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Ely: Heart of the Fenland Waterways

Boats Available:

Duchess 4
Princess 2
Princess 4

A narrow boat holiday in Cambridgeshire offers you a different type of holiday, as the waterways here are all rivers. Located in southeast England, this area is famous for the Fens wetland reserves – perfect for birdwatching – and quaint English villages that date back to medieval times. The River Cam, immortalised in Geoffrey Chaucer’s Canterbury Tales, meanders its way to the historic city of Cambridge. The Cam offers lovely scenic views and being a popular route you’ll be sharing the waterways with anglers, rowers and canoeists.

The Black Prince Cambridgeshire canal boat hire base is located in the heart of the Fenland waterways at Ely. From Ely, you can cruise the unspoilt waters of the fourth largest river in the UK, the Ouse, to Wicken, plus the River Cam and the Old West River.

Click here for Base Information

Suggested Routes From Ely
Route A  |  Route B  |  Route C  |  Route D  |  Route E  |  Route F



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1. ELY to CAMBRIDGE WICKEN FEN & RETURN - ROUTE A
38 Miles  |  3 Locks  |  3 night Cruise  |  4 hours per day
This is a three-day canal boat holiday from Ely to Wicken Fen and Cambridge, a lovely route for those keen of both wildlife spotting and visiting historic sights. Your journey begins at the Black Prince base in the historical city of Ely, which sits 14 miles northeast of Cambridge and is home to a beautiful cathedral with a rich history: originally founded as an abbey in the year 673, it began its reconstruction as a cathedral in 1083 after being destroyed by invaders in 970. It was famously restored by the architect George Gilbert Scott and boasts the only pavement labyrinth to be found in a UK cathedral.

Once you have reached Cambridge, there is a wealth of sites you can visit. Firstly, you can head to the world famous Cambridge University, founded in 1209, and discover its cultural highlights. These include the King’s College Chapel, which began construction in 1446 during the reign of Henry VI and was finally completed in 1515 by King Henry VIII. With its gothic architecture and stunning great windows, the chapel is one of the traditional symbols of the city and was described by the architect Nikolaus Pevsner as “the most exquisite piece of Italian decoration surviving in England”. After visiting the chapel, you can enjoy a walk through the historic backstreets of the city, which offer a contrast between beautiful Roman and Medieval architecture and vibrant designs of modern England.

Canal boat cruise from Ely to Cambridge
From Ely, you will cruise the unspoilt waters of the fourth largest river in the UK, the Ouse, to Wicken Fen – a stunning wetland nature reserve. Wicken Fen was the first reserve acquired by the National Trust in 1899 and is one of just four wild fens to survive in the Great Fen Basin of East Anglia. In an area now otherwise dominated by arable cultivation, it offers scenic walks through fenland, farmland, marsh and reed beds and the chance to see a host of endangered species.

You then continue down the beautiful River Cam, immortalised in Geoffrey Chaucer’s Canterbury Tales, towards the city of Cambridge. The Cam boasts beautiful views and is popular with a range of recreational activities including angling, rowing and canoeing.


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2. ELY to ST IVES & RETURN - ROUTE B
45 Miles  |  3 Locks  |  3 night Cruise  |  4 hours per day
This is a 3-night canal boat holiday from Ely to St Ives and back. Your cruise begins at the Black Prince base in the lovely city of Ely, situated about 14 miles from Cambridge and renowned for its magnificent Norman cathedral. Ely Cathedral was originally founded in the year 673 before being destroyed by invaders in 970. It was restored famously in the 19th century by the architect George Gilbert Scott, and contains the only pavement labyrinth in a UK cathedral.

