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Living in Ely: The local area guide

Ely Cathedral, Oliver Cromwell’s House, and the Jubilee Gardens are just a few notable attractions that draw visitors to Ely. This market town in the Fen countryside was once surrounded by marshy waters. The name ‘Ely’ is derived from this past geography, meaning ‘island of the eels.’ Today’s Ely is an attractive, traditional town with a friendly community atmosphere. The Ely Cathedral is an architectural highlight of the village. You can climb up the towers for panoramic views of the rural landscapes surrounding Ely. It also hosts a Stained Glass Museum, along with guided tours.

There’s no shortage of recreational opportunities in Ely. Its waterside area is popular with cyclists and walkers, and the Jubilee Gardens host special events when the weather is nice. The Great Ouse river runs through the town, lined with waterside restaurants, tearooms, and pubs. Ely’s town centre also includes modern supermarkets and shops to explore.


Ely enjoys a convenient location near both Cambridge and London, which makes it a popular town for commuters. As a result, there are many young professionals and families. Its tranquil location also makes it a top retirement destination. Like the rest of East Cambridgeshire, Ely’s population includes a high percentage of residents over the age of 65.

The total population of the East Cambridgeshire District is 83,818 as of the 2011 Census, and Ely makes up the largest urban area of this district. It’s the home of the District Council, and offers a hub of activity for the region. The area’s population grew at a rate of 13% between 2001 and 2009, according to Census figures. The most densely populated area is Ely West ward, although Ely South and Ely North both saw the biggest jump in population.


Families in Ely benefit from a number of excellent schools to choose from. Ely St Mary’s C of E Junior School and Ely St John’s Community School are both popular primary schools in the area. According to Ofsted reports, both were rated as ‘Good’ in 2010. A third option is the ‘Excellent’ Lantern Community Primary.

Ely is also home to one of the oldest schools not only in England, but the whole world. The King’s School was founded in 970 AD. Today, it’s known as King’s Ely, and it includes a reception class and international school, as well as a junior and senior school. Students are able to excel academically with its modern facilities and quality of teaching. The latest ISI inspection report was written in 2014, and it found that the school fulfilled all aims ‘extremely well.’


Ely enjoys an enviable position near many transportation links. It’s only a 25 minute drive to Cambridge, and the major M11 and A14 motorways are a similar distance away. There are long stay car parks available within Ely’s city centre for your convenience.

The Ely Railway Station is a major hub of activity, with taxis and buses also stationed here. Bicycles are available for hire as well. Direct trains are available to London King’s Cross, the Midlands, and Stansted Airport, while Cambridge is just 20 minutes away by train. For more obscure destinations around the region, Stagecoach Buses operate regular services. Those wishing to explore or needing to make several connections can use the Dayrider Plus ticket for unlimited daily travel.

Amenities and shopping

The town centre retains its historic market atmosphere, particularly in Ely’s weekly markets. There are three main markets held in Ely, including the weekly Collectables Market and General Market. A Farmer’s Market is also held bi-monthly, offering up produce from around the region. Street entertainment rounds out the lively atmosphere.

The town centre is dotted with art galleries, used bookshops, and gift boutiques. Waterside Antiques Centre is a popular stop for residents and tourists alike who wish to find unique furnishings. Supermarkets like Waitrose and department stores like Marks & Spencer are also on hand for basic conveniences.

Whilst every effort has been taken to ensure the above information is up to date, some inaccuracies may occur. If you notice any inaccuracies please contact

All information was correct at time of publication and is provided in good faith.

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