Lockdown has had us all exploring more of what is on our doorsteps, and being so grateful just to be able to leave the house and explore locally. I’ll be honest – I never really thought of where I lived as that special, but I take it back, because I’ve absolutely loved exploring my home county throughout the seasons on a variety of interesting walks.
Now the first thing you need to know is that Cambridgeshire is flat. So if you want epic views and climbs, then you’re in the wrong county – but what it does give you is hedgerows full of wildlife, rolling fields, historic cities, beautiful stately homes, and chocolate box villages full of thatched cottages. It’s the perfect place to explore on foot, so welcome to the county I call home.
1. Cambridge city centre stroll
If you’re wanting to spend some time in Cambridgeshire exploring then the best place to start is Cambridge itself. Taking a walk around the city centre will enable you to breathe in the history – from the ancient University buildings to historic churches. Also be sure to stroll along the river Cam and along the Cambridge Backs. I personally love this hour long route in the city, which takes around an hour.
2. St Ives to Houghton
This walk is all about the ‘gram – lots of beautiful thatched cottages and pretty river views. Moving north towards Huntingdon, the market town of St Ives is one of my favourite towns in Cambridgeshire to stroll around. Start by exploring the town of St Ives itself, grab a coffee and people watch by the river and then explore some of the picturesque villages nearby.
A great walk which starts in St Ives is the 4 mile round trip to the quaint village of Houghton. Houghton is famous for its ‘Instagram cottage’, and is also home to a pub which serves tasty food called the Three Jolly Butchers. From the centre of St Ives, you can walk to All Saints’ parish church, and then follow the woodland trail until you hit Thicket Lane, continuing on until you reach Houghton. In total it takes about an hour, and you can find the full route HERE.
You can also read my detailed write up of the route, plus the Hemingfords (below), HERE.
3. Wandlebury and The Gog Magogs
Deep in the south of Cambridgeshire lie its equivalent to a mountain climb. The Gog Magog Hills (what a name) are a range of low chalk hills. To be honest, you’d barely notice they were hills unless everything else in the county was flatter than a spirit level! Next to the ‘Gogs’ is Wandlebury Country Park which is beautiful in autumn with all the golden leaves, and is where I recommend parking to then just follow the trails.
4. Abbotts Ripton to Kings Ripton
Two beautiful villages in west Cambridgeshire, Abbotts Ripton and Kings Ripton are the perfect option for a half day trip to include a walk followed by a yummy pub lunch. Starting in Kings Ripton, a walk through the (unsurprisingly) flat fields will take around an hour, and bring you to Abbotts Ripton full of pretty thatched cottages and a quaint village centre. The full link to the walk can be found HERE.
Most importantly, there’s also a great pub called The Abbotts Elm in the village which is a good spot to have lunch. As you can see, we did this walk on a cold, crisp winter morning and then cosied up by the fire in the pub.
5. Grantchester Meadows
The picture perfect village of Grantchester is just outside the centre of Cambridge. The meadows are the area between the village and the river Cam, full of wild flowers with lots of benches and picnic spots. You can walk from Grantchester all the way in to Cambridge city centre, so you can do this walk easily if you’re staying in Cambridge and fancy seeing a bit of the English countryside. From the centre, the walk starts at the road called ‘Grantchester Meadows’ which is just off Eltisley Avenue, and the full route map to Grantchester tea rooms can be found HERE.
Walking through Grantchester and its Meadows
6. Historic Ely loop
Ely is my favourite town in Cambridgeshire. It lies in the east of the county and is well worth a day of your time exploring. This part of Cambridgeshire is known as ‘The Fens’ which means it was once effectively swamp. Ely is the centre of the Fens and is home to an amazing cathedral, pretty parks, the home of Oliver Cromwell, and yet more river walks. We chose to walk the local Ely Eel Trail (map HERE), but there is a wide selection of routes on the website. You can also read my full post on visiting Ely HERE.
Exploring historic Ely
7. The Hemingfords
The Hemingfords are two pretty villages north of Cambridge which you can walk between by following the windy path of the river Ouse. There are also a couple of great pubs on this route (The Cock Inn at Hemingford Grey and The Axe and Compass in Hemingford Abbotts). Again this is a really nice walk to combine with a lunch out and the villages are so picturesque you can easily spend a couple of hours exploring all the little lanes. This great National Trust walk is the best route to follow.
8. Burghley House & Stamford
This walk pushes right up to the Northern border of Cambridgeshire, starting at the historic Burghley House. The house is a prime example of Elizabethan architecture and is still lived in by the Cecil family to this day. The house is open on a seasonal basis, and the grounds and park are open year round.
I combined a visit to Burghley house with a bit of a cheat walk because it actually crosses the county border in to Lincolnshire. Stamford is a stunning town though, perfect for a spot of shopping, exploring the beautiful streets and treating yourself to a delicious dinner in one of its many eateries.
The round loop from Burghley house to Stamford and back again takes around 1.5hours and we followed the route HERE. As you can see, I did this walk in autumn, and the golden leaves made it absolutely stunning.
9. Fen Ditton to Horningsea
Just to the east of Cambridge lie a number of gorgeous villages (the kind where you can’t afford any of the houses). Fen Ditton and Horningsea are two lovely areas, and a walk between the two takes about an hour, starting at the Cambridge Museum of Technology. You can stroll along the river in Fen Ditton, through Ditton Meadows and Stourbridge Common and then follow the Cam north until you reach Horningsea, following the route detailed HERE. You can also cross over to Milton Country Park (below) to extend the walk.
Again, you’ll be unsurprised to hear there are some lovely pubs in both villages so combine your visit with lunch (no wonder I put weight on over lockdown!)
10. St Ives to Woodhurst
This walk is about a 4 mile round route. It doesn’t take in the centre of St Ives (if you want to do that then have a look at the Houghton to St Ives walk above) as it starts in the car park at the Co-op in St Ives. Turn right on to the main road out of the car park and walk until you hit the public footpath which guides you on to Woodhurst, as detailed in the walking route HERE.
This walk is a beautiful ramble through the fields and hedgerows so I recommend it as a summer walk- enjoy the wide open views, and a few woodland paths full of butterflies to follow. Woodhurst is also pretty with lots of lovely houses and a small duck pond.
11. Anglesey Abbey
Just north east of Cambridge is Anglesey Abbey – a National Trust property. The abbey was originally a religious monastery, dissolved in 1536 during Henry VIII’s dissolution of the monasteries. Later, a Jacobean House was built on the site of the former priory, and was privately owned until 1966, when it was donated to the National Trust.
Visiting today, there is a lovely set trail that you can walk around the abbey grounds and up to Lode mill, through the seasonal gardens. There is also a huge woodland area to walk as well, and walking the full grounds can take a whole day just following the well sign posted trails.
12. Bottisham to Stow cum Quay
This walk really made me appreciate the incredible water systems we have in place across Cambridgeshire. We are a flat county, we flood easily (as you can see from walk 13 below), and we’ve had to install incredible drainage systems all across the fenlands we live in. This walk takes in many of these small waterways, plus crosses the river Cam and walks through Baits Bite Lock, as detailed in the route guide HERE. It was incredibly atmospheric in the depths of winter in December.
13. The Offords to Buckden and Godmanchester
Right in the west of Cambridgeshire lie a lot of beautiful little villages. Offord Cluny and Offord Darcy are full of picture perfect houses, and a stroll along yet another river, this time the river Ouse, brings you to Godmanchester following the route HERE. You could choose to walk the Ouse way, but Buckden is also beautiful to explore, so we added this on to the route. It’s famous for its towers, which are also known as Buckden Palace – a 12th century house which was once visited by Henry VII.
14. Grafham Water
Grafham Water is a reservoir on the very west border of Cambridgeshire. It offers lots of water sport activities, as well as cycling and hiking trails. There are also a few stretches of shoreline which could *almost* pass as a beach. The total perimeter is 9 miles wide, and is what we chose to walk one cold, Sunday morning in February. Again you can just turn up and follow the trails so no need for a map.
15. Wimpole Hall
Wimpole Hall is a beautiful National Trust property, not far from the centre of Cambridge – making for a perfect trip from the city. It’s particularly beautiful in the spring with its daffodil gardens and you can easily spend around 3-4 hours exploring the Hall and Gardens, or walking one of the recommended trails – especially the 3km route up to the folly.
16. Milton Country Park
For a great option close to Cambridge, head to Milton country park – a lovely little spot home to woodland and lakes with lots of clearly marked walking paths. You won’t have to navigate any maps here, and can just walk at leisure amongst nature.
17. Ferry Meadows
Another spot where no maps are required, but this time close to the centre of Peterborough is Ferry Meadows – close to the Nene valley railway and perfect for kids. There are also lots of open fields just waiting for picnics. And why not combine it with a visit to the city – you can find my guide HERE.
18. Elton to Fotheringhay loop
Another one pushing the northern border of Cambridgeshire close to Peterborough, Elton is one of the county’s most picture perfect villages. Even better when you can combine it with a 5km flat walk, and a pub lunch via Fotheringhay. A beautiful way to spend a morning. We followed the route provided HERE.
Thanks for reading – I hope you’ve enjoyed seeing some of my home county, through all the seasons and I hope this post has given you some good ideas for walks if you’re visiting. Stay safe and happy travelling.