Historic Cambridgeshire Guide

by Ben Johnson

Facts about Cambridgeshire

Population: 805,000
Famous for: Cambridge University, birthplace of Oliver Cromwell
Distance from London: 2 hours
Local delicacies: College Pudding, Fidget Pie
Airports: Cambridge
County town: Cambridge
Nearby Counties: Lincolnshire, Norfolk, Suffolk, Essex, Hertfordshire, Bedfordshire, Northamptonshire

Cambridgeshire is most famous for the university town of Cambridge. The university itself dates back to the 13th century and famous alumni include Sir Isaac Newton, Alfred Lord Tennyson, Charles Darwin and Frank Whittle. Several of the stunning university buildings are beautifully set on the banks of the River Cam. King’s College Chapel is one of the best examples of late medieval architecture in England. After a tour of the colleges (opening times are often restricted in term time), why not relax with a punt on the river?

The north of Cambridgeshire is home to the unique Fenland landscape. Reclaimed from marshland in the 17th century, the flat countryside of the Fens is criss-crossed by the straight lines of the drainage dykes.


Wisbech in the Fens has fine examples of Georgian architecture. The compact city of Ely lies in the north of the Fens and its Norman cathedral dominates the countryside for miles around. Perhaps the most famous resident of Ely was Oliver Cromwell, Lord Protector of England during the Commonwealth.

Cromwell was born in Huntingdon, a quaint market town with delightful historic buildings including the old grammar school, now the Cromwell Museum, where both Cromwell and Samuel Pepys were pupils.

Local dishes originating from Cambridgeshire include College Pudding, a traditional steamed suet pudding served to students in the halls of the Cambridge colleges, and thought to be the fore-runner of the Christmas pudding. Huntingdon's most famous dish is Fidget Pie, traditionally filled with bacon, onions and apples and served to the workers at harvest time. More than half of the British outdoor crop of celery comes from Ely and a favourite local dish is Celery Baked in Cream. But Ely, 'Isle of Eels', is probably most famous for its eels.

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