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Ely, near Cambridge

Route Highlights:

Begin a relaxing and scenic holiday from our base in Ely, in the picturesque heart of the Fenland waterways, overlooked by its magnificent cathedral. Our fleet of boats offer holidays for parties of 2 to 6 people and a selection of routes that will see you cruising through cities, towns and villages along the beautiful waterways, making Ely the ideal base to begin exploring. Visit Cambridge and idyllic riverside villages steeped in UK heritage. Ideal for novices and experienced boaters, the area offers great scenery for couples and groups of friends wanting a relaxing break away. Locks are attended at Denver Sluice, Salter's Lode and Hermitage Lock, with other locks partly attended. Please refer to the onboard boat manual for precise details and telephone numbers. Click for suggested routes.

The sample routes below are merely suggestions. The age and nature of our unique waterways means that there may occasionally be a need for planned or emergency restrictions or closures and therefore it cannot be guaranteed that every route will always be available.
Ely Map

Short Break Route Suggestions (3 & 4 nights):

Relaxed route: Ely to Wicken Fen, Cambridge and Return - 38 miles, 6 locks, 12.5 hours total
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. Moor for Cambridge just below Jesus Green Lock on the River Cam; visit the world famous university and discover its cultural highlights, including King's College Chapel and enjoy a stroll through the back streets and their quaint passages, filled with interesting and unique shops, art galleries, museums and tearooms. The fabulous “Grasshopper Clock” on the corner of Corpus' Taylor Library is a must-see for any Cambridge visitor. Go punting from Scudamore's, Founded in 1910 and Cambridge's oldest and most renowned punting company. Book the Theatre or visit one of the many restaurants for an evening meal.

Intermediate route: Ely to St Ives and Return - 45 miles, 6 locks, 14 hours total
Cruise from Ely on the River Great Ouse (Old West River) via Earith village, then move on through the tidal section of the Great Ouse for a couple of miles to Brownshill Lock. Travel west on the canalised section for 5 miles to St Ives where there are 48 hour visitor moorings. The Old Riverport of St Ives is a beautiful historic town with a fascinating heritage along the waterfront, alleyways and market place. There is also a great range of independent shops throughout the town. Regular markets are held every Monday, Friday and Bank Holidays and an award winning Farmers' Market on the first and third Saturday of each month. A focal point is the splendid 15th Century Bridge and chapel over the river, one of only three such surviving in England. Delights include a host of restaurants and cafés, fine buildings and regular cultural and family friendly events including the illuminated boat parade, a stomping annual Jazz & Blues Festival (last weekend in September) and Norris Museum and Library. Return to base or cruise on for a couple of hours to the market town of Huntingdon, with it's medieval bridge - the birthplace of Oliver Cromwell.

Active route: Ely to St Neots and Return - 72 miles, 18 locks, 18 hours total
As per the intermediate route above to Huntingdon. From there, cruise on to Buckden with its famous Great Tower (where Catherine of Aragon was once imprisoned) ending in the market town of St. Neots, the largest town in Cambridgeshire. St Neots is known as a 'town in a garden' with the large, attractive Riverside Park and attractive Market Square.

Weekly Route Suggestions:

Relaxed route: Ely to Cambridge, Prickwillow, St Ives and Return - 90 miles, 8 locks, 29 hours total
Folow the relaxed short break to Cambridge (above) returning past the boatyard and bearing right, onto the River Lark towards the small hamlet of Prickwillow. The Prickwillow Drainage Museum tells the story of the drainage of the Fens, the history of the local area and those brave individuals who ran the drainage pumps in remote locations. There is a cafe on site, check for opening times. From Prickwillow return back onto the Ouse and head upstream to Ely, then continue to St Ives as per the internmediate short break above.

Intermediate route: Ely to Cambridge, March, Flood's Ferry and Return - 108 miles, 10 locks, 35 hours total
Cruise to Cambridge and return past the boatyard, continuing down the Great Ouse and Ten Mile River to Denver Sluice. En route there are public moorings at Sandhills Bridge, Littleport with access to the 'Swan on the River' restaurant and further down river the 'Ship Inn'. Go down through the lock onto a short tidal section, past the Old Bedford River Junction and onto Salter's Lode Lock which is on Well Creek, part of the old course of River Nene. Continue on the Nene to March. March is a busy market town, with links back to Roman times and St. Wendrenda's chuch has a fabulous roof carved with a host of angels. The local museum has 3 rooms set up in Victorian period. If you have time, carry on to Flood's Ferry (junction of Whittlesey Dyke and Old River Nene) and to Benwick before making your way back. Benwick village has a Post Office and stores and the 'Five Alls' pub.

Active route: Bedford and Return - 104 miles, 30 locks, 39 hours total
Taking the Old West River from our base in Ely, make your way to the historic market town of St. Ives, with its 15th century Chapel Bridge, Norris Museum and Library; then moving on to the Oliver Cromwell Museum in Huntingdon. From there, cruise on to Buckden with its famous Great Tower (where Catherine of Aragon was once imprisoned), ending at the market town of St. Neots. Continue on to Bedford where you'll find a bustling town with great facilities for all the family, including ten-pin bowling, cinemas and a swimming pool.

Fortnight Route Suggestions:

Relaxed route: Wadenhoe and Return - 168 miles, 46 locks, 62 hours total
As per the intermediate weekly route to March, then continue on the Old River Nene to Floods Ferry Junction, where you take the right fork and turn down Whittlesey Dyke. After a few miles of cruising, you’ll approach the outskirts of Whittlesey and once you reach Ashline Lock there are visitor moorings if you wish to stop off and visit the ancient Fenland market town. Continue on from Whittlesey, cruising under the bridge past a couple of riverside pubs and through into the open countryside. Soon the outline of Peterborough Cathedral will come into focus as you approach the city. Cruise through Stanground Lock and join the River Nene. The city of Peterborough with its beautiful cathedral will soon be within reach; a couple of miles on from Peterborough is Orton Lock, one of several Guillotine Locks on the River Nene. Once through the lock, continue on through the peaceful countryside until you come to the village of Wansford, with its picture-perfect views; it’s a lovely place to stop off for a pub lunch or to pay a visit to Nene Valley railway - the home of Thomas the Tank Engine. Continuing along the River Nene to the village of Fotheringhay, a very attractive village with a dark history, being the place of Mary Queen of Scot’s beheading. Carry on cruising past the villages of Oundle and Barnwell until you reach the riverside pub at Wadenhoe and moor up there (free if eating in the pub). This beautiful village is part of a conservation area featuring many listed, historic limestone buildings and an ancient medieval settlement.

Active route: Northampton and Return - 213 miles, 87 locks, 84 hours total
As above but continue on to Northampton. The centre is a short 10 minute walk from the moorings above (before) Northampton Lock.

Suggested Guidebooks