Your final stop is St Ives, which is famed for its 15th century chapel bridge, one of only four in England. St Ives has also historically been the home of some of the biggest markets in the country, with its Monday market a feature that takes over the town centre. After strolling through the market, you can go and see the Oliver Cromwell statue in the town square before relaxing in one of St Ives’ historic pubs, which include The Dolphin and The White Hart, with both boasting over four hundred years of history. Finally, you can learn all about the town’s past at the Norris Museum and Library, which holds a wealth 16th century artefacts of the area and organises exhibitions to showcase its collections. One particularly exciting collection contains fossilised bones of giant reptiles that lived in the area well over one hundred million years ago.

Canal boat hire from Ely to St Ives
You then cruise down the Old West River, which forms part of the old course of The Great Ouse, before arriving at Earith village, where you can enjoy some wonderful bird watching. Earith is also popular with anglers, with trout and coarse fishing available on the Earith lakes which stretch over 36 acres. Whilst in Earith you can also see the remains of an English Civil War fort known as Earith Bulwark, which dates back to the mid-seventeenth century. Earith Bulwark remained an important strategic area three hundred years on from the Civil War, when a machine gun turret was built upon it during the Second World War. The whole site can be viewed from the Old Bedford bank (both sides) After visiting Earith, you move on to St Ives.


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3. ELY to ST NEOTS & RETURN - ROUTE C
77 Miles  |  9 Locks  |  3 night Cruise  |  8 hours per day
This is a three or four-night canal boat holiday from Ely to St Neots, beginning at the Black Prince base in the historical city of Ely, around 14 miles from Cambridge. Ely is home to a beautiful Norman cathedral which was originally founded as an abbey in the year 673 and contains the only pavement labyrinth in a UK cathedral.

Your destination, St Neots, a rural market town on the Bedfordshire/Cambridgeshire border. St Neots is also firmly rooted in history. In the 18th and 19th century it was famous for its corn milling, brewing and railways. The building was reconstructed in 1083 after being destroyed by invaders in 970. The famous architect George Gilbert Scott then completed a restoration of the cathedral in the 19th century.

After leaving Ely, you cruise peacefully down the Old West River towards St Ives. The town is most renowned for being one of only four in England to have a chapel on a bridge. St Ives is also a popular market town, once the home of some of the biggest markets in the country. Try to plan your visit for a Monday, when the current market takes over the town centre. Once you’ve stocked up with supplies, you can head in to town to see the Oliver Cromwell statue in the square before retiring to one of the ancient pubs such as The White Heart and The Dolphin, both of which boast over four hundred years of history. You then move on to the Oliver Cromwell Museum in the ancient market town of Huntingdon. From there, cruise on to Buckden, famous for the Great Tower where Catherine of Aragon was once imprisoned and the ancient St Mary’s Church.


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4. ELY to BEDFORD & RETURN - ROUTE D
107 Miles  |  16 Locks  |  1 Week Cruise  |  5 hours per day
This return Ely to Bedford canal boat holiday take seven nights, cruising around five hours per day. You begin this active cruise at the Black Prince Ely base, which is located around 14 miles northeast of Cambridge. Ely is famed for its Norman cathedral, which contains the only pavement labyrinth in a UK cathedral. Having originally been founded as an abbey in the year 673, it was destroyed by invaders in 970 before George Gilbert Scott restored it in the 19th century. The end base is Bedford, once a small agricultural town but now offering a brilliant mix of the old and the new. You can visit Bedford castle mound, the remnant of the town’s Medieval Castle and Bedford park, which has original Victorian features. You can also enjoy a bustling town with a great range of modern facilities for all the family, including bars, restaurants, ten-pin bowling, cinemas and a swimming pool.

Canal boat hire from Ely to Bedford
Upon leaving Ely you cruise the Old West River to St Ives which has one of only four chapel bridges in England, dating from the 15th century. It has also long been known as a thriving market town and was home to some of the most prominent markets in the country. Even today, you can visit the bustling Monday market which takes over the entire town centre.

After a visit to the centre, relax in The Dolphin or The White Hart, two pubs that boast over four hundred years of history, or take a walk to see the Oliver Cromwell statue in town. The civil war history continues at the Cromwell Museum in the ancient town of Huntingdon, which was originally charted in 1205. From Huntingdon, cruise on to Buckden, famous for the Great Tower where Catherine of Aragon was once imprisoned and the ancient St Mary’s Church. You then head to St Neots, a rural market town on the Bedfordshire/Cambridgeshire border. St Neots was famous in the 18th and 19th centuries for its corn milling, brewing and railways. After leaving St Neots, cruise on to your final stop, Bedford.


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5. ELY, CAMBRIDGE to HUNTINGDON & RETURN - ROUTE E
89 Miles  |  8 Locks  |  1 Week Cruise  |  4 hours per day
This one week canal boat holiday from Ely to Huntingdon takes around four hours per day of cruising. Your journey begins at the Black Prince base in the lovely city of Ely, northeast of Cambridge. Go and see Ely cathedral, which was originally founded as an abbey in the year 673, before being destroyed by invaders in 970. Reconstruction as a cathedral followed in the 11th century, before it was famously restored by the architect George Gilbert Scott in the 19th century. This journey passes through the pretty villages of Houghton, Wyton and Hemingford Grey before reaching Huntingdon, home of the Oliver Cromwell museum.

Narrowboat hire from Ely to Huntingdon
From Ely, you will cruise down the unspoilt rivers of the Ouse, the fourth largest river in the UK, towards Wicken Fen – a brilliant wetland nature reserve. With the vast majority of East Anglia’s fenland now covered by arable cultivation, Wicken Fen is particularly special. It is one of just four wild fens to survive in the Great Fen Basin of East Anglia. It offers scenic walks through fenland, farmland, marsh and reed beds and proves the chance to see a host of endangered species.

After spending some time in Wicken Fen, you will move on to the city of Cambridge and visit its world famous University, which was founded in 1209. Here you will have the opportunity to make the most of its stunning cultural highlights. You can visit the historic King’s College Chapel, which was completed in 1515 by King Henry VIII. With stunning great windows and preserved gothic architecture, it remains a traditional symbol of the city, and was once described as “the most exquisite piece of Italian decoration surviving in England” by the architect Nikolaus Pevsner.

Upon returning to Popes Corner, you will cruise south towards the market town of St Ives. The town is renowned for its chapel bridge, one of only four in England, which was built in the 15th century. St Ives has been home of some of the biggest markets in the country, with its Monday market a delight that takes over the town centre. After visiting the centre, you can see the Oliver Cromwell statue in the town square before heading off to Huntingdon and its museum to England’s most famous republican.


Click here for larger image

6. ELY to CAMBRIDGE, BEDFORD and RETURN - ROUTE F
191 miles  |  20 Locks  |  2 Week Cruise  |  4.5 hours per day

This two week canal boat holiday through the Fenland Waterways starts in Ely and cruises through Cambridge and to Bedford. The journey begins at the Black Prince hire base in the historical city of Ely, home to a majestic Norman cathedral which was originally founded as an abbey in the year 673. It was destroyed in 970 and began its reconstruction as a cathedral in 1083. In the 19th century, it was famously restored by the architect George Gilbert Scott.

After leaving Ely you cruise the unspoilt waters of the Little Ouse, Great Ouse, Old West, Cam and Lark rivers, stopping off along the way in Cambridge. Whilst in Cambridge, be sure to visit its world famous University and discover the city’s cultural highlights. These include the historic King’s College Chapel, which began construction in the mid 15th century during the reign of Henry VI before being completed over 70 years later by King Henry VIII.

With a combination of perfect gothic architecture and stunning great windows, the chapel is one of the traditional symbols of Cambridge, along with King’s College Chapel. Other highlights on this cruise include the historic market town of St. Ives, best known for its 15th century bridge, one of only four in England to also incorporate a chapel. St Ives has always been a popular market town, so try to visit the popular Monday market which takes over the town centre. After strolling around this lovely town, you can visit the Oliver Cromwell statue in the town square. If you’d like to learn more about Cromwell, you can make the short journey to Huntingdon and visit the Cromwell museum.

From there, you’ll visit the medieval town of Mildenhall before cruising on to Buckden, famous for the Great Tower where Catherine of Aragon was once imprisoned. Continuing on to Bedford, you’ll find a great mixture of old and new. From the medieval castle mound to ten-pin bowling, cinemas and a swimming pool, Bedford offers something for the entire family.

 
Ely Base Information

Hotels / Guest Houses

The Lamb Hotel - 2 Lynn Road, Ely, Cambs. CB7 4EJ
Price Guide: Double Room from £115 Single Room £70 per night including breakfast www.oldenglishinns.co.uk/our-locations/the-lamb-hotel-ely
Tel: 01353 663574

The Riverside Inn - 8 Annesdale, Ely, Cambs. CB7 4BN
Price Guide: £90 - £140 per room per night inc. breakfast
www.riversideinn-ely.co.uk
Tel: 01353 661677

The Nyton - 7 Barton Road, Ely, Cambs. CB7 4HZ
www.thenyton.com
Tel: 01353 662459

Travelodge - A10 / A142 Roundabout,Witchford Road, Ely, Cambs. CB6 3NN From
Price Guide:£19 per night
www.travelodge.co.uk
Tel: 0871 9846028

Ely Tourist Information Centre
Oliver Cromwell House, 29 St Marys Street, Ely, Cambs. CB7 4HF
www.visitely.org.uk/visitor-information/tourist-information-centre/
Tel: 01353 662062


Public Transport
Nearest Railway Station: Ely
National Rail Enquiries:
www.nationalrail.co.uk Tel: 08457 484950
www.thetrainline.com Tel: 0871 244 1545

Nearest Airport:
Stanstead Tel. 0844 335 1803
www.stansteadairport.com/
 

Taxi / Minicabs
A10 Taxis: Telephone. 01353 661010
Fencabs: Telephone. 01353 669966
Alans Taxis: Telephone. 01353 665050

Approximate prices: (Prices courtesy of A10 Taxis – subject to change)
Stanstead Airport to Bridge Boatyard £65 / £70.
 

Car Hire
Hertz Car Hire have depots throughout the UK including main airports. We have an exclusive agreement with Hertz who will provide reduced rates for all Black Prince customers. Drop-offs, collections and one ways are all available, allowing you to pick up a car at your arrival point and request a car to be waiting at the end of your holiday for onward travel. To book your car visit www.hertz.co.uk or call 0870 844 4844 and quote CDP 694816.
Flying into London
From Heathrow airport - get the London underground tube to London Kings Cross station.
From Gatwick airport - get the Gatwick Express to London Victoria station, then get a London underground tube to London Kings Cross station.
From Stansted airport - get the London underground tube to London Kings Cross station.
From London Kings Cross station - get a First Capital Connect train to Ely
From Birmingham International airport - get train to Birmingham New Street station and then train to Ely.

Visit www.tfl.gov.uk to plan your route on the London Underground.


How To Find Us (By Car)
From the South:
M11 Exit at junction 14 then merge ontoA14. Exit at Junction 33 take first exit at roundabout marked A10. Followsigns to Ely for 12 miles. On outskirts of Ely take 3rd exit at roundabout marked Ely Rail Station. Follow sighns to Ely Rail Station (onA142 to Newmarket). Bridge Boatyard is situated on the sliproad for level crossing for high sided vehicles adjacent to Ely Rail Station.

From the North: M6 at Corley Service Area branch left and take A14 signposted Felixstowe. Exit at Junction 33 and follow directions as above.
 
www.theaa.com/route-planner

Groceries
There are a number of good shops in Ely (inc. Sainsbury’s and Waitrose) and a Tesco supermarket close to the boatyard.


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