist-friendly towns like Great Yarmouth, Hunstanton and Holkham. If you’re a surfer, Cromer is also well worth a visit. The Norfolk coast can be reached from Cambridge in under two hours.