In fact the Cathedral came first. When it was built Ely was only a small settlement, the town grew up around the Cathedral. The Benedictine monks only concern was to glorify God, and nothing less than a building on a majestic scale would do.
Explore the historic city of Ely, just a ten minute drive from Hawthorn Cottage. Ely Cathedral is visible from the cottage. The cathedral - known locally as the Ship of the Fens - is over a thousand years old and an historically important pilgrimage site. Characterised by beautifully intricate architecture and stunning interior decor, the cathedral draws hundreds of thousands of tourists annually to take tours, attend daily services and visit the stained glass museum. The cathedral is laid out in a cruciform shape and features two towers, visitors can climb to the top of the West Tower where they are rewarded with magnificent views of the local coutryside.
Once known as the Isle of Ely because of its hilltop location in the fenland marshes, the city spreads out with the cathedral at its centre. The surrounding chocolate box high streets include Oliver Cromwell's house, old fashioned pubs and cosy shops and tea rooms. The local authortities have done their best to preserve the town's authenticity and many family businesses thrive in the heart of Ely, including the award winning Edis butchers and the magical Toppings book shop.
Ely gets its name from its links to the eel fishing industry before the fens were drained and its now surrounded by verdant country parks and farmland. Local trade was faciliatated by Ely's proximity to the rivers Ouse and Cam - to this day the lovely marina is the perfect spot to spend a summer afternoon. Attractions at Ely marina include The Cutter pub, Riverside Bar and Kitchen, and the Maltings - a repurposed Victorian Brewery.
Although the Cathedral grants city status to Ely, it is one of the smallest cities in England and is easily taken in on foot. On the outskirts of Ely a recent development project - Ely Leisure Village - boasts a new cinema, a golf center, tennis courts and new restaurants.