Ely Cathedral from River Great Ouse, near Cuckoo Bridge

SWC Walk 118 Ely Circular (off-route off the Ely Extension)

12-Sep-16 • thomasgrabow on Flickr

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Boat on River Great Ouse

SWC Walk 118 Ely Circular

08-Sep-16 • thomasgrabow on Flickr

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Big Skies in Fenland, w/o Ely Cathedral

SWC Walk 118 Ely Circular

08-Sep-16 • thomasgrabow on Flickr

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Ely Cathedral

SWC Walk 118 Ely Circular

08-Sep-16 • thomasgrabow on Flickr

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Braham Dock Drain, with swan

Ely Circular

08-Jul-17 • moontiger on Flickr

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Teasels near the Ouse

Ely Circular

16-Feb-14 • moontiger on Flickr

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Level crossing stile

Ely Circular

16-Feb-14 • moontiger on Flickr

book3 swcwalks walk118

Ely Circular walk

An easy walk through open Fenland, The River Great Ouse, 'big' skies, tree-lined farm tracks, historic Ely Cathedral and a quayside stroll at the end


18.0 km (11.2 mi)

OS Maps

OS Landranger 143 (Ely & Wisbech); Explorer 226 (Ely & Newmarket)


2 out of 10.

Walk Notes

This walk is centred around Ely, the second smallest city in England, and the low-lying land of the Isle of Ely, the site of the supposed ‘Last Stand of the Saxons’, led by Hereward the Wake against the Norman Invaders, a landscape reminiscent of the Low Countries or Northern Germany: open fenland, largely flat, former marshy and boggy ground now drained for intensive agriculture, with long straight tree-lined farm tracks, hedge-lined meadows and big, cloud-filled skies. The River Great Ouse, ditches, dykes, embankments and catchwater drains all help to create the special atmosphere of Fenland.
The walk leads into the prevailing wind direction in the morning, and on a windy day the raised banks beside the river can feel very exposed as the wind sweeps in from the Fens, so you may have to work hard to get to lunch in the ‘hilltop’ village of Stretham.
In the afternoon there may be some traffic noise from the nearby A10 initially, while you see Ely cathedral rising above the Fens like a castle, or a ship ahead of you, the towers seeming like masts. It dominates the area for miles around and shows from everywhere an outline different from any other English cathedral, largely due its famed central octagonal tower.
Ely’s Old Town, the Cathedral and numerous tea options are passed before a quayside stroll and the finish back to the station.
Stile Count: 2.

Walk Options

You can walk a very short Ely – Little Thetford – Ely walk of 11.6 km/7.2 mi (with lunch back in Ely).
You can shorten the route through Ely by going straight to the station from its fringes (cut 2 km).
You can add a westerly loop from Little Thetford to Witchford and its pub, either in addition to the Main Walk (adds 7.5 km/4.7 mi, rated 4/10); or as an alternative to the southerly loop from Little Thetford via Stretham, for a distance of 19.1 km/11.9 mi, rated 2/10.
You can add an extension in Ely for a stroll through the meadows of the River Great Ouse (add 2.4 or 3.6 km).
Buses 9/X9 (Cambridge (via Ely) to Chatteris) serve Little Thetford and the lunch destinations Stretham and Witchford (hourly, but not on Sundays).


Ely Cathedral is a must.
Cromwell's House is an option.


Ely Station is on the Fen Line from Cambridge to King's Lynn, i.e.: it is being served by trains from King’s Cross (quicker) and Liverpool Street.
From King’s Cross there are three trains per hour Mondays-Saturdays and two on Sundays (journey time from 67 mins).

Saturday Walkers Club Take a train no later than 10.15 hours from London Kings Cross station.
Lunch and Tea

The Red Lion High Street, Stretham, Cambridgeshire, CB6 3LD (01353 648 132). The Red Lion is located 8.2 km (5.1 mi) into the walk. Open Mon-Thu 11.00-23.00, Fri-Sat 11.00-24.00 and Sun 12.00-20.30. Food served Mon-Sat 12.00-14.30 and 18.00-21.00 and Sun 12.00-21.00.
The Village Inn 80 Main Street, Witchford, Cambridgeshire, CB6 2HQ (01353 663 763). The Village Inn is located 9.4 km (5.8 mi) into the alternative walk, cutting out Stretham, and 15.8 km (9.8 mi) into the extended walk, including Stretham. Open Mon-Thu 11.00-23.00, Fri-Sat 11.00-24.00 and Sun 12.00-20.30. Food served daily 12.00-14.30 and 17.00-20.00 (Sun: Carvery 12.00-15.00).

There are many tea places in Ely close to the cathedral, recommended are:
The Refectory Café Ely Cathedral, Ely, Cambridgeshire, CB7 4DL (01353 660 346). The Refectory Café is located 2.1 km from the end of the walk. Open daily to 17.00 (winter: to 16.00).
The Almonry Restaurant 36 High Street, Ely, Cambridgeshire, CB7 4JU (01353 666 360). The Almonry is located 1.3 km from the end of the walk in a truly unique location nestled amongst the medieval precinct of Ely Cathedral. The main restaurant is located in the 13th century undercroft and has recently been refurbished, creating a stunning yet informal space for lunches and bistro dining. The Almonry Tea Room overlooks the gardens. Open for lunch and tea: 09.00-17.00 Mon-Sat and 11.00-17.00 Sun; and for dinner: from 18.30 Thu-Sat.
Drayman’s Son 29 Fore Hill, Ely, Cambridgeshire, CB7 4AA (01353 662 920). The Drayman’s is located 1.2 km from the end of the walk. Open 17.00-22.30 Mon-Thu, 11.00-23.00 Thu-Sat and 12.00-22.30 Sun.
3 At 3 Real Ale & Craft Beer Café Three Cups Walk, Ely, Cambridgeshire, CB7 4AN (01353 659 916). 3 At 3 is located 1.2 km from the end of the walk. Open 09.00-17.00 Mon-Sat and 09.00-16.00 Sun.
Peacock’s Tearoom 65 Waterside, Ely, Cambridgeshire, CB7 4AU (01353 661 100). Peacock’s is located 800m from the end of the walk. Open Wed-Sun 10.30-17.00 (last orders 16.30). Open on Bank Holidays and on Tuesdays in summer.
The Cutter Inn and Riverside Restaurant 42 Annesdale, Ely, Cambridgeshire, CB7 4BN (01353 662 713). The Cutter Inn is located 530m from the end of the walk. Open 09.00-23.00 Mon-Sat and 09.00-22.30 Sun.

For all other tea options please consult page 2 of the pdf.

Help Us!

After the walk, we would love to get your feedback

You can upload photos to the SWC Group on Flickr, and videos to Youtube. This walk's tags are:

By Train

Out (not a train station)

Back (not a train station)

By Car

Start CB7 4BS Map Directions

Map Walk This walk requires an OS map and a compass or GPS for navigation. You can print out OS maps using the link above.

National Rail: 03457 48 49 50 • Travelline SE (bus times): 0871 200 2233 (12p/min) • TFL (London) : 0343 222 1234



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Walk Directions  

Full directions for this walk are in a PDF file (link above) which you can print, or download on to a Kindle, tablet, or smartphone.

This is just the introduction. This walk's detailed directions are in a PDF available from wwww.walkingclub.org.uk