Hallowed Halls – Cambridgeshire
With exquisite architecture and wistful watery landscapes, Cambridgeshire is the perfect place for a winter getaway
Dreaming spires, unspoiled countryside and rich history: Cambridgeshire is rightly celebrated by boffins, residents and visitors alike. The East Anglian area was first settled by the English in the 6th century by bands of Angles, and it was later recorded in the Domesday Book as “Grantbridgeshire” – a reference to the river Granta.
Cambridgeshire has a proud history of agriculture, with the Domesday Book noting over 90 mills and numerous fisheries, and by the 14th century it also had a flourishing wool industry. Poverty struck following the dual blows of Black Death and the Wars of the Roses, but the area soon recovered. By the 16th century, Stourbridge Fair was one of the largest in Europe, and the races at Newmarket, on the Suffolk/Cambridgeshire border, were similarly admired.
As well as the dramatic scenery of the Fens, the county boasts monumental structures such as Ely Cathedral and the Wimpole Estate, as well as the distinctive colleges of its world-renowned university – home to gown-clad students and tales of famous alumni. But you don’t need a degree to enjoy Cambridgeshire’s sights, from the lush farmland and myriad waterways – perfect for brisk winter walks – to the varied architecture and historic treasures.
The cathedral has a rather turbulent history. Etheldreda, daughter of the King of East Anglia, built a monastery on the site in the 7th century, but it was destroyed by the Danes 200 years later. The present building became a cathedral in 1109, only for King Henry VIII to dissolve its monastery in 1539. However, it’s since been diligently restored, including contributions from architect George Gilbert Scott. Today, the monumental Romanesque building is the seat of the Bishop of Ely, and particularly admired for its distinctive central octagonal tower and stained glass museum. Combine sightseeing with a special Christmas service, from carol concerts to an atmospheric Midnight Mass